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  • The Hon’ble High Court (HC or Court) of Andhra Pradesh, while disposing a writ petition (Mandamus) in the case of K V Krishnaiah v State of Andhra Pradesh has observed that a petitioner’s right to protest shall not be lost on merely on the grounds that he has approached a constitutional Bench on the same subject matter.  
  • In the instant case, the Petitioner filed a writ in relation to grievance towards the pay scales and sought a declaration that the G.O.Ms. No.1 of Government of Andhra Pradesh be declared as illegal, arbitrary and against the principles of natural justice being contrary to the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Re-Organisation Act.  
  • The Learned Advocate General (AG) appearing on behalf of the Respondent submitted that when the Court has already been called upon by way a writ petition, albeit by a government employee in his individual capacity, it was not proper for the employees to proceed on strike, which could bring the State’s administrative machinery to a grinding halt.  He also submitted that the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is not absolute.  
  • In this regard, the AG placed reliance on the judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of T K Rangarajan v Government of Tamil Nadu where the Court held that government employees have no right to go on strike.  
  • However, the HC cited Supreme Court’s judgement in the case of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan v Union of India wherein the SC observed that holding peaceful demonstrations by the citizenry in order to air its grievances and to ensure that these grievances are heard in the relevant quarters, is its fundamental right and this right is specifically enshrined under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) of the Constitution.  
  • In the same case, the Court further observed that the rights enshrined in the aforementioned Articles was crucial since it strengthens representative democracy by enabling direct participation in public affairs where individuals and groups are able to express dissent and grievances, expose the flaws in governance and demand accountability from the State authorities as well as powerful entities.  
  • The Court also relied on the judgments in case of Amit Sahni v Commissioner of Police.  
  • Placing reliance on the aforementioned judgments, the HC Bench remarked that approaching a constitutional court for redressal of grievances ipso facto would not disentitle a citizen from protesting in relation to the same subject-matter.  
  • Explaining its view, the HC stated that when the Court would be looking at a dispute, it would examine the matter only from a legal lens, based upon settled parameters of adjudication; whereas, the purpose of protest is to draw attention of the government to an issue.  
  • The Court also made it clear that the above observations were made in the nature of obiter (incidental remark, not legally binding) as the matter was erroneously posted before the Bench.  
  • The HC directed the matter to be listed before the appropriate Bench after obtaining the permission of the Chief Justice.  
     
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