Gujarat Profs, entrepreneurs move HC over Section 144

Last Updated 26 December 2019, 14:57 IST

Two professors of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, another one from Ahmedabad University and two others have filed a petition in Gujarat high court challenging repeated imposition of Section 144 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) that bars assembly of more than four persons without police permission.

The petitioners have sought court's intervention in quashing these orders to enable the "residents of Ahmedabad to exercise their right to freedom of expression, right to peaceful assembly and right to move freely under Article 19 (1) of the constitution.

Among the petitioners are IIM-A professor Navdeep Mathur who was roughed up by city police and detained for hours during a peaceful protest held outside the institute on December 16.

Apart from Mathur, three other petitioners identified as Sanjiv Shah, Archana Shah, both are said to be entrepreneurs and Raghavan Rangarajan. Rangarajan is a professor at Ahmedabad University. The fifth petitioner is Ankur Sarin who teaches at IIM-A. The petition has been filed through advocate B S Soparkar.

The petition was briefly heard in the court of justice Umesh Trivedi where the government prosecutor sought time to take instruction from the state government and argue. The matter will be taken up on January 9.

In the past ten days, hundreds of activists, students and academicians were detained by the police for staging protest against Citizenship Amendment Bill and National Register of Citizens. The police detained these activists on the ground of not having permission mandated under Section 144.

According to the petitioners, the prohibitory orders under Section 144 and Section 37 of Gujarat police act,1951 are issued in a "routine course of manner and in identically worded text."

As per the petitioners, under Section 144 no order remains valid for more than two months and under Gujarat police at, no such prohibition remains in force after 15 days without sanction of the government.

The petitioners have found that the police "routinely" keep passing fresh order after end of previous ones that makes such prohibition a continuous process and under the garb of this, the police bar people to abstain from various actions that includes "utterances of cries, singing songs, playing music, delivery of harangues, the use of gestures or mimetic representations, and the preparation, exhibition or dissemination of pictures, symbols, placards."

(Published 26 December 2019, 14:57 IST)

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