District magistrate cannot restrain retired high court judges PB Sawant and BG Kolse-Patil and social activist Vaishali Patil from entering Ratnagiri district to voice grievances against proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, the Bombay high court (HC) ruled on Monday.
The restraining orders against activists were issued in the wake of violent protests and a jail bharo agitation planned against the plant in the district in October 2010. Since then, the district collector has prevented the activists from entering the spot on three occasions. Prosecution proceedings too were initiated against Kolse-Patil for violation of orders. The activists approached the HC in December 2010.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Roshan Dalvi, however, asked the activists to take permission from the district collector for holding a public meeting in the vicinity of the proposed plant. The collector could issue fresh restraining orders, if the circumstances so warranted, the HC stated.
Sunip Sen, counsel for the activists, argued that they had a right to express their opinion. “They have a fundamental right to voice their grievance, and such a restriction violated their fundamental right to expression as also the right to travel anywhere across India, as granted under Article 19 of the Constitution of India,” Sen submitted.
Government pleader Sandeep Shinde argued that the petition had become infructuous considering that the orders were passed considering the situation then, and were only for six days each.
Sen pointed out that as per the Supreme Court verdicts, restraining orders cannot be issued repeatedly. Also, another bench of the HC had stayed the criminal proceeding against Kolse-Patil terming the allegations false.