1. The petitioners, the President and members of Congress Committee, have filed these petitions to revise the order of the Subdivisional Magistrate of Gobichettipalayam refusing to interfere with the order passed by the Sub-Magistrate of Gobichettipalayam forbidding the holding of Congress meetings within a furlong of Easwarankoil in the Brahmin Agraharam of Gobichettipalayam town. It is conceded by the learned Public Prosecutor that the Subdivisional Magistrate was wrong in holding that he had no jurisdiction to interfere with the order passed by the Sub-Magistrate because the petitioners had approached the Sub-Magistrate and asked him to rescind his ex parte order. Section 144 contains no provision which suggests that a superior Magistrate is prohibited from rescinding or altering an order merely because a Subordinate Magistrate has done so or refused to do so. It has already been held by Pandrang Row, J. in Mooka Pandaram v. Sinnu Muthirian AIR 1937 Mad 167 that it is open to a superior Magistrate to rescind or alter an order passed by a Subordinate Magistrate even though the Subordinate Magistrate has himself passed an order on a petition to rescind or alter the order.
2. As two months have already elapsed since the date of the passing of the order, the question whether the order of the Sub-Magistrate was a proper one is an academic one; but in view of the fact that by the time most petitions are ready to be argued in this Court, the periods for which orders Under Section 144 are made have usually passed, it would not be satisfactory if this Court always refused to express its opinion on the merits of an order. I agree with Mr. Bhashyam Iyengar for the petitioners that every man has a right to express his opinion in public and in general he should be entitled to support of the police and Magistracy in the expression of those opinions. Provided that these opinions are made with a genuine desire to convince people and not to irritate them, he ought not to be muzzled merely because those who dislike these opinions threaten opposition. Where interference with the right to speak is expected the opponents should ordinarily be prohibited from interfering and not the reformers from speaking. Occasions do however arise when in the interests of peace private rights have to be encroached upon by those responsible for public order. The police cannot always have a number of men posted wherever persons are expressing opinions which may call upon them the wrath of the people among whom they are speaking. This is particularly the case during elections when public meetings are many and when feelings run high. The petitioners were not prohibited from expressing their opinions altogether; but were told only that they should not do so within a furlong of the Eswaran temple, near which a number of orthodox brahmins live. It appears that in spite of the fact that a meeting was held no breach of the peace occurred; but that in itself is not a sufficient guarantee that no breach of the peace will occur at any other time.
3. It is impossible for me to say under the circumstances that there was no justification at all for the Sub-Magistrate's order. He is in the best position to know how far it is necessary to interfere with the lawful rights of a person or body of persons to express their opinions. As long as a Magistrate bears in mind the fact that normally the police should protect persons who are exercising their rights, even though the exercise of those rights might be objected to by others, this Court will not be ready to interfere in revision. Under the circumstances, the petitions are dismissed.