The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to restrain Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange from entering Mumbai with his supporters but asked the Maharashtra government to ensure that the city roads are not choked.
A division bench of Justices A S Gadkari and Shyam Chandak said the government has the power to take necessary action to ensure there is no law and order situation and that the city roads are not blocked.
Jarange set out on a march to Mumbai from his village Antarwali Sarati in Jalna district on January 20 with thousands of supporters joining him en route to press their demand for reservation for the Maratha community in government jobs and education.
“The State will take all necessary measures to prevent blockage of public way which will cause inconvenience and will try to designate a public place, at appropriate place, before the agitators to assemble and have their peaceful agitation,” the court said.
The order was passed on a petition filed by Gunratan Sadavarte, who had in the past moved court against the Maharashtra government’s earlier decision on the Maratha quota, seeking HC to restrain Jarange’s entry to the city saying it might cause law and order problems.
The bench issued notice to Jarange and posted the matter for hearing on February 14.
Advocate General Birendra Saraf and public prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar, appearing for the government, said if the court deems fit it could stop the activist’s march.
Saraf said the state cannot stop people from protesting but it should not be done in a manner in which Jarange has suggested, to bring lakhs of people to the heart of Mumbai in bullock carts and tractors.
The bench then referred to an order of the Supreme Court in a matter related to protests at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi which said “such kind of occupation of public ways is not acceptable” and “administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstructions”.
“State can take appropriate measures to ensure roads are not blocked. Respondent 9 (Jarange) is not before us so we cannot pass an order against him,” Justice Gadkari said.
Saraf then assured the court that the government would take all steps in accordance with the law.
Jarange has announced that the protesters will be sitting at the Azad Maidan in south Mumbai till their demand is fulfilled by the government.
Saraf submitted to the court that they are taking necessary steps to prevent a law and order situation. He expressed that the state was equally concerned considering that a large number of people were marching to Mumbai.
He added that the government has not received any formal application from the protesters to sit at Azad Maidan and hence the government has not granted or rejected permission.
Saraf suggested that the agitators be provided a place outside Mumbai to hold their protest. He said that with such a large number of people gathered, the situation could go out of hand.