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Water bill issue: AAP withdraws plea against Delhi Police’s refusal to allow 'peaceful' protest

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New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Friday withdrew its petition challenging Delhi Police's order refusing permission for holding a 'peaceful' protest at Jantar Mantar on February 25.

The party wanted to hold the protest against the alleged obstacles to the Delhi Jal Board's one-time settlement scheme for water bill arrears.

After Justice Subramonium Prasad of the Delhi High Court refused to grant any immediate relief, saying “there should be some fine for coming late”, the petitioner withdrew the plea.

At the outset, the judge scheduled the petition for hearing on February 26, but the counsel for AAP urged the court to direct Delhi Police’s counsel to take instructions immediately, i.e., within an hour.

The court then responded by saying that there should be some fine for coming late, and eventually the petition was withdrawn.

The AAP had argued in its petition that the denial of permission infringed upon its fundamental right to assemble peaceably and without arms, a right enshrined in Article 19(1)(b) of the Indian Constitution, especially in a democratic context where peaceful protests are a means to voice grievances and demand accountability from the authorities.

"The Respondent (Delhi Police) erroneously and arbitrarily declined the request of the petitioner to hold a peaceful protest on February 25 at the Jantar Mantar, which is in violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioner," the plea read.

The said protest by Delhi’s ruling party was slated to be attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, ministers of the Delhi government, MLAs of the AAP and around 800 party workers and members of the public.

The AAP had argued in its petition that the request was "erroneously and arbitrarily" declined and that the fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India forms an essential part of democracy and the same cannot be taken away summarily by a blanket and prohibitory order issued under Section 144 of the CrPC 1973.

"The order dated 11.02.2024 has been passed on the apprehension that the ‘farmer unions’ will march and try to enter the territory of Delhi and their entry has to be restricted. The entire state cannot be brought to a halt and on this ground, the petitioner cannot be denied the permission to hold the protest at Jantar Mantar," the petition read.

--IANS

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