Can the Goa police charge protestors for unlawful assembly and for restraining the movement of traffic and pedestrians when the very road in question remained shut for vehicular traffic with orders from none other than the District Magistrate?
This question may be a subject of debate and come to haunt the men-in-uniform as the Maina-Curtorim police has dragged anti-coal protestors in the Court of law to face criminal charges in connection with the historic Chandor November 1-2 midnight agitation in 2020 to demand scrapping of the three linear projects.
With the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Margao taking cognizance of the chargesheet filed by the Maina Curtorim police by issuing summons to eight prominent faces of the anti-coal agitation, to answer to the charges of unlawful assembly and wrongful restraint, a glance at the order issued by then South Goa district Magistrate, Ajit Roy shows that the level crossing road at Chandor was closed for traffic for five hours, between 00.00 hours to 05.00 hours on November 2.
In fact, the District Magistrate Ajit Roy had issued a common order around October 26, 2020 for the temporary closure of the level crossing in the villages of Nessai, Chandor and Davorlim on three different dates for the cutting of the roads to lay the double track.
As far as the Chandor level crossing is concerned, the District Magistrate was categorical in saying the level crossing road at Chandor between Guirdolim junction to Chandor Church will be temporarily closed on November 2, 2020 for five hours form 00.00 hours to 05.00 hours. The District Magistrate had issued the order in response to an application filed by the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) seeking permission for the temporary closure of the level crossing roads in the three villages to facilitate cutting of the roads to lay the double tracks.
The order may throw up a simple question – can the people be charged for unlawful assembly and wrongfully restraining traffic when the very road in question was shut down for five hours on November 2?
A glance at the State complaint lodged by then Maina Curtorim Police sub-inspection Mahesh Velip had stated that the accused persons formed an unlawful assembly and thereafter wrongfully restrained the movement of vehicular transport and other pedestrians by standing on the middle of the road for protesting against the order issued by the district Collector, South for double tracking of the railway track, thereby causing obstructions to the vehicular movement and pedestrians.
An anti-coal activist pointed out that the chargesheet filed by the Maina Curtorim police is an attempt by the government to harass people who had descended at Chandor on the midnight of November 1-2 to demand scrapping of the three linear projects. “The district Magistrate’s order clearly says the level crossing road at Chandor, between Guirdolim junction to Chandor Church will be temporarily shut on November 2, beginning at midnight. How can the police book the protestors for restraining vehicular traffic and pedestrians when the road was shut for traffic on that day”, he said.
He added: “We will bring the district Magistrate’s order dated November 26, 2020 on record before the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Margao to prove that the case filed against the activists has no meaning when the road in question was shut for vehicular traffic”.