Holding that there was nothing wrong in naming a hotel after a caste and the owner's right to do so was guaranteed under the Constitution, the Madras High Court bench here today held that it was "sheer hypocrisy" to object to it and attempt to deface a board bearing the name of one such hotel.
"It is open to the proprietor concerned to name his hotel as Sri Krishna Iyer Brahmanaal Cafe. His right is guaranteed both under Article 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. It is not open to the petitioners to infringe in the exercise of the said right," Justice G R Swaminathan said.
"This court holds that this (naming of the hotel) will fall within what is known in constitutional parlance as commercial speech," the judge added.
However, the court quashed the criminal proceedings against the accused, members of fringe outfit Periyar Dravida Kazhagam (PDK), before the judicial magistrate's court in Tiruchirapalli.
The judge said it was not as if untouchability was being practised or Brahmins alone were allowed to enter the hotel, adding that if that was the case, it would be a clear offence and violation of fundamental rights.
However, when that was not the case, it was not open to the petitioners to direct their anger at the hotel. It was "sheer hypocrisy" on their part to object to such names, he added.
The judge pointed out that there were many hotels in Madurai itself named after castes and communities. One could also see scores of bakeries and coffee shops along the highways named as "Iyengar Bakery" and such.
Justice Swaminathan recalled that during his college days, he himself used to eat lunch at the "Reddiar Mess".
The incident had occurred in 2012 at Srirangam in Tiruchirapalli when PDK members took out a procession, allegedly raised provocative slogans against Brahmins and tried to deface the board of the hotel.
The judge noted that the prosecution's case was that the petitioners shouted provocative slogans against the Brahmin community, marched towards the hotel, prevented the public from going in and also criminally intimidated the police.
However, to register case a under IPC section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), a sanction was needed from the central or the state government concerned, he pointed out.
The magistrate had taken cognizance of the case without a formal letter of sanction, which was not correct, the judge said.
He added that there was a prima facie case against the petitioners for threatening the police and using abusive language.
Cases were registered against the petitioners under IPC sections 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), among others.
Pointing out that the petitioners were from different places of Tamil Nadu, the judge said it would cause them immense hardship if they had to attend a criminal trial.
Moreover, he observed that the event occurred over five-and-a-half years ago and the petitioners' action was motivated by ideological issues.
"No doubt there was exhibition of defiance and symbolic force by the petitioners. But there had been no actual commission of any violence. The event occurred in October, 2012. They were also in custody for more than three weeks," the judge said and quashed the proceedings in the lower court.
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