Dharnas, protests are prohibited in residential areas and would not be allowed: police to HC

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New Delhi, Dec 17 (PTI) The Delhi Police on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that protests or dharnas are prohibited in residential areas of the national capital in accordance with the Supreme Court's direction and areas designated for demonstrations were Ramlila Maidan and Jantar Mantar.

The submission was made before Justice Navin Chawla during the hearing of AAP MLAs Raghav Chadha and Atishi Marlena separate pleas challenging the police decision denying them permission to hold a peaceful protest outside the residence of Home Minister Amit Shah and Lt Governor Anil Baijal, respectively.

The court said it will hear the matter on Friday.

During the pre-lunch session hearing, the court suggested to police that the AAP leaders could be allowed to hold the protest subject to whatever restrictions the agency wants to impose on them as only four persons would be staging the dharna at each of the two sites.

'They will give an undertaking to abide by the restrictions,' the court said and Delhi government additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan , appearing for the police, sought a passover to seek instructions from the law and order agency.

When the matter was taken up after 4,30pm, Narayan told the court that there was a standing order issued by the police which states that protests and dharnas can only be held at Ramlila Maidan or Jantar Mantar and demonstrations were prohibited in residential areas and would not be allowed.

Opposing the contention, the lawyers for the two AAP leaders questioned how protests were being held outside the residence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

They said they will respond to the stand taken by the police on Friday.

Both Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs wanted to stage a 'dharna' outside the residences of the Home Minister and LG on December 13 to protest against alleged misappropriation of funds by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, but they were denied permission for the same.

Both were detained by police on December 13, along with some other AAP leaders, for attempting to protest outside the two sites without the necessary permission.

The two AAP MLAs have contended that while they were denied permission to protest outside the residences of the Home Minister and the LG on the ground of COVID-19 restrictions and law and order concerns, MCD councillors of BJP have been permitted to continue staging a 'dharna' outside Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence.

They have also contended that while they sought permission for only four persons to protest at each of the two sites, un-numbered persons are staging a demonstration outside Kejriwal's residence.

They have alleged that this indicates the arbitrariness in the decision taken by the Delhi police and have sought quashing of its December 12 communication rejecting their request to hold a protest outside the residences of Shah and Baijal.

The Delhi police had rejected their request by citing a November 28 order of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) which prohibits till December 31 all social/academic/sports/entertainment/cultural/religious/ political functions/other gathering throughout the national capital to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, the police in Atishi's case had denied the request on 'law and order point of view' and in Chadha's case, on the ground that section 144 IPC is already in force in the area of New Delhi district. PTI HMP RKS RKS