HC orders State to provide space for peaceful agitations

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IMPHAL, May 18: A double bench of the High Court of Manipur comprising of Justice Laxmikanta Mohapatra and Justice N Kotishwar has directed the Manipur government to allot a space in Greater Imphal area for people to assemble and hold peaceful protests.

The order has to be complied within three weeks from today.

The order came after a petition was filed to the High Court of Manipur by a member of Aam Aadmi Party, Digen Singh last year.

The petition was moved in court as the State government did not comply to the order of the then Governor of Manipur , VK Duggal to provide a space near the southern portion of Sahid Minar near Pologround or somewhere in Imphal, to enable the public for sit in protest, dharna, public speech etc. The order number GSM/Gen-8/2008 (Pt VII) was referred to the chief secretary on May 16 of last year.

According to the memorandum submitted by Digen Singh , the public has the right to assemble peacefully without arms and under the Constitution of India the right to freedom of expression.

It said in Manipur there are frequent agitations, and picketing occurs in front of the CM`™s bungalow, Governor`™s residence and other major crowded streets. During such times, unwanted incidents happen as tussle between the security forces and agitators constantly occur, violence is a fallout of such situations.

The need is there to tackle such scenarios and provide a common space for people to express themselves and protest peacefully, it said.

`As we are providing space for parks, gardens, playgrounds etc. we may provide a small space in the heart of Imphal in order to allow ventilation of thoughts and ideas of common people, intellectuals etc. So, the government of Manipur may kindly consider to provide a space for any meeting of public speech, protests etc. to avail fundamental rights under the constitution with reasonable restrictions,`™ it said.

The memorandum also cites that Delhi has Jantar Mantar, where citizens are allowed to gather peacefully and express their opinions.

The memorandum was reciprocated by the Governor, and forwarded to the chief secretary of Manipur.

However, despite the directive of the Governor, was not acknowledged by the State government. The AAP member Digen Sigh then petitioned to the High Court of Manipur as why the order has not been complied with.

The order was given today by the division bench that the space should be allocated within three weeks by the State Government.

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