Goa: Govt opposes discharge applications of anti-coal activists at Chandor protest

The Goa government on Wednesday once again vehemently opposed the discharge applications moved by the 10 anti-coal activists in the historic Chandor protest case.

The activists, however, made a strong case for their discharge on the plea that the road which was alleged to have been blocked by the protestors was already closed by the South Goa district magistrate for traffic on the intervening night of November 1-2, 2020.

The 10 activists further insisted there’s no merit in the charges levelled by the government since the police has not cited a single person or pedestrian aggrieved over the alleged action of restraint resorted to by the protestors at the Chandor railway crossing during the protest.

The Assistant Public Prosecutor, appearing for the government, prayed before the court for the dismissal of the applications filed by the anti-coal activists.

During arguments, the prosecution contended that the grounds raised by the accused persons are devoid of merit and unfound.

The prosecution further contended that the court is required to see at the time of framing charges whether there’s any prima face against the accused or not, adding that meticulous consideration of the evidence is not warranted at this state.

The prosecution further contended that the court could at the most look into whether a prima facie case is made out against the accused since a charge sheet has been filed against the accused under sections 143, 145, 341 r/w 149 of IPC.

The prosecution asserted that the statements of the witnesses recorded under section 161 of Cr P C are sufficient to show a prima facie case against the accused persons, adding that the statements of witnesses 4,5,6,7,8 shows the names and the roles played by the accused in the case.

The anti-coal activists, however, pointed out that no case is made out by the Prosecution since the District Magistrate had ordered the closure of the road at the Chandor railway crossing on the intervening night of November 1-2, 2020 to lay the double track.

“When the road in question was already closed for traffic during the intervening night, where’s the question of the protestors stopping anyone from proceeding on the road,” Adv Anacleto Viegas stated.

Saying that lodging a protest is a fundamental right of a citizen guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, Adv Viegas pointed out that the police has not recorded the statement of any person aggrieved by the action of the protestors, except the police deployed for bandobast. Further contending that there was no order issued by any officer declaring the assembly of the protestors as unlawful, Adv Viegas said the question of unlawful assembly does not arise.

After coming out of the court, Viriato Fernandes said the lawyers representing the 10 activists have exposed the chinks in the arguments advanced by the government.

The court will pronounce its order on the discharge applications on June 7.

The 10 anti-coal activists named as accused in the historic Chandor midnight agitation includes

Abhijit Prabhudesai, Freddy Travasso, Sandesh Talekar, Vikas Bhagat, John Coutinho, Diana Tavares, Creson Antao, Viriato Fernandes, Royla Fernandes and Sabita Mascarenhas.

In the complaint, the Maina Curtorim police had alleged that the accused formed an unlawful assembly and wrongfully restrained the movement of vehicles and pedestrians by standing in the middle of the road protesting against the order issued by the District Collector for double tracking of the railway track, thereby causing obstructions.

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