“No violence:” Madras High Court quashes case against those who protested after IIT student suicide

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The Madras High Court has quashed criminal proceedings against persons who had taken part in a protest seeking justice for a first-year student at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras who had died by suicide [Ashraf v State].

Justice AD Jagadish Chandira found that the proceedings for offences of unlawful assembly and wrongful restraint against the petitioners, were liable to quashed since the protests had not lead to any violence.

“As stated above, admittedly, no violation is reported in this case and the protest has also not ended in any violence. Therefore further proceedings against the petitioners liable to be quashed,” the Court said.

Suo motu proceedings had been initiated against the petitioners when the police advised them to disperse during a protest on campus, but they continued the same by raising slogans against the management of the IIT and allegedly, prevented free movement.

A first information report (FIR) was lodged and a chargesheet was filed before a metropolitan court in the city.

The petitioners moved the High Court claiming that they had been implicated falsely as there was no material to show that they restrained anybody.

They argued that the FIR was not only illegal, but against their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19, 20 (1) and 21 of the Constitution.

“The case filed against the petitioners is with an intention to prohibit the fundamental right of freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms,” the petitioners submitted.

The High Court, on hearing the petitioners, took note of the fact that despite the claim of disrupting free flow of movement, no one from the general public had made a complaint, and that the protest and demonstration was made only in respect of the suspicious death of a girl in the hostel room.

To decide the dispute, the single-judge relied on a judgment of the Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench in Ananthasamy @ Anandasamy, Sneka @ Snega v The State which related to protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). In that judgment, it was held as follows:

“It is a common knowledge that against the Amendment of CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), several protests, demonstrations and agitations took throughout of India and in abroad also. So, right to protest is well recognised. So, the only qualification is that it should not end in any violation.” (emphasis added)

Thus, the proceedings were quashed.

Advocate I Abdul Basith appeared for the petitioners, while the respondent was represented by Additional Public Prosecutor A Gokulakrishnan.

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