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‘You can’t deliver sermons’: Karnataka High Court rebukes CPI(M) after the party filed affidavit highlighting its fundamental right to protest

The CPI(M) had filed the affidavit following a previous court order asking the political parties if they were intending to issue instructions to their members/followers to follow Coronavirus guidelines

Karnataka High Court rebuked the Communist Party of India (Marxist) after the latter filed an affidavit before the court highlighting their ‘fundamental right to protest’. Strongly disapproving the affidavit, a Division Bench of Justices Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Vishwajith Shetty said that the affidavit gave the impression that the court was trying to impair the party’s fundamental rights to hold protests and rallies.

“You are talking as if somebody is trying to take away your fundamental right of speech. Who is taking away your fundamental right of speech? Are you saying that the Court wants to infringe your right to protest?”, the Court said, as reported by Bar and Bench. A plea had come up before the court alleging that the National Directives for Covid-19 Management, part of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines were not being followed in Karnataka. The CPI(M) had filed the affidavit following a previous court order asking the political parties if they were intending to issue instructions to their members/followers to follow the guidelines regarding wearing of masks and social distancing in political gatherings.

The High Court expressed disapproval

Making scathing remarks on the affidavit, the High Court said, “We strongly disapprove of this…Just because you were asked to file an affidavit, you can’t deliver such sermons”. “The 7th respondent (CPI(M)) in its affidavit states that this Court wants to prohibit holding of rallies and their right to protest. After going through para 4 and 5 of the affidavit, we are of the opinion that the respondent has not understood the scope of this petition nor the directions of the court. No prayer has been made in any of the petitions to ban protests. While we accept paras 8 and 9, we express our disapproval towards paras, 4 and 5”, the order read.

The court said that it failed to understand why the Karnataka government did not recovering fines on the organisers of a rally held on December 5. “The State government is reluctant to implement the sections of Karnataka Epidemic Diseases Act. It appears that there was a rally on 5th December but fine of Rs 50,000 has not been levied from the organisers of the rally”, the court said. The Court directed the Commissioner of Police to file an affidavit giving reasons for not collecting fines from the organiser of the rally. The Commissioner of Police is also directed to explain why criminal law was not invoked against person violating social distancing norms and wearing masks.

The next hearing of the matter is scheduled on January 11.

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