A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra issued notice to the state, asking it to maintain law and order and ensure that protests over the death of the 17-year-old Dalit girl do not disrupt daily life.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Tamil Nadu government to prevent protests that could cause a law-and-order situation over the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) examination issue. Tamil Nadu over the last week has seen steadily intensifying protests after the suicide of a Dalit medical college aspirant.
The apex court also directed the government to prosecute under appropriate law anyone indulging in any activity that creates law and order problem in the state and stalls normal life.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also issued notice to the state seeking its response on a plea which has sought a direction to Tamil Nadu government to maintain law and order and ensure that protests over the death of 17-year-old S Anitha do not disrupt normal life.
“As an interim measure, it is directed that it shall be the obligation of the Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu to ensure that law and order is maintained throughout the State in the wake of the present situation in respect of the NEET examination,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
The Supreme Court also clearly stated that peaceful protests were allowed. “We may clearly state here that a peaceful protest or criticism or dissent is different than creation of a law and order situation. Every citizen of this country has a fundamental right to peacefully protest and demonstrate , but not to cause a situation that results in violence and paralyzes the law and order situation,” the bench said.
The bench also observed that National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) has already been upheld by the apex court.
Anitha, a 17-year-old Dalit girl committed suicide on September 1, a week after the top court ruled that medical college admissions in Tamil Nadu will be based on the national admission test.
The court directed that the copy of the petition be served to the standing counsel for Tamil Nadu and fixed the matter for further hearing on September 18.
During the hearing, advocate G S Mani, who is a petitioner in the case, told the bench that protests and agitations were being carried out by political parties and individuals over the NEET examination and the state should be asked to maintain law and order.
Agitation and protests
Referring to the apex court order, he said the court has already held that medical college admissions in Tamil Nadu would be based on NEET and the state was under the obligation to ensure that daily life was not disrupted due to these agitations and protests.
Mani said that due to the various agitations and roadblocks, the daily life of citizens has been jeopardised, leading to immense difficulty for the common man. He also claimed that political parties and individuals cannot be allowed to hold protests against the order passed by the apex court and break law on the streets.
The bench directed the chief secretary of the state to ensure that persons involved in any activities which created law and order problem should be booked under the law.
The suicide of the girl had led to widespread protests in Tamil Nadu with many protesters being detained. The petitioner has also sought a judicial inquiry into the suicide.
Note: This story, originally sourced from PTI, was edited at 11:32 PM on September 8, 2017 to make a number of corrections. The Supreme Court did not say that protests over NEET were not allowed; only that protests leading to a law-and-order situation should be prevented. The error is regretted.