Soon, a corner of Azad Maidan could be set aside as a space for public speaking and protests, on the lines of the historic Speaker’s Corner at London’s Hyde Park.
The Mumbai police is considering the idea in a bid to ensure public and political rallies in south Mumbai do not spill over on to arterial roads leading up to the venue, and causing traffic snarls.
Last week, the Bombay high court heard a public interest litigation filed by the Nariman Point-Churchgate Citizen’s Association and others, asking for the state to be directed to regulate morchas, or protests, organised by political parties and citizens’ groups. The court directed the state to come up with a “comprehensive policy” within four weeks to regulate them.
Top sources in the Mumbai police told HT a 10,000sqm area on the west flank of Azad Maidan — around 100 metres from the spot currently earmarked for public protests — is being considered to create facilities similar to the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. “Firstly, the place is bigger than the current venue. Provisions like a stage with a public address system, drinking water and toilets can be made for people participating in the rally,” a source said.
And, if the protestors want to meet authorities, the police could facilitate meetings in an organised manner, sources said.
Free parking space near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus’ platform 18 has also been proposed.
During the hearing, a high court division bench comprising justice VM Kanade and justice PR Vora observed that while public rallies and protest marches were an “inherent part of a democracy,” they “should not cause inconvenience to citizens”.
The petitioners submitted that while a previous high court order mandated such morchas should not be organised along arterial roads and that they should culminate at Azad Maidan, opposite CST, “many protests, while they culminate at Azad Maidan, begin from the suburbs and end up blocking traffic on main roads”.
The state told the court it had held a meeting with a court-appointed committee comprising Additional Chief Secretary (Home), the police commissioner, and the BMC commissioner, to look into traffic woes in the Churchgate and CST area.
Meanwhile, sources said the police’s suggestions, prepared after taking into account ideas and objections from the public and experts, would be given to the committee for consideration.
ABOUT LONDON’S SPEAKER’S CORNER
At the Speaker’s Corner in the northeast corner of Hyde Park in London, speakers may talk lawfully on any subject. The police intervene only when they receive a complaint about the speech