State cannot curtail free speech and expression, but balance has to be struck with security, public order: Calcutta High Court

The Calcutta High Court made some pertinent remarks free speech in a plea to allow an association space for an indefinite sit-in protest. (West Bengal Recognised Unaided Madrasha Teacher’s Association and others v. State of West Bengal and others)

A Single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya emphasized that the fundamental right to assemble peacefully cannot be curtailed. However, a balance has to be struck between such rights and public order and security.

When the matter was taken up for hearing, the counsel for the concerned authority submitted that they could be accommodated in another area for a limited time, in order to obviate difficulties ensuing from indefinite permission.

The authority stated that permission could be granted for a protest at a venue 50 meters away from the gate of the Central Park, where a metro car shed is situated, which lay in the direction of the Salt Lake City Center.
Accepting theis stance, the Court directed that the petitioner-association be accommodated at the venue proposed by the State.

After highlighting that right to assemble peacefully had to be balanced with public order and security, the Court enjoined the association to follow COVID-19 protocol and pollution control norms.

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