In a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court declined permission to the organization Mission Save Constitution to hold a public meeting, the All India Muslim Mahapanchayat, at the RamlilaGround on October 29. Justice Subramonium Prasad upheld the Delhi Police’s decision to revoke permission, asserting that the decision was not arbitrary.
The police’s primary argument for revoking permission was that the event was “communal” in nature, which raised concerns about potential communal tensions. Mission Save Constitution, an organization founded by Advocate Mehmood Pracha, had claimed to work towards creating awareness about constitutional rights, especially among marginalized communities.
Justice Prasad noted that the period from the end of Shraadhuntil Diwali is considered highly auspicious for the Hindu community, and the organization’s promotional posters indicated possible communal and religious undertones associated with the event.
The court found It unsuitable to grant permission for the event on October 29 due to the simultaneous celebration of several festivals, which could exacerbate communal tensions. It recognized that the Old Delhi area is sensitive, housing people from various religious backgrounds, and that communal violence is not uncommon in the region.
The court also acknowledged the apprehensions raised by the Station House Officer (SHO) of the concerned area and emphasized that constitutional courts cannot dismiss such concerns. While upholding the importance of freedom of expression (Article 19(1)(a) and (b) of the Indian Constitution), the court maintained that the potential for the event to escalate into a law and order issue, resulting in harm to lives and property, should be a primary consideration for law enforcement agencies.
The ruling left open the possibility for the authorities to reconsider the organization’s request for permission after the festive season ends. The organization will need to provide a list of speakers and assure that the meeting will not incite communal tensions.
The organization had planned the event for October 29 as part of a series of initiatives aimed at empowering weaker sections of society, including Muslim and other minority communities, scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST), other backward classes (OBC), and all oppressed people. The organization contested the police’s decision to revoke permission, arguing that it was legally and constitutionally flawed. The organization further expressed concern that the Muslim community was being used to polarize Indian politics, similar to other marginalized groups in society.