On February 21, MK Stalin’s Tamil Nadu Government filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court’s order allowing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to organise route marches and hold public gatherings. The Tamil Nadu Government’s appeal comes after the CPI(M) urged them to appeal against the Madras High Court’s order, claiming there are “Muslim settlements” along the proposed routes.
The tussle between the Tamil Nadu Government and the RSS began when the former denied permission to organise route marches and public gatherings to the latter in September 2022. The Government cited that since the Union Government’s decision to ban the Popular Front of India (PFI) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the law-and-order situation is not conducive to organise marches.
After the Tamil Nadu Government denied RSS with the permission to organise route marches, RSS filed a contempt of court petition before the Madras High Court. The matter was heard by the single-judge bench of Justice GK Ilanthiraiyan, Madras High Court, which on November 4, 2022, allowed RSS to organise route marches and hold public gatherings at 44 locations in Tamil Nadu. The single-judge bench also reprimanded the Tamil Nadu police as it observed nothing adverse in the intelligence reports cited by them.
However, the single judge decided that the RSS’s route marches and gatherings should be organised within the confined of an auditorium or an open ground. The RSS later organised an outdoor march and gatherings in the three locations where it was permitted and then cancelled the route marches scheduled for November 6, 2022, at other locations due to the slew of restrictions imposed against the organisation by the single judge.
On November 23, 2022, RSS moved the Madras High Court to review Justice GK Ilanthiraiyan’s November 4 order, which permitted RSS to conduct route marches within the confines of auditorium or open ground. Madras High Court’s division bench comprising of Justices R Mahadevan and Mohammed Shaffi, upon hearing the RSS’s appeal, directed the Tamil Nadu police to allow RSS to organise route marches on public roads.
On February 10, 2023, Madras High Court’s division bench set aside the single-judge’s order which imposed a slew of restrictions against the RSS related to the conduction of route marches and gatherings in Tamil Nadu. The division bench observed that a democratic state must uphold the citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression, and asked RSS to file fresh applications for organising the route march with three different dates and directed the Tamil Nadu police to approve any such date for RSS to conduct route march on public roads.
The division bench said, “The organisation shall ensure that strict discipline is followed at their end and that there is no provocation or incitement on their part. The State on the other hand has to take adequate safety measures and make traffic arrangements to ensure that the procession and the meeting shall go on peacefully.”