The Supreme Court on April 11, paved the way for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to hold route marches in parts of Tamilnadu rejecting the state government’s appeal.
A bench of justices V Ramasubramanian and Pankaj Mithal upheld the order by Madras High Court which allows RSS to hold the March.
While referring to the history of attacks by PFI on similar rallies conducted by RSS, the bench observed, “The chart provided by the state government shows that the members of the respondent organisation were the victims in many of those cases and that they were not the perpetrators. Therefore, it is not possible for us to find fault with the order passed by the learned Judge either in the main writ petitions or in the review applications. Hence, all the special leave petitions are liable to be dismissed.”
The Court was dealing with a set of three appeals filed by the Tamil Nadu government against separate orders passed by the Madras high court from time to time dealing with the request by RSS to conduct a route march.
RSS has been conducting such marches since 1925 and every year during Vijaydashmi, the route march is observed from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The Tamilnadu government be it DMK or ADMK has always restricted the march and this is why RSS had to move to the court seeking orders.
After not holding marches for two consecutive years during covid-19, the RSS hold march in 2022. They moved a letter to the Tamilnadu government demanding permission to hold the march at 50 places. However, due to the state government’s behaviour, RSS had to move to the Madras High Court on September 22, 2022.
The High Court passed an order allowing RSS to hold processions on October 2.
The state government did not adhere to this order and a local party VCK filed an appeal before a two-judge division bench against the order and which was dismissed. The state government then filed a review petition, which was also dismissed by the single bench.
As the order by the Madras High Court of September 22, was not complied with by the state government the RSS filed 50 contempt petitions before a single judge. During the hearing, the state government presented a report showing there have been attacks in these processions in the past, through petrol bombs and other explosives.
Following this report, the single-judge bench modified the order by Madras High Court on November 4, 2022.
The modified order, allowed RSS to hold marches subject to 11 conditions such as organise the processions in closed premises like grounds and stadiums; do not carry sticks, lathis or other weapons that might cause injury; not making statements offending the sentiments of other groups; nobody shall either sing songs or speak ill on any individuals, any caste, religion, etc.
The order allowed RSS to hold marches in compound places at 23 locations, while permissions for 24 locations were rejected and at 3 places the route marches were allowed.
Based on the orders the march was taken out at three places, i.e Cuddalore, Perambalur and Kallakurichi on November 6, 2022.
The RSS appealed to the division bench against these orders. On February 10, 2023, the division bench set aside these restrictions and restored the original order passed by the Sigle judge dated November 2, 2022.
The state government then moved a petition to the Supreme Court against this decision.
Before the top court, RSS claimed that it is a fundamental right to assemble peacefully under Article 19(1)(b) of the Constitution of India and said that their march could not be put on hold due to possible violence by PFI when it is the state’s duty to ensure adequate security.
The state, on the other hand, claimed “reasonable restrictions” under Article 19(3) in the interest of the country’s sovereignty, integrity or public order.
The top court set aside the November 4 order on the ground that the HC judge “travelled beyond the scope of a contempt petition” and went on to modify the earlier order of September 22.
The Court approved the September 22 order for interpreting the relevant provisions of the law correctly and also imposing necessary conditions for the march to be held. Some of the conditions to be observed required the members of the procession to not offend the sentiments of any religious, linguistic, cultural and other groups in any manner.
The judgement read, “After having disposed of the batch of main writ petitions by a final order dated 22.09.2022 in a particular manner and after having dismissed the batch of review applications on 02.11.2022, the learned Judge could not have modified his original order dated 22.09.2022 in a batch of contempt petition on 04.11.2022…the learned Judge travelled beyond the scope of a contempt petition and this is why the said order warranted interference by the Division Bench”.
A further direction was issued to the state authorities to grant permission to the organisers on one of the chosen dates.
The RSS Tamilnadu reached the DGP office with the order on April 12, 2023, seeking permission to conduct route marches in 45 places. The dates requested were April 14, 15 and 16, 2023.
The Tamilnadu police granted permission to hold the march on April 16, 2023. The march will now be organised at 45 places in the state including Chennai (Korattur), Salem, Nilagiri, Tiruchy and others.