The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court (HC) on Friday allowed the Bhim Army to hold a meeting of its workers at Nagpur’s Reshimbagh Ground on February 22, but imposed certain conditions.
A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Madhav Jamdar said the petition of the Dalit outfit, seeking permission for the conclave, is allowed with conditions.
Following the HC’s decision, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad announced on Twitter that he will be addressing the gathering on Saturday.
“I am coming to Nagpur’s Reshimbagh tomorrow at 2 p.m. Tomorrow we will unfurl the tricolour outside the headquarters of the RSS, fake nationalists who have not honoured it till date. I urge all our friends to reach Reshimbagh tomorrow with the tricolor and tell them that our tricolour weighs heavier than their saffron flag,” his tweet said in Hindi.
The sprawling ground is close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) Smruti Mandir – the administrative headquarters of the organisation. All major RSS events in Nagpur including the RSS chief’s Vijayadashmi speech take place on this ground every year.
The Kotwali police, which has jurisdiction over the premises, had earlier denied permission for the gathering citing law and order issues. After they were denied permission, the Dalit group moved the HC seeking quashing of the police order.
On Tuesday, the HC issued notices to the Maharashtra government and the Nagpur police commissioner on the petition filed by a Bhim Army functionary. The court reportedly maintained that denying permission for the meeting amounted to a “suppression” of their fundamental rights.
“Mere difference of ideology of any organisation located close by can not be a reason for denial of permission for a rally. Suppression can prove to be adverse and such protests, on the other hand, provide a safety valve,” the HC observed.
The petition, filed by Bhim Army Nagpur district chief Praful Shende through his lawyer Firdos Mirza, said the outfit had got permission for the meeting from the CP & Berar Education Society, which controls the Nagpur Improvement Trusted-owned ground.
The plea sought directions from the HC to the state government and the police commissioner to grant permission to the Bhim Army to hold the meeting.
“Permission granted with conditions. It will be a workers' meet only. It shall not be converted into a demonstration or protest,” the court said in its operative order on Friday.
“There should be no inflammatory speeches and the atmosphere should be peaceful. Besides, Chandrashekhar Azad should give an undertaking on the above conditions,” the court added.
Any violation of the conditions will invite criminal action and contempt of court proceedings, the bench warned.
The police department, in its affidavit filed in the court on Thursday, said the organisation is seeking permission to stage a protest against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) at a location which is near the RSS headquarters.
“The organisation of the petitioner holds an ideology which is different, contrary and diverse to the ideology being professed by the RSS," the affidavit said.
In such a scenario, the possibility of a law and order situation being created at the centre of the protest cannot be ruled out, the police had said.