Andhra Pradesh High Court suspends GO No 1, which prohibited roadshows and meetings on roads

Raising objections to the PIL, Advocate General Shriram stated that it was engineered to suit the vacation bench hearing.

BySNV Sudhir

Published Jan 12, 2023 | 7:31 PM Updated Jan 12, 2023 | 7:34 PM

The Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Thursday, 12 January, suspended Government Order (GO) No 1, which was issued by the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government prohibiting roadshows and meetings on roads, citing public safety.

The vacation bench of the court, under Justice Battu Devnand, had taken up the PIL filed by CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna.

It suspended the GO till 23 January and directed the state government to file a counter by 20 January before the regular bench.

Raising objections to the PIL, the state’s Advocate General (AG) Shriram stated that it was engineered to suit the vacation bench hearing.

He further pointed out the government had no information about the PIL submitted by Ramakrishna.

He claimed there was no scope for a matter like this — one that is related to the policy decision of the government — to be included in the roster.

He added that the vacation bench should not hear cases related to policy decisions.

The AG argued that the word “ban” or “prohibition” on meetings had not been mentioned anywhere in the GO.

He said: “All the governments so far have been acting only under the Police Act. Courts should not read motivated newspapers. There has been propaganda unleashed by leaders without followers about the ban on processions and roadshows, which is incorrect.”

The order and its aftermath 

The petitioner contended that the order was brought in to stifle the Opposition voices against the government.

N Chandrababu Naidu inquires after injuredparty workers after the stampede on Wednesday, 28 December, 2022. (Supplied)

N Chandrababu Naidu inquires about injured party workers after the stampede on Wednesday, 28 December, 2022. (Supplied)

The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government issued the GO No 1 on 2 January midnight in the wake of a stampede at a rally held by the main opposition — the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) — at Kandukuru on 28 December, in which eight people were killed.

Soon after, three women were killed in Guntur at an event attended by TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu.

The prohibitory order was issued under the provisions of the Police Act of 1861, and the police immediately started implementing it.

The order said, “The right to conduct a public meeting on public roads and streets is a subject matter of regulation as Section 30 of the Police Act, 1861, itself mandates.”

Principal Secretary (Home) Harish Kumar Gupta, in the GO, asked the respective district administration and police machinery to identify “designated places away from public roads for the conduct of public meetings, which do not hamper the flow of traffic, public movement, emergency services, movement of essential commodities, etc.”

Gupta pointed to the Kandukuru incident, which occurred on 28 December, and noted that the “holding of meetings on public roads and road margins is leading to deaths and creating traffic obstructions”.

The Opposition parties have been staging protests over the government’s decision, demanding that the order be withdrawn.

Even as the issue simmered, the CPI challenged the order in the high court while another PIL was also filed.

GO reunited Naidu-Pawan

Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan on Sunday expressed solidarity with the Naidu on the topic of the GO.

He visited Naidu’s residence in Hyderabad to extend support to the TDP’s fight against what they claimed was the most undemocratic order.

They said that Andhra Pradesh was now undergoing a worse situation than the Emergency.

Naidu said that attempts were being made to stifle the voice of the Opposition parties in the state.

He announced that all the political parties along with people’s organisations would wage a combined war to save democracy.

TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu at a sit-in protest in the Kuppam constituency in Andhra Pradesh on Friday, 6 January, 2023. (Supplied)

TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu at a sit-in protest in the Kuppam constituency in Andhra Pradesh on Friday, 6 January, 2023. (Supplied)

Pawan Kalyan found fault with the state government for obstructing Naidu’s tour in Kuppam.

The Jana Sena chief said that he called on Naidu only to express solidarity with him.

He said that both of them bonded over the prevailing situation in the state, particularly after the GO was issued, and felt that the state government was only trying to suppress the Opposition parties.

“The YSRCP government is acting in an atrocious manner, and has brought in a British-era GO only to stifle the voice of the Opposition parties,” said Pawan Kalyan.