New Delhi: The Delhi high court stuck down a Delhi police order refusing permission for a seminar on the theme “Understanding Fascism in Present India Context” on Saturday (March 11). Hearing a plea by the organisers that the police refused permission merely 36 hours before the scheduled event, Justice Tushar Rao Gadela cancelled the Delhi police order but urged both the organisers and the police to cooperate with each other to “ensure that the seminar is held in a peaceful atmosphere”.
The two-day national seminar organised by “Bharat Bachao”, a collective of scholars, social activists, advocates and politicians, will now be held in the Harkishan Singh Surjeet Bhawan on March 11 and 12.
The petitioners, Gade Inna Reddy and Dr Mondry Francis Gopinath, who represented the collective, had challenged the Delhi police’s March 9 order. In their plea, they argued that the details of the event were shared with the police more than a month ago, on January 24, but the police kept them hanging and finally denied permission only two days ago. They also said that similar seminars have been held at multiple locations, including one on February 5 in Rajasthan, and no untoward incident had happened as was feared by the Delhi police.
The petitioners said that the seminar will be attended by eminent speakers who will “voice their opinions about issues pertaining to the society at large”.
The Delhi police argued that the information provided in the petition was not available to them, and that prompted them to deny permission to the event in view of apprehension of some kind of “mishappening”. However, the organisers said that their application had been with the Delhi police for more than a month.
Dismissing the police’s plea, Justice Gadela said, “The petitioner assures and undertakes that there shall be no cause of any untoward incident so far as the Organising Committee and participants are concerned.”
However, he also asked the seminar’s organisers to furnish personal details of the 10 speakers and other invitees (addresses, identity cards etc.) to the Delhi police before the event is held. The Delhi police’s counsel had pleaded with the court that the anxiety of the police authorities would be satisfied if such information was provided to them. The petitioners’ counsel Colin Gonsalves agreed to the condition and said that a list of speakers and invitees will be given to the police before the event.
However, civil society activists took exception to the court order for putting such conditions on the organisers. Delhi University professor Apoorvanand asked whether it was no longer normal to hold seminars on important matters.
“How are the organisers supposed to know who would come? It is an open invitation. Or, now we wouldn’t have any open seminars in Delhi anymore? And why should I furnish all my details to the police before attending a seminar,” he asked on Twitter. He added that a recent planned event on the misuse of bulldozers by the governments to punish dissenters and suspected criminals was cancelled after the police denied permission.
Was the topic an issue? Or the organisers?When bulldozers started becoming the vehicle of justice, a seminar on bulldozer justice was planned at GPF. The police threatened to seal it if it went ahead with the event. The discussion was cancelled.+
— Apoorvanand अपूर्वानंद (@Apoorvanand__) March 11, 2023
“It is only right that in a country where open assemblies are permitted by the police calling for rape and murder of Muslims, a seminar on Understanding Fascism becomes a threat to public order. The topic should be ‘Experiencing Fascism in India’,” he said.