The Karnataka High Court on Thursday held that prohibitory orders imposed by the Bengaluru police on December 18 under Section 144 of the CrPC were illegal. The orders had been passed in view of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and in effect cancelled permissions earlier granted to protesters to hold rallies in the city on December 19.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda and Congress MLA from Karnataka Sowmya Reddy, among others, had approached the high court, seeking a quashing of the order. The government had argued that it had imposed Section 144 fearing that the protests might lead to communal violence or disturbance of peace. The bench of Chief Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Pradeep Singh Yerur was hearing the petitions.
According to Malavika Prasad, advocate appearing “or Gowda, “The court declared the order to be illegal, because the process by which the Commissioner of Police arrived at the decision to impose Section 144 did not meet the test laid down by the law. In his order, neither did the commissioner present any material facts nor state any opinion after a careful inquiry to justify the decision. He cited eight letters from deputy commissioners of police, which only baldly stated that there was a fear of communal protests or trouble. In effect, the police was making an equivalence between protests and the possibility of trouble. The court found that was in violation of the law laid down on the exercise of powers under s”ction 144.”
The court also noted that a Section 144 order that doesn’t meet standards laid down in law would violate the right to freedom of protest under Articles 19(1) (a) and (b).
While approaching the court, the petitioners had argued that the order imposing Section 144 was in violation of Article 19(1)(a)-(c) and cannot be justified as a reasonable restriction under Articles 19(2)-(4) of the Constitution.
In earlier hearings, the chief justice had questioned if the state could conclude that every protest will disturb peace or if permissions granted for peaceful assembly could be cancelled overnight.
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