The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the state government to come up with a solution to regulate protest marches across the city so that traffic is not affected and people are not inconvenienced. The bench was hearing a petition filed by the Nariman Point-Churchgate Citizens’ Association and others, seeking that the state be directed to regulate morchas or protests organised by political parties as well as citizens’ groups.
A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice Nutan Sardesai further directed the government to look at ways of “effectively implementing the High Court’s previous orders on the issue”. “The government should apply its mind and think of a plan to regulate such incidents across the city and to implement previous court orders,” said the court.
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The petitioners pointed out that while the protests ended at Azad Maidan, as mandated by High Court orders, they tend to affect traffic as they begin from the suburbs. Citing an instance, the petitioners submitted photos from a protest march organised by political parties and non-political groups in February following the suicide of Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula. The petitioners said that in the process, the participants ended up blocking the entire stretch between Byculla zoo and Azad Maidan for over six hours.
The state government, however, pointed out that it had taken precautionary measures and puts up fences and barricades in and around the maidan during morchas, but it was “difficult to control the starting point of these morchas and protests”.
The government also submitted that it had conducted a meeting with a court-appointed committee to address the traffic woes around the Churchgate area during protests. It said the committee had decided that since citizens had a right to peaceful assembly, it will “arrange for free parking space” for such participants.
In 2011, the government had set up a committee comprising the additional chief secretary (home), police commissioner and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner to look into the issue and come up with a policy.