Stating that public rallies and morchas cannot be banned as they are an inherent part of democracy, the Bombay High Court ordered the Maharashtra government to bring a policy to regulate them so that they do not cause any hindrance to common people.
A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P R Bora was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the Nariman Point-Churchgate Citizens’ Association and others claiming they were affected due to the morchas held at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai.
Presently, all morchas and dharnas are terminated at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai. This is pursuant to an order passed by the High Court on December 8, 1997, directing all morchas to terminate at Azad Maidan near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST).
The bench was informed by the government that a committee has been set up to look into the issue, which would later prepare draft guidelines.
The petitioners’ lawyer, S C Naidu, told the court that the rallies start at different places across the state and city, which then results in heavy traffic jams everywhere.
“Morchas and rallies are part of a democracy. We cannot ban them, but they can be regulated. The state government will have to do a comprehensive study of the issue and come up with a policy to regulate them,” Justice Kanade said.
He even suggested that “the rallies can be held only on Saturdays and Sundays, so that it does not create traffic problems”.
The court noted that apart from these morchas every second road in the city is dug by some or the other authority which causes more traffic jams. “But nowadays people have become very tolerant towards such problems,” Justice Kanade said.
The court has posted the petition for further hearing after four weeks.
The state-appointed committee comprises Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Police Commissioner and the Commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.