The Supreme Court today directed the State of Tamil Nadu to grant permission for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to conduct route marches either on the 19th or 26th of November. The Court also directed the State to communicate its decision by November 15.

The Court was considering two Special Leave Petitions challenging the Madras High Court's orders granting permission to the RSS to hold route marches in all the requested locations. The appeals were filed by the State of Tamil Nadu and the Director General of Police against the order granting permission issued by both the Principal Bench and the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

The Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Datta told the State to now grant permission on either of the two dates suggested by the RSS. The Court refused to give discretion to the State to decide whether one or two rallies should be permitted in each district.

At the outset, The AoR for the State submitted that as per the Rules of the High Court, the Writ Petitions were on the Criminal Side and that therefore intra-court appeals are not maintainable.

Justice Dipankar Datta then pointed out that the Writ Petitions were filed as WP(MD), MD for Madurai and not as a Writ Petition Criminal. If you see the case status of Mardas High Court, there is nothing called WP criminal, the Judge added.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Tamil Nadu submitted that letters patent provides that there is not appeal against a criminal matter. There is also no letters patent under Article 227, he submitted.

Justice Dipankar Datta then submitted that the single judge had jurisdiction to hear criminal matters. "They applied for permission to hold a rally, which provision of CrPC would that relate to", the Judge asked.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal also appearing for Tamil Nadu then pointed out the prayers of the Petitioners before the High Court and also the Respondents who are arrayed in the Writ Petitions, who are police officials.

"We are asking you, whether the permission is to be granted under any provision of the CrPC? Because that is the roster", Justice Datta asked.

Sibal replied in the affirmative.

Justice Datta then pointed out that the Writ Petitions were filed because the Police did not take any decision on their applications and that the order was passed refusing permission while the Writ Petition was pending. "You said the other day that the High Courts are now granting permissions for processions. In 2002 the High Court passed a similar order, the matter travelled up to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court upheld the order. Would not the principle of issue estoppel arise here?", Justice Datta asked.

Sibal pointed out a chart which mentions the proposed routes of the processions. "During the season we don't want them to do it. Hold it now. There are celebrations by the community and there are bound to be clashes. Any other date and we are willing to give them", Sibal submitted.

"Allow them one rally per district, let them give the dates and let them give the routes with permission to amend the routes", Rohatgi suggested.

"They are asking 18 districts, 3 rallies in each district. We have also rejected the request of our coalition partners during this period. We don't want clashes", Sibal submitted.

When the Court pointed out the undertakings given by the Petitioners, "They don't mean anything. We don't want clashes", Sibal replied.

"Your apprehension about the route has been taken care of by the High Court. As far as the dates are concerned, those dates have passed", the Court pointed out.

"That will be too much indulgence", the Court said when Rohatgi submitted that only one rally per District can be permitted.

Senior Advocate Madhvi Divan appearing for some of the Respondents, the Petitioners before the High Court, submitted that the issue has already been decided and that it cannot be reopened. She then asked for permission for route marches on the 19th or 26th of November.

Sibal submitted that the same will be considered by the State. He also agreed that they would communicate the permission one week in advance.

The Court directed that on or before 15th November, the state should take a decision. The Court also clarified that the State can only modify the route while keeping the starting and ending points the same as requested by the Respondents.

The Court clarified that the order passed today can be placed before the Single Bench of the High Court which is seized of a contempt of court proceedings against the State for non-compliance of its orders.

The Court had on the last date of the hearing refused to issue notice in the SLPs citing the availability of intra-court appeal. The Bench had remarked, "If the Single Judge has committed an error there is a forum available in the High Court itself. Can the Division Bench not correct the error of the Single Bench".

Justice Kant had also remarked that the Court would ask some uncomfortable questions on the merits of the matter to the Tamil Nadu Government if it is found that the Special Leave Petitions are maintainable.

Background: In the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the State of Tamil Nadu through Advocate-on-Record Sabarish Subramanian, it was submitted that the High Court erred in granting permission to the RSS to conduct route marches in various areas of Tamil Nadu without due consideration of the history of violent incidents, the purposes and objectives of such marches, and the prevailing intelligence reports concerning potential incidents that could impact the law and order situation.

Tamil Nadu further contended in the SLP that the High Court orders were issued in complete disregard for the concurrent religious congregations occurring during the ongoing Navratri festival and Thevar Jayanti celebrations across Tamil Nadu. "Route maps of said marches are passing through narrow roads and also passing through the areas where places of worship of Minority Communities are situated", reads the SLP.

Recently, the Madras High Court issued notice in a contempt petition filed against the State of Tamil Nadu for refusing to grant permission to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had moved the Madras High Court when the State did not grant permission, despite their application, to conduct route marches in different parts of the state on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami.

On October 16, 2023, the Principal Bench ordered the State to grant permission for the RSS route marches. In its judgment, the Court had found the reasons cited by the Advocate General on behalf of the state to refuse permission as "lame." The Court had stated that these lame reasons for denying permission exposed the inadequacy of the State machinery. On October 18, 2023, the Madurai Bench granted permission to RSS to conduct route marches in most Districts with condition.

Cause Title: The Director General Of Police v. K.Chandrasekar & Connected Matter [SLP(C) No. 24161-24176/2023 & SLP(C) No. 24234-24265/2023]