Supreme Court no to Ex-GJM chief’s plea for protection

The court observed that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader was not entitled to any relief and there was no material to substantiate that state functionaries, including the police, was ‘biased’ against him.

New Delhi : Former Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung on Friday failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court which dismissed his plea seeking protection against coercive steps by the West Bengal Police in cases lodged against him.

The apex court said the matter cannot be said to be a case of “individual’s persecution” by the state authority and it was not a “fit case” where the court may exercise its jurisdiction to transfer the cases to an independent agency for probe, as pleaded by him.

A bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan observed that Gurung was not entitled to any relief and there was no material to substantiate that state functionaries, including the police, was ‘biased’ against him.

Referring to the violence in Darjeeling hills in West Bengal during the agitation for separate Gorkhaland, the bench said, “The state is obliged to maintain law and order and to protect live and property of the citizens. It has to take necessary steps to contain such agitation and restore the peace.”

“The cases lodged in the FIR submitted at the instance of the police or other complainants cannot be discarded on the specious pleas that they have been lodged due to bias of the state and with the intent to persecute the petitioner (Gurung),” the bench said in its 60-page judgement.

The bench referred to Article 19 of the Constitution which relates to freedom of speech and expressions and said that it guarantees some of most “important fundamental rights” to the citizens and protects important attributes of personal liberty.

“Freedom to air ones view is the lifeline of any democratic institution. The word freedom of speech must be broadly construed to include right to circulate oned view by word or mouth or through audio visual instrument. Right of public speech is one form of expression which is also part of freedom of speech and expression,” it said, adding that demonstrations were also a mode of expression of the rights under Article 19(1)(a).

It, however, said that protests “whether political, religious or social or other demonstrations, which create public, disturbances or operate as nuisances, or create or manifestly threaten some tangible public or private mischief, are not covered by protection under Article 19(1)”.

The apex court said that Article 19(1)(a) and (b) gives constitutional right to all citizens regarding freedom of speech and expression but violent public demonstration, during which public and private properties are damaged and people lose their lives, goes beyond the fundamental rights and becomes an offence punishable under law.

The top court also referred to an order passed by the Calcutta High Court in the matter related to protests in the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong and said the situation was “deteriorating” and insurgency and violent agitations were continuing unabated.

“The protest no longer remained peaceful and democratic. The allegations made of the offences with regard to which various FIRs have been lodged cannot be rejected as false and concocted as contended by the petitioner. On the record there is sufficient material to indicate the severe damage to live and property,” it said.

It also took into account the number of deaths of several persons, including police officials, which was admitted to by both the parties before it.

It noted that over 300 cases were registered after May last year and Gurung was named in 56 such cases.

“Thus, FIR registered at the instance of police leading serious offences involving petitioner and supporters of GJM, cannot be discarded on the plea that it was police, who has roped in the petitioner and other supporters by lodging the FIR,” the court said.

“No bias or mala fide has been pleaded against any individual State functionary or police officer nor any such person has been impleaded in the writ petition so as to consider the allegation of bias. It is very easy to make allegations of bias against a person but it is difficult to substantiate the same,” the bench said.

The apex court had on November 20 last year restrained the West Bengal police from taking any coercive steps against Gurung, who had claimed that he was being politically persecuted by the West Bengal government.

However, the Mamata Banerjee government had submitted a list of FIRs lodged against Gurung and said that he was facing trial in several cases.

The GJM central committee had earlier suspended Gurung for six months and appointed Binay Tamang as the party’s new president.

The police had earlier claimed that Gurung and some of his aides were absconding after being booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the violence in Darjeeling hills. PTI ABA MNL SJK  ARC



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