Lower court order to remove India Out banner unlawful: HC

The High Court has ruled that the court order obtained by the police to remove an 'India Out' banner hung from former President and opposition leader Abdulla Yameen's private residence was unlawful.

The police, on 21 April, entered Yameen's home under a court order issued by the Criminal Court and removed the large banner. President Yameen's legal team appealed the matter at the High Court, challenging the validity of the Criminal Court order.

On Sunday, the High Court ruled that the offense mentioned in the lower court order is not prohibited by law.

The police sought a court order to remove the banner stating that Yameen's actions by hanging the banner were a disruption of the society's peace. Although a warrant to search Yameen's property was issued upon the police's request, the three-judge bench ruled that the order did not state a reasonable ground for issuing the search warrant. The ruling said that the offense mentioned in the order is an alleged offense against the public interest, but a private place is not a public place.

Police said they entered Yameen's private residence under a court order and removed the banner after Yameen was told verbally and in writing not to create writings with the India Out slogan or hang such posters. The police said he had failed to follow instructions and remove the banners.

The High Court said neither the prosecution nor the police could explain why it was an offense to hang the India Out banner and why the police ordered the banner to be removed. Judge Niyaz also noted that there was no reason to enter the house and remove the banner under a court order as it was attached to pipes in a frame fixed outside the building. The banner is outside the boundaries of the President's house, and the police can take it away without a court order, the court said.