The court said “No political party or organization can be permitted to encroach footpath on right of way of public roads, in connection with any protests or demonstrations”
Political parties cannot be allowed to invade sidewalks or public streets by erecting temporary structures for demonstrations, protests, etc., the Kerala High Court recently observed, asking the state government to explain the measures taken to prevent such transgressions (The Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce and Industry against the State of Kerala). The Court found that, despite several Supreme Court rulings in this regard, disrespectful political parties are building structures on pavements and also on public roads, throughout the state.
"Protesters/agitators who have political support are even allowed to spread out carpets and place chairs on the sidewalk. Due to such invasions, pedestrians, including those with disabilities and reduced mobility, are forced to walk the right-of-way of public roads, in unsafe circumstances, "the court noted. The Court, therefore, ordered the State Government to file within one month a deed of notoriety explaining the measures adopted to prevent the interference of the right of way or of pedestrian structures on public roads in compliance with the previous orders and judgments of the Court. supreme and existing guidelines formulated by the Indian Road Congress.
"No political party or organization can be authorized to invade the pavement or the right of way of public roads, in connection with such protests, demonstrations, etc., by erecting temporary structures on the right of way or pedestrian structures, forcing pedestrians including those with disabilities and reduced mobility to walk in unsafe circumstances, "the court stressed. A Division Bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and Ziyad Rahman was listening to a petition presented by the Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce and Industry asking for directions from the state government and other law enforcement agencies to allocate certain areas of the state for the purpose of holding mass assemblies, including protests, demonstrations, etc.
The petition also prayed to send instructions to state authorities to remove the assemblies organized around the Government Secretariat and the Raj Bhavan in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, including adjacent paths, and a statement that the organization or holding of assemblies in those areas is illegal and unconstitutional. The petitioner, represented by the lawyer Shashank Devan, stated that the protests and demonstrations held in public places, including streets and sidewalks, causing serious inconvenience to the general public and to the businesses around these places.
Devan specifically highlighted the protests held by various organizations and political parties in front of the Government Secretariat and Raj Bhavan. The petitioner presented news articles and images of protests showing that some sheds and structures erected on a temporary basis to provide shelter for demonstrators have gradually become permanent footpath constructions. It has been argued that, despite the enactment of the Kerala Public Ways Act (Restriction of Assemblies and Processions) Act, of 2011, which defines 'footpath' as any area included in a public path intended for the movement of pedestrians, demonstrators, who often have supporting political parties, it is allowed to erect structures, spread rugs and place chairs on sidewalks.
By the way, it was pointed out that due to these structures blocking pedestrian paths, pedestrians, including those with disabilities and reduced mobility, are forced to take the precedence of public roads, in unsafe circumstances. Often these structures invade the right-of-way of public roads, also causing traffic congestion, adds the reason. The court referred to several rulings of the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court in its order.
He quoted Sivaprasad v. State of Kerala (2020), where the Kerala High Court ruled that the main reason for the arrangement of the sidewalks is to ensure the rights of pedestrians to carry out their daily activities with reasonable safety measures. The Bank also referred to the Union of India v. State of Gujarat (2020), where the Supreme Court had issued a general order that, as of the date of that order, the government will not grant any authorization for the installation of any statue or construction of any structure in public roads, sidewalks, sleepers and other places of public utility. The Court also referred to the Guidelines for pedestrian structures formulated by the Indian Roads Congress, which requires the prevention of intrusion of any nature, temporary or permanent, on the right of way or on pedestrian structures on public roads.