Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, Political Expression
Microtech Contracting Corp. v. Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York
Closed Expands Expression
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The Madras High Court ruled that the petitioner could hold a public meeting to discuss a militant group. The petitioner sought a permit to hold a public meeting to discuss the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), which was considered a militant group. . The court reasoned that “permission to stage a demonstration could not be rejected just on the presumption that a person was bound to violate the law.”
This case must be understood in a broader geopolitical context. The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) is a militant group in Sri Lanka that demands secession of territories where the minority Tamil-speaking population is concentrated. It is formally recognized as a terrorist group in many countries, including India. The group was created in the context of allegedly discriminatory policies of the Sri Lankan government against the Tamils. Tamil Nadu is India’s southern most State, which is believed to be the place of origin of both the Tamil language and the Tamil-speaking migrants in Sri Lanka. This linguistic and cultural tie between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu often creates sympathies for the cause of the LTTE in the latter.
The Honourable Mr. Justice V. Ramasubramanian, in the High Court of Judicature at Madras, wrote the opinion of the court. The first issue that the court discussed was whether granting permission to the petitioner to hold a public meeting would violate Law and Order. However, the court did not analyze this issue further and instead affirmed the judgment held in S. Sivabalan v. Deputy Superintendent of Police, which ultimately permitted the holding of a public meeting.
The second issue that the court discussed was whether the motive to hold a public conference was to commemorate Arignar Anna’s Birthday, or rather to create a venue in which the petitioner and his supporters could speak openly about the LTTE. The respondent denied permission to the petitioner to hold such a conference because the LTTE is a banned organization, and the respondent assumed that such a conference would be held to discuss the LTTE in favorably and against public order. However, the court held that “permission to stage a demonstration could not be rejected just on the presumption that a person was bound to violate the law.”  Thus, the court ordered that the petitioner be allowed to hold the meeting.
 Allow MDMK meeting HC tells police, Nov. 27, 2014, The Hindu, available at http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/allow-mdmk-meeting-hc-tells-police/article6637871.ece.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The Court recognized the high threshold that must be met to justify restrictions on freedom of expression. In this regard, mere apprehension that the law will be broken would not justify the restrictions imposed by the State.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The judgement of the High Court has a binding effect on future decisions of the same High Court. Its value with respect to other High Court and the Supreme Court is persuasive.
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