The Madras High Court Tuesday upheld a lower court order rejecting the discharge petition filed by Tamil film director V Gauthaman and another person in a case filed against them for staging protests here without permission in April last year over the Cauvery issue.
Justice V Parthibhan dismissed the revision petition filed by Gauthaman and Y Arul against the the November 23, 2018 order of Alandur Judicial Magistrate court, holding that there were prima facie materials available for proceeding against them.
The petitioners who blocked an arterial road in the city by staging a demonstration without permission and causing inconvenience to the public cannot be allowed to take refuge under the constitutional protection of freedom of expression and assembly, the judge said in his order.
He took exception to the petitioners' counsel comparing their protest with that of Mahatma Gandhi's 'satyagraha' during the freedom struggle.
"This court is unable to comprehend the seriousness in which such comparison is drawn by the learned counsel for the petitioners. Such arguments are advanced on behalf of these petitioners without understanding the context of protest during freedom struggle and demonstration during the period of elected governance of today," the judge said.
The counsel was attempting to give a colour of legitimacy and constitutionality to the illegal demonstration which was held at the instance of the petitioners and others by holding the entire citizenry to ransom, Justice Parthibhan said.
Freedom of expression or assembly as guaranteed in the Constitution has its own boundaries as defined from time to time by the constitutional courts, he said.
"It is trite in law to say that any freedom which is guaranteed in the Constitution has always been circumscribed by a reasonable restriction as no citizen is guaranteed absolute right to do whatever he likes without there being a reasonable restriction," he added.
Gauthaman and others were booked for holding the protest to press for constitution of Cauvery Management Authority. The city was rocked by protests by various pro-Tamil outfits and film personalities.
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