HC takes serious view of march inside its campus, participation of 3 retired judges

Chennai, Jan 31 (PTI) A 'silent' march seeking to 'protect the Constitution' was taken out inside the Madras High Court premises in which three retired judges were among the participants despite orders banning any such activities, prompting the court on Friday to take a serious view of it and refer the matter to its Security Committee.

First bench comprising Chief Justice A P Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad described the incident as 'unfortunate' and said the three former high court judges joining the 'protest' caused more concern as it requested the Security Committee to take up the matter urgently and revert with its suggestions.

The march held by a group of lawyers on Thursday came amid protests calling for saving the Constitution and reading out the preamble of the Constitution by those agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act at various places across the country in recent days.

Visuals telecast by TV channels showed several lawyers taking part in the march holding placards that read 'Defend Constitution', 'Equality' and the preamble of the Constitution.

The bench took up the matter suo motu (on its own) on the basis of a letter by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, High Court Security, to Registrar General that the procession was taken out by a group of advocates.

The march was organised on the occasion of the Martyrs Day to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The high court had passed various orders in the past banning any meetings and processions with placards inside its premises.

The letter which mentioned the names of three retired judges -- D Hariparanthaman, Kannan and Akber Ali -- apart from other advocates said that a group of advocates including seniors assembled near Aavin Parlor point in the court campus, walked in procession and reached another gate and concluded inside the premises in front of a statue of B R Ambedkar.

It was further submitted by the Deputy Commissioner that the processionists were stopped and advised against their 'unauthorised activities'. But they refused to hear the advice the police officers who were on duty, the letter claimed.

The bench in its order said: 'Having noticed the said incident reported, what is of more concern is that the incident involves and names three former High Court Judges of having entered the premises and joined the protest that was going on.' The gravity of the incident therefore puts on guard the entire judicial system, as this may have large impact on the future security measures that may be required to be undertaken by the high court, it said.

'The incident therefore requires an immediate concern to be taken up on the administrative side and we, therefore, request the Security Committee of the High Court to take up the matter urgently along with its suggestions and report the matter back for taking appropriate action on the Judicial side or otherwise by the next date fixed,' it said.

The bench then posted the matter for further hearing to March 3.

It also directed that a PIL pertaining to common security arrangements in the entire high court premises be posted along with the present petition related to the march.

Meanwhile, a group of lawyers, including senior counsels NGR Prasad and Nalini Chidambaram, in a statement said they only took out a 'peaceful padayatra' to commemorate the Father of the Nation and it was portrayed by police as 'an unauthorised'' activity by them and the retired judges.

'To describe a peaceful Padayatra to honour Gandhiji as an unlawful protest is an insult to the Mahatma,' the statement said.

Describing the march as 'most dignified', it said the participants carried the National Flag and placards containing the preamble of the Constitution.

'The participants did not go anywhere near the high court building nor was there any disruption of the functioning of any court,' the statement said.

The first bench also noted that orders passed by the Supreme Court on January 27 this year on a proposal seeking deployment of central forces such as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for security purpose in all high courts in the country had been placed before it.

It recorded the views of Additional Solicitor General G.

Rajagopalan and Tamil Nadu Advocate General Vijay Narayan on the issue of security.

Keeping in view the concerns that have been expressed and also the latest incident reported, the court requested the security committee to deliberate upon these issues and also coordinate with the state police chief and high ranking officials of the CISF to crystalise the security arrangements preferably on a permanent basis.

The exercise may, therefore be undertaken at the earliest, it added. PTI CORR VGN VS VS VS