The Supreme Court on Friday directed district authorities to decide within three days on applications seeking permissions for public gatherings ahead of Lok Sabha or Assembly elections, reported Live Law.

The direction came on a public interest litigation filed by activists Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey.

Appearing for the petitioners, advocate Prashant Bhushan told a bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta that blanket prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been issued in the past six months for the whole duration of the Lok Sabha elections.

Bhushan told the court there has to be some “well-founded apprehension of breach of peace”.

When asked by the court to present any such orders by the district authorities, the advocate referred to one passed on March 16 by the district magistrate of Barmer.

“Lok Sabha elections have been announced by the Election Commission,” read the order. “As per the instructions of the Election Commission, the Lok Sabha elections should be conducted in a peaceful, free, fair, well-organised manner.”

It added: “No person will be able to organise a procession or public meeting without the prior written permission of the concerned returning officer but this restriction will not apply to marriage ceremonies and funeral processions.”

Bhushan said that the petitioners had asked for permission to conduct a “democracy yatra” to educate voters about exercising their democratic rights. “We asked for permission but nothing was given,” he was quoted as saying by India Today. “Within 48 hours, they should decide the application for permission.”

In an interim order that is applicable nationwide, the bench said: “We direct that if anyone submits an application to the competent authority, the same shall be decided within a period of three days from making of such application.”

The matter will be heard again in two weeks.