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Court reserves verdict on protests at Marina

The Madras High Court has reserved its verdict on a writ appeal preferred by the State, challenging a single judge’s April 28 order granting permission to P. Ayyakannu, leader of a farmers’ association, to sit on a fast on the Marina beach here to highlight the plight of the farmers in the State.

A Division Bench of Justices K.K. Sasidharan and R. Subramanian deferred their verdict, without mentioning a date on which the judgment would be delivered, after hearing arguments by Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian and advocate S. Muthukrishnan, representing Mr. Ayyakannu.

Mr. Muthukrishnan contended that no law of the land imposes a ban on holding protests on the Marina beach, and therefore, the police could not impose such a ban through administrative orders.

He said the police’s power was limited to imposing restrictions like prescribing locations for the protest, fixing the timings within which the protests could be held and laying down conditions on the use of loudspeakers. Though the police were ready to provide locations near the Government Guest House at Chepauk and Valluvar Kottam, the counsel said that they might not offer adequate accommodations for crowds.

The judges asked what if the associations wanted to conduct protests on the Marina all through the year and inconvenience the general public. Though everyone had a right to protest, such a right would get diminished the moment it affected the right of free movement for others, they said.

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