ANTI SECULAR ACTS
Lame Reasons For Refusing Permission Expose Inability Of State Machinery, Reasons Contrary To Principle Of Secularism: Madras HC Orders State Of Tamil Nadu To Give Permission For RSS Route Marches
While fully, firmly and finally espousing the right to take out route marches, the Madras High Court in a most learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled S Raja Desingu Vs The State of Tamil Nadu & Ors in WP No. 29039 of 2023 (batch) and cited in 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 321 that was pronounced as recently as on October 16, 2023 has directed the State Government to grant permission to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to conduct route marches in all the places where they had sought permission on the auspicious occasion of Vijaya Dashami. It must be noted that the Court thus gave permission to the writ petitions that was filed by the members of the RSS after the State did not grant permission for nearly a month after the filing of applications. We must see that the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice G Jayachandran found that the reasons cited by the Advocate General on behalf of the State to refuse permission were “lame”.
Quite glaringly, the State had passed individual orders refusing permission after the High Court issued notice in the writ petitions that had been filed by members of RSS. The RSS had approached the court seeking directions to the State of Tamil Nadu to grant permission for their route marches. The Court clearly held that the orders of rejection passed by the State were not in tune with secular or democratic ways of governance.
By the way, the Court was referring to the objection that had been raised by the State that there are mosques and churches in the procession route. The Madras High Court unequivocally held that, “By citing the existence of the structures, places of worship of other religion or office of some organizations, which do not share the same ideology of RSS, the request of RSS to conduct procession and public meeting is rejected. This order is contrary to the principle of secularism which is the foundation of our Constitution of India.” Very rightly so!
At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Dr Justice G Jayachandran sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “These batch of Writ Petitions seeking Mandamus filed by the representatives of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (hereinafter referred as: “RSS”).”
To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 2 that, “Writ Petitioners are forced to come to the Court seeking Mandamus since their request to grant permission to take rally not granted. The reason for filing these Writ Petitions is, last year their request to take rally was rejected at the eleventh hour. Challenging the rejection order, they approached this Court filing Writ Petition in W.P.No.24540 of 2022 etc. batch., The learned Single Judge permitted the Organisers of RSS to conduct rally on certain conditions. The State filed a Review Application before the learned Single Judge seeking leave to review the order dated 22.09.2022 passed in W.P.No.24540 of 2022 etc., The said Review Application was dismissed on 02.11.2022. Thereafter, for non-compliance of the order. Writ Petitioners initiated contempt proceedings. In the said contempt proceedings, the order passed earlier was partly modified.”
Quite significantly, the Bench while citing a recent and relevant case law enunciates in para 17 that, “Mr.G.Karthikeyan, learned Senior Counsel draw the attention of this Court by referring the judgment of the Division Bench of this Court rendered in Ramasamy Udayar -vs- The District Collector, Perambalur District and others (W.A.Nos.743 & 2064 of 2019), wherein, the Division Bench of this Court, while considering the dispute between the two groups in connection with the enjoyment of a land, had observed in an unambiguous term that, “As per Section 180-A of the District Municipalities Act 1920, roads or streets should be used as access to the people irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. Merely because one religious group is dominating in a particular locality, it cannot be a ground to prohibit from celebrating religious festivals or taking processions of other religious groups through those roads. If it is to be accepted, then a day will come when a particular religious group which is predominantly occupying the area, will not the people belonging to other religious groups even to use the roads even for movement, transportation or the normal access. Even the marriage processions and funeral processions would be prohibited/prevented which is not good for our society.””
Be it noted, the Bench notes in para 18 that, “This observation need to be referred because in all the rejection orders, District Administration has quoted the existence of Mosques and Churches in the procession route. In the very same judgment, the Division Bench has declared as follows:-
“24. If there is going to be any law and order problem, the police authorities have to intervene and prevent any untoward incidents and give appropriate police protection. Therefore, the case of the petitioner has to be accepted and there shall be a direction to the authorities to permit the Hindus to conduct two processions on the first and second day of the village temple festivals through all the streets and roads which have been conducted till 2015. As far as the procession on the third day of temple festival is concerned, the petitioner himself accepted that Hindus would not conduct the procession in which the turmeric water would be sprinkled.
25. The abovesaid facts of the case would reveal that all along there had been religious tolerance and the religious festivals were conducted very smoothly and religious procession were conducted without any problem through all the streets and roads of the village. If religious intolerance is going to be allowed, it is not good for a secular country. Intolerance in any form by any religious group has to be curtailed and prohibited. In this case, intolerance of a particular religious group is exhibited by objecting for the festivals which have been conducted for decades together and the procession through the streets and roads of the village are sought to be prohibited stating that the area is dominated by Muslims and therefore, there cannot be any Hindu festival or procession through the locality. India is a secular country and merely because one religious group is living in majority in a particular area, it cannot be a reason for not allowing other religious festivals or processions through that area. If the contention of the private respondent is to be accepted then it would create a situation in which minority people cannot conduct any festival or procession in most of the areas in India. If resistance is being exhibited by one religious group and it is reciprocated by the other religious groups, there would be chaos, riots, religious fights causing loss of lives and destruction of properties. Consequently, the secular character of our country will be destroyed or damaged.
26. Hence, it is hereby declared,
1. Once it has been declared by the authorities as roads or streets as per Section 180-A of the District Municipalities Act, the roads and streets which are “secular”, should be used as roads by all the people irrespective of their religion, caste or creed.
2. Any procession including religious procession shall be conducted through all the roads and streets without any restriction.
3. Any procession including religious procession cannot be prohibited or curtailed merely because another religious group is residing or doing business in the area predominantly.
4. There cannot be a prohibition for any procession including religious processions through roads by the District administration or police authorities and there can be only regulation by the police or other Government authorities to see that no untoward incident occurs or any law and order problem arises.
5. Every religious group has got fundamental right to take out religious procession through all the roads without insulting the other religious sentiments and without raising any slogans against other religious groups, affecting their sentiments, public law and order.
6. Merely because there is one place of worship belonging to other religious group, the same cannot be a ground to decline/deny permission to conduct procession including religious procession of other religions to go through those roads or streets
7. The presence of religious structures/places of worship cannot take away the right of other religious groups who have been enjoying all the rights including the conduct of religious procession for the past many years.””
Most forthrightly, the Bench propounds in para 19 that, “The tenure of the rejection order certainly not in tune with Secular or democratic way of governance. It is neither in obedience or compliance of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India dictum. By citing the existence of the structures, place of worship of other religion or office of some organizations, which do not share the same ideology of RSS, the request of RSS to conduct procession and public meeting is rejected. This order is contrary to the principle of Secularism which is the foundation of our Constitution of India.”
What’s more, the Bench directs in para 21 that, “The Respondents shall ensure peaceful procession by providing adequate bandobast. Having now aware of the route and prospective spots which required concentration and attention, it is the duty and responsibility of the District Administration to make all necessary arrangements for peaceful conduct of the rally/procession and the public meeting.”
In sum, the Madras High Court has been most decisive in holding unequivocally that lame reasons forwarded for refusing permission only serves to expose the inability of the State machinery. It was also made clear by the Court that reasons forwarded are contrary to the principle of secularism. The Court clearly held that the Tamil Nadu State Government went entirely against the secular and constitutional principles in the State. The Court thus ordered the State of Tamil Nadu to give permission to RSS for carrying out its route marches on the auspicious occasion of Vijaya Dashami instead of forwarding lame excuses for not giving permission on one pretext or the other! Very rightly so!