RSS rally: HC sets aside police condition on dress code

Chennai: The Madras High Court today set aside conditions imposed by police preventing RSS from using its traditional uniform of khaki trouser and white shirt while granting it permission to take out a rally on January 9 in parts of the state on the ground it will lead to disturbance of public peace.

Justice MM Sundresh made it clear that there is no prohibition for using the dress used by RSS on the ground that is being used by junior officers of the police force during drills and training and also being used by Fire Service personnel.

Allowing the petitions filed by members of RSS, Justice Sundresh said the two conditions that were imposed by the police “preventing the usage of dress code and using sticks for musical instruments are hereby set-aside.”

Erode and Kanayakumari District Police Authorities had imposed the conditions while granting permission to RSS to take out a rally to celebrate Makarasankaranthi at Kaniyakumari onJanuary 9and annual day celebrations of Ramanujar, Vivekananda and Dr Ambedkar at Erode onJanuary 10.

Police had allowed the processions on the condition that RSS shall not use their traditional uniform and not carry sticks besides taking musical instruments “as it would lead disturbance to public peace.”

Counsel for RSS B Rabu Manohar contended that by no stretch of imagination could it be said that the uniform of RSS resembled that of police or any other uniformed service personnel. The sticks are carried only by the musicians leading the processions for musical purposes only.

Chennai City Police Act was only regulatory and not mandatory. The uniforms were designed way back in 1920s, Manohar argued and cited the 2014 High Court judgment on the same issue in support of his contentions.

Justice Sundresh, while concurring with the submissions in his order, said “the similarity of the uniform sought to be projected by the police is not with reference to the uniform as that of the police force.It is a dress that is being used by the junior officers during drills and training. There is no prohibition for using the said dress which is used similarly by the Fire Service personnel.
“The object and rationale behind the Section 41-A of

Chennai City Police Act 1888 will have to be read with uniform resembling as that of armed forces of Union or Police. Therefore, it cannot be said that a dress code meant to be used during drills and parade by the Junior officers could be read into said provision,” the judge said.

“So, for exercising section 41-A of Chennai City Police Act 1888, there has to be application of mind on the part of police concerned.”

“Therefore, such an exercise is not automatic but the authority concerned will have to see as to whether there is any likelihood of disturbance to public peace or public safety or disturbance of public order as the case may be.”

On other issues pertaining to the usage of sticks and clubs and musical instruments, the judge said the “said condition also cannot be sustained.”

“There is absolutely no material to hold that mere usage of musical instruments would cause law and order situation affecting public peace,” the judge said.

While making it clear that RSS have to strictly follow all other conditions imposed by police, the judge set aside the conditions with regard to dress and sticks used for musical instruments.