Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Citizens need to fight for rights?

One thought that Fundamental Rights were guaranteed to all citizens of India, including Goa. They can be subject to ‘reasonable restrictions’, but this can only be done by due process as provided in law. Otherwise, Fundamental Rights are absolute. Or are they? Article 19 of the Constitution of India provides that: “All citizens shall have the right: (a) to freedom of speech and expression, (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms , (c) to form associations or unions But, it seems, the Goa Police and government are unaware of this. On Independence Day, one Anthony D’Silva, who describes himself as a ‘social activist’, was prevented from delivering a meaningful message about the plastic menace near the District Collectorate at Margao. D’Silva was peacefully sitting, all alone, near the Collectorate with placards bearing quaint rhyming messages in Konkani and English that he intended for Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and PWD Minister Churchill Alemao to read. He was not armed. Being only a single person, he wasn’t even creating an unlawful assembly. He wasn’t even protesting, even though he had the right to do that. He was not blocking traffic in any way and he certainly wasn’t creating any nuisance. Yet, police came and threatened to take action against him if he did not immediately move out from the spot. When he informed the Police that he was within his rights to do what he was doing, they picked him up and took him to the Police Station. There, he was detained till the entire flag hoisting function was over. Apart from the fact that the CM and the PWD Minister missed seeing D’Silva’s placards on the plastic menace, he also missed joining the Independence Day flag hoisting function. Were the placards in any way objectionable? Was his action in any way in violation of the law? Was there any reason for the police to detain D’Silva at the police station? What D’Silva is most cut up about is that by detaining him at the Police Station, the cops violated his right to participate in the unfurling of the National Flag at the Independence Day function. What use are Fundamental Rights if the Police do not respect them? Under no circumstances should the Police be allowed to ride roughshod like this. Are we living in a dictatorship?

Editorial in Herald, 18 August 2010, Panjim

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