Highway project: Madras HC directs police to refrain from indiscriminate arrest of protesters

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The Madras High Court said police should refrain from indiscriminate arrest and detention of people participating in peaceful protests against the Chenna-Salem greenfield highway project. A bench, comprising Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice Bhavani Subbaroyan, made the observation during the hearing of batch of petitions challenging land acquisition for the Rs 10,000 crore project. Earlier, counsel for some of the petitioners submitted that they were taken into custody for staging protests and released later. In our considered view, if there is a peaceful protest the state police should refrain from taking extreme step of arrest and detention of the persons some of whom would be the land looser, if the project is implemented, the bench said in an interim order. There might be cases where under the guise of protest a busybody may intervene to cause certain other disturbances, but police were expected to know the difference between a genuine protester and a trouble maker, it said. .indiscriminate arrest and detention of people for expressing their democratic views should be avoided, it added. The bench reminded about its earlier interim orders of September 14 and 20 in which it had observed that the state government or its machinery should not take any precipitative action. No form of precipitative action should be initiated against persons who want to express their views in peaceful and democratic manner, more particularly the land owners who are entitled to express their views against the acquisition proceedings, it said. The court had on August 21 restrained the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government from dispossessing people of their lands to be acquired for the project, which has run into opposition from some quarters, including a section of farmers, till further orders.