Bombay HC dismisses PIL against Anna fast

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today dismissed a PIL which sought to declare Anna Hazare`s ongoing fast as "illegal" and that he and his supporters be restrained from going ahead with "fill-the-jail" agitation. The PIL was dismissed by justices M L Tahaliyani and Girish Godbole after Central Government`s Counsel R V Desai argued that it was a "frivolous" petition and not in public interest.

The judges were even inclined to impose costs on the petitioner and asked his counsel Yusuf Iqbal why that should not be done, to which he replied it was in public interest and his client would not get any personal benefit out of it. The court decided against imposing any costs but dismissed the PIL filed by Mangleswar alias Munna Tripathi, president of NGO `Uttar Bhartiya Vikas Parishad`.

Hearing arguments on Tuesday, the bench had said agitation was the right of every citizen and people staging a protest were well aware of the consequences of breaking the law.
The Judges had questioned the delay in filing the PIL as the agitation was announced long back. "Why are you opposing it now when the fast has begun?" the bench had asked.

However, today, Tripathi`s lawyer argued that Hazare`s methods of observing fast and holding `Jail Bharo Aandolan` amounted to exerting pressure on the government. Iqbal said the anti-corruption crusader had asked his supporters to stage dharnas outside the houses of MPs and this was not legally and morally correct as Lok Sabha had passed the bill.

While the Centre took a stand that the PIL should not be entertained and that law and order problem was a state subject, the state government pleader submitted that they were totally prepared to tackle the situation as strong police bandobast had been maintained.

Counsel for the Union Government R V Desai argued that people must have respect for the Constitution and that Hazare should not oppose the bill in this manner of staging a fast, particularly when Parliament was seized of the matter.

He said the petition did not appear to hold any public interest and should not be entertained. However, law and order is a state subject and the state should declare its stand on this, Desai said.

State government pleader S S Saluja said the state was fully equipped to tackle the situation. Although every citizen had a right to resort to agitation, the protest should be peaceful. So far, he said, there was no law and order problem at the venue of the fast and policemen in large numbers were deployed there.

The petitioner had sought court`s direction to Hazare and his supporters to ensure that they do not break any law and to restrain them from turning the agitation into a political issue. The petition also sought that Hazare be restrained from making any statement against any political party.

"If such actions are allowed and encouraged then it would tear the democracy of our country and will lead to complete chaos and anarchy. It is highly wrong if a group of persons who have no electoral mandate are allowed to force the government and elected representatives to accept their version of a law," the petition said.