Mumbai: Expressing concern over the ongoing stir in Maharashtra over the Maratha reservations, the Bombay High Court observed that, "The aspirations of people in any democratic polity are expressed in various forms; however, these forms cannot be permitted to assume the character of causing any kind of disturbance in society.
Interestingly, considering the sensitivity of the situation, the court has refrained from using the term "Maratha reservation" or naming Manoj Jarange Patil, who is leading the protest and was on a hunger strike demanding immediate action from the Maharashtra government.
Its the duty of the State to maintain law and order: Court
"While protecting the right of every individual or group of persons to express their aspirations, it is also the duty of the State to maintain law and order and peace and tranquillity in society, at any cost," said a bench consisting of Chief Justice DK Upadhayaya and Justice Arun Pednakar, sitting at the Aurangabad bench of the HC, on Wednesday.
The court further noted: "Every individual or group of persons has the fundamental right to protest; however, it should necessarily be done by peaceful means, and if there is any breach of the same, it is the bounden duty of the State to prevent such breaches."
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Nilesh Shinde, seeking direction from the government to maintain the law and order situation and ensure the health and well-being of the public.
Advocate MS Deshmukh, appearing for the petitioner, pointed out the deteriorating law and order situation in the state, which has been created due to the ongoing agitation by a section of society demanding reservation in public employment and education.
Strong measures by protestors
Although the demand has been ongoing for some time, for the past fortnight, the protesters have resorted to strong measures, such as organising dharnas and going on hunger strikes. Deshmukh pointed out news reports regarding ongoing protests in the village of Antarwali (Sarati), in Jalna district, where Jarange Patil sat on a hunger strike demanding that the state take immediate steps for Maratha reservation. He had demanded that Marathas be given Kunbi certificates, allowing them to avail of reservations under the OBC category.
"When the police and district administration tried to intervene to maintain law and order, it was noticed that the health of the gentleman who was leading the other protesters was deteriorating rapidly, and there was opposition even to providing him medical aid," the court noted in its order.
The bench noted that there is another section of society with conflicting aspirations and interests, and because of this, information relating to confrontation posing a threat to the law and order situation has been pouring in.
Earlier this month, the government issued a Government Resolution on Maratha reservation, stating that it has decided to provide Kunbi caste certificates to all Marathas from Marathwada.
The PIL sought that the state take appropriate steps to maintain the law and order situation in the State and also provide possible medical help wherever it is needed.
Advocate General Birendra Saraf submitted that the State Administration is "equally concerned with the situation" and that "various efforts" have been made by the authorities to prevent any untoward incidents and to maintain law and order throughout the State. He also said that the State is "equally keen" about the health and well-being of all.
However, Deshmukh submitted that the incidents that have been happening in the State for the last two weeks indicate that there is a lack of effort by the State authorities, as a result of which certain vehicles have been set on fire and ruckus is being created at various places, causing a large-scale disruption in public life.
Next hearing on Oct 11
The bench, in view of Saraf's statement, said: "We have no reason to believe that the State authorities shall not take appropriate action, which may be warranted under the law, not only to maintain peace, tranquility, and law and order but also to take care of the health and well-being of all."
"We also expect that the protesters and agitators shall not indulge in any kind of activities which may even remotely pose any threat to the peace and order in the society," it added.
The HC has scheduled the PIL for hearing on October 11.