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Chennai water crisis: Madras HC tells govt not to prevent protests

Chennai water crisis: Madras HC tells govt not to prevent protests
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AN NGO has called for a protest over the water crisis in Chennai on June 30

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The Madras High Court has said that the Tamil Nadu government should work with organisations interested in conservation of water bodies, in the wake of the severe water crisis faced in several parts of the state. It also asked the state government not to prevent protests highlighting the water woes in the state.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh made the observation on Friday while directing the Chennai Commissioner of Police to permit Arappor Iyakkam, an NGO, to hold a demonstration highlighting the present water crisis in the city and the causes for it on June 30 near Valluvarkottam in Chennai.

"The issue that is sought to be projected during protest is a burning issue about which the people must be made aware. The government is taking all its efforts to ensure that water is supplied to the nook and corner of the city. However, it is important to realise as to why we have reached the present state of affairs as a result of various water bodies that were allowed to be encroached in the past and virtually destroying the ecosystem," the judge said.

Noting that the issue requires serious consideration, he said awareness must be spread all over the state and that the NGO was one of the pioneers in it.

The Madras High Court also said these were issues that any government in power should never take as an affront and must make efforts to improve the situation and work along with associations that are interested in the conservation of water bodies. Awareness is the only way through which the situation can be brought under control and, therefore, protests of this nature should never be stopped, it observed.

On June 20, the commissioner of police had rejected the NGO's application seeking permission for the protest on the grounds that another organisation had sought permission on the very same day and that it would unnecessarily cause a law and order problem. Aggrieved, the petitioner approached the Madras High Court.

Challenging the denial order, the NGO submitted that none of these reasons would stand the test of the law and by virtue of denial to conduct the hunger strike, the fundamental right of the petitioner for speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution was being denied.

Several parts of Tamil Nadu, especially the state capital, have been reeling under severe water shortage since last month owing to poor storage in various reservoirs following deficit rainfall.

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