Restriction and Prohibition of freedom of speech are not inter-changeable, Tripura High Court

HRLN New Delhi: The Tripura High Court on 8 August observed that there is a distinction with regard to 'restriction' and 'prohibition' which expressions cannot be said to be inter-changeable. The high court's ruling came on a plea filed by the Tripura People's Front who were denied permission to assemble and celebrate “the International Day of World Indigenous People’s Day, 2019” by organizing a meeting at the Swami Vivekananda Stadium (maidan), in Agartala. "Wherever a `prohibition' is imposed, besides satisfying all the tests of a reasonable `restriction', it must also satisfy the requirement that any lesser alternative would be inadequate," Chief Justice Sanjay Karol said. The high court then quashed the Sub-Divisional Police Officer's rejection letter on the grounds that it did not meet the test of the conditions imposed under sub-Section (3) of Section 78 of the Tripura Police Act and asked the state to reconsider the issue afresh.

Right to free speech enshrined in Constitution

In its verdict, the division bench led by CJ Karol and Justice S Talapatra said: "The right, be it of freedom of speech and expression or peaceful assembly, can be abridged only in accordance with the procedure established by law. "The reasonability of the restriction in exercising such a right is a matter which squarely falls within the power of judicial review of this Court," the court added. The high court also suggested that "there is a direct and more implied responsibility upon the government to function openly and in public interest." "The right to information itself emerges from the right to freedom of speech and expression. Further, unlike an individual, State owns a multi-dimensional responsibility. It has to maintain and ensure security of the State, as well as social and public order. It has to give utmost regard to the right to freedom of speech and expression, which a citizen or a group of citizens may assert. So also, inter alia, right to assemble peacefully. The State also has a duty to provide security and protection to the persons who wish to exercise such right of assembly, peaceful in nature," the verdict read. Read the judgment Tripura HC - Tripura Peoples Front.