calcutta high court

Calcutta High Court: In a petition by All India Secular Front, a registered political party and its General Secretary, seeking permission to hold a mass meeting in front of Victoria House or any adjacent place on 21-01-2024, to celebrate the Foundation Day, a single-judge bench comprising of Jay Sengupta,* J., considering the rights of the petitioners and the State’s concerns, granted permission for the meeting with specified conditions to ensure a peaceful and well-regulated event.

The petitioners, a registered political party, All India Secular Front (petitioner 1) and the General Secretary of All India Secular Front (petitioner 2), sought a direction to quash the rejection letter dated 13-01-2024 issued by the Joint Commissioner of Police, Kolkata. The rejection pertained to the petitioners’ request to hold a mass meeting in front of Victoria House or any adjacent place on 21-01-2024 to celebrate the Foundation Day of All India Secular Front. The respondent authorities had denied permission, citing unspecified grounds, including other scheduled events in the area.

The petitioners contended that they had followed the prescribed format for seeking permission, and the rejection lacked specific reasons. It was argued that the administration sought to restrict rallies in front of Victoria House exclusively to the ruling political party. The State relied on the decision in Amit Sahni v. Commissioner of Police, (2020) 10 SCC 439 and argued that the right to assembly is subject to reasonable restrictions. The State expressed concerns about potential disturbances based on past incidents during the petitioners’ previous meeting.

The Court acknowledged the right to assemble subject to reasonable restrictions, citing the Amit Sahni (Supra). The Court noted the political nature of the petitioners, their recognition as a political party, and the historical permission granted for political meetings at the venue. The Court found the State’s reasons for denial insufficient, especially in light of alternative venues offered by the State. The Court emphasised that the prior incidents of violence could be addressed through assurances, restrictions on participants, and police deployment.

The Court held that concerns about previous incidents of violence were outweighed by the State’s offer of alternative venues and the petitioners’ willingness to provide assurances and undertakings. The Court issued following directions:

  1. The petitioners were granted permission to hold a meeting on their Foundation Day in front of Victoria House between 2:30 PM and 4:30 PM on 21-01-2024.

  2. Restrictions were imposed, including limiting participants to 1000, stage size to 20ft./20ft., and a maximum of 15 vehicles.

  3. Four individuals were to be specified as responsible for conducting the meeting.

  4. A clear passage for vehicles on the other side of the road was mandated.

  5. No stage setup was allowed between 9 AM and 1 PM on the specified date.

  6. Participants were prohibited from using foul language and inciting violence.

  7. Compliance with relevant laws, especially sound restrictions, was required.

  8. The entire program was to be videographed by the petitioners.

  9. Adequate police personnel were to be deployed to ensure safety, security, and videography of the event.

The writ petition was disposed of, and the State’s request for a stay of the order was rejected.

[All India Secular Front v. State of W.B., 2024 SCC OnLine Cal 468, order dated 18-01-2024]

*Judgment by Justice Jay Sengupta

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Firdous Samim, Ms. Gopa Biswas, Ms. Payel Shome, Ms. Sampriti Saha, Ms. Purba Mukherjee, Ms. Mohona Das and Mr. Abhijeet Kar, Counsel for the Petitioners

Mr. Kishore Dutta, Ld. AG, Mr. Amitesh Banerjee, Ms. Ipsita Banerjee and Mr. Suddhadev Adak, Counsel for the Respondent/State

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