SC rejects Tamil Nadu goverment’s challenge to Madras HC order permitting RSS route marches

Order has paved the way for the RSS to go ahead with its public programmes, including route marches, in the state.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 11, 2023 | 1:35 PMUpdatedApr 11, 2023 | 7:36 PM

RSS

In a setback to the Tamil Nadu government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 11 April, rejected its appeal against the Madras High Court’s order permitting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to hold its public programmes, including route marches, in open areas in the state.

Pronouncing the order — that has paved the way for the RSS to now go ahead with its public programmes and route marches across the state — a bench of Justice V Ramasubramanian and Justice Pankaj Mithal, in an order said: “All appeals dismissed.”

‘They were not perpetrators’

The court said that the senior advocates appearing for the RSS and its Chennai based functionary have rightly contended that the main objection raised by the state government before the high court was that after the imposition of a ban on another organisation (an apparent reference to PFI), law and order problems cropped up in certain places and that the same led to several cases being registered.

Without divulging the details of the incidents mentioned in the chart given to the court by the Tamil Nadu government on account of its “sensitivities”, the judgment said that the “chart provided by the state government shows that the members of the respondent organization (RSS) were the victims in many of those cases and that they were not the perpetrators.”

Having said this, the top court said, “Therefore, it is not possible for us to find fault with the order passed by the learned Judge either in the main writ petitions or in the review applications. Hence all the special leave petitions are liable to be dismissed.”

The Tamil Nadu government had approached the top court challenging the Madras High Court’s 10 February order directing the state police to grant permission to the RSS to take out route marches in various districts across the state on public roads and holding other programmes in open areas.

Related: TN files fresh petition in Supreme Court relating to RSS march

SC had reserved its order

The Supreme Court had reserved its order on 27 March upon the conclusion of arguments by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appearing for the respondent — RSS functionary G Subramanian from Chennai — and senior advocate Maneka Guruswamy, appearing for the RSS.

The Tamil Nadu government maintained that the RSS can hold its programmes in an enclosed area, not in an open space.

“We have not opposed RSS route march and meetings but it cannot be on every street and mohalla (locality) in the state,” Tamil Nadu had told the court when the matter was being heard.

Tamil Nadu government had told the court that RSS programmes in the state cannot be without restrictions and in certain areas the proposed route marches and gatherings cannot be permitted.

Related: TN to SC: Not opposed to RSS gathering, but with conditions

‘Subject to restrictions’

Mukul Rohatgi had told the top court that there is no absolute right to hold a programme, and the same is subject to restrictions by the police, which is responsible for maintaining law and order.

He had questioned the high court’s direction and asked how could there be a direction that route marches can be taken out wherever desired.

On the other hand, senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani had argued that the Tamil Nadu government was not allowing the route marches on the apprehension that they may come under attack when the programme is on.

Jethmalani had said that fundamental rights cannot be regimented in this fashion because of the apprehension of someone else’s specious conduct. He had said that similar programmes in the past have passed off peacefully, and there were no complaints.

Senior Advocate Maneka Guruswamy had questioned the Tamil Nadu government’s status report, asking if public order and reasonable restrictions could be reduced to a state where RSS processions can be permitted only in an enclosed ground.

(This story has been updated with additional details from the court’s order)