Chennai: Holding that preserving the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, including freedom of expression, was its priority, the Madras High Court on Monday cleared the decks for controversial 'Mangalsutra removal and beef banquet' to be held here today by Dravidar Kazhagam.
"I am only concerned about freedom of expression and Article 19 of the Constitution and hence hearing the case at this hour. If someone had approached the court seeking permission to hold an event in praise of Nathuram Godse or to abuse Gandhi, I will permit," Justice D Hari Paranthaman said.
The event had been banned by the city police and DK chief K Veeramani was booked on various charges, including promoting enmity on grounds of religion. Strongly opposed by Hindu outfits, the event was announced by DK after a Tamil news TV channel had last month cancelled a programme "Thaali (Mangalsutra) a boon or bane", following protest from Hindu Munnani, a Sangh Parivar outfit.
"Beef banquet" was announced as a mark of DK's opposition to the idea of banning cow slaughter, beef-eating and a related recent ban in Maharashtra. Justice Paranthaman made the remarks while allowing a petition by DK, apart from allowing it to conduct programmes to be celebrated today in connection with the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of BR Ambedkhar peacefully.
He directed police to give adequate protection to safeguard the rights of DK for freedom of expression guaranteed under Art 19(1)(a) and (b) of the Constitution.
Reacting to Advocate General A L Somayaji¿s submission that government's priority was to maintain law and order, the Judge observed that the priority of the court was to preserve the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
The matter pertains to a petition filed by DK against the Assistant Commissioner of Police orders restraining them from performing the function scheduled tomorrow.
All India Hindu Maha Sabha had filed a complaint against holding the programme. As there was no action, they moved the Madras High Court on which Justice P N Prakash directed it to file a complaint before the jurisdictional police who in turn would have to file an FIR if cognizable offence was made out.
Sabha vice president Dhanasekharan did so and police filed an FIR against Veeramani, following which DK moved the High Court. The judge also quashed the ACP's April 12 order, saying he was inclined to do so and permit the petitioner hold the event on April 14 as stated in the March 29 letter of DK to police, which said they would be conducting 'voluntary removal of thaali by self-respect couples' and 'beef eating,' besides other programmes.
Referring to the March 12 attack on the TV channel by a fringe Tamil group over the issue, the judge questioned why government was unable to prevent it by some groups for proposing to air a debate on "relevance of thaali". "The event could not even be aired," he said. Meanwhile, the AG obtained permission from HC Chief Justice to move an appeal challenging the order.