The Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GKS), a public charitable trust and farmers’ organisation, has challenged the Surat city police commissioner office’s refusal to grant permission to hold a farmers’ meeting, which was scheduled to be held on January 3, before the Gujarat High Court. The police had conveyed their refusal to grant permission for the event on January 1.
While the permission to conduct the meeting was refused primarily due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its protocols, the Surat city police commissioner’s office also cited that the meeting may lead to an extension of support to the ongoing farmers’ protest at Delhi as another reason.
GKS president Jayesh Patel, through advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, has challenged the decision and called it “illegal and unconstitutional”.
The petitioner has cited that the refusal has been primarily challenged on the ground that fundamental right to get together, associate, hold meetings and express opinions, as is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, “cannot be denied on assumption and presumption” and “expression of support to a non-violent agitation anywhere in India by words and expression of opposition on the issues of the state and central governments is well within ‘freedom of expression’”.
The GKS has also submitted that an assurance was given by the organiser that the meeting will be held to discuss issues of farmers well within the stipulated Covid-19 guidelines. It further stated, the Supreme Court’s decision in December 2020 had permitted the farmers to protest “without any impediment in accordance with law”.
As per existing provisions of the law, the petition stated, the permission to hold meeting can be refused only after giving opportunity of hearing and by giving effective opportunity of being heard on the issues on which the permission is likely to be denied. “Therefore, in absence of such hearing, the impugned decision is in violation of section 33 (1)(o) of the (Bombay Police) Act, read with the rules framed thereunder and, therefore, same is illegal and unlawful,” the petitioner has stated in their application.
The petition seeks the impugned order of January 1 refusing permission for the meeting be quashed and set aside and sought that the HC to direct the police to permit the farmers’ organisation to hold the meeting on the dates that may be suggested by the organisation.
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