CE, 19 mai 1933, p. 541 Case Mr. Benjamin [René] and Nevers Tourist Office
19 May 1933
Translated by:
Professor Bernard Rudden
Professor B. S. Markesinis

19 May 1933

Conseil d’Etat

Having seen the applications filed on behalf of Mr. Benjamin (René), man of letters, domiciled in Paris, 111 Boulevard Saint- Michel, and on behalf of the Tourist Office at Nevers (Nièvre) represented by its current president . . . asking that it please the Council to annul two orders of the mayor of Nevers dated 24 February and 11 March 1930 forbidding a literary conference;

And to do so since Mr. Benjamin’s conference, organized by the Nevers Tourist Office, was of an exclusively literary character; that no provocation, no demonstration, whether by posters or by newspaper articles had come from the organizers of the conference; that the mere threat of a demonstration put to the Mayor by the Teachers’ Union of la Nièvre could not justify a ban on the conference; that that measure was taken in breach of the Acts of 30 June 1881 and 28 March 1907 which organize the freedom of assembly, and of article 97 of the Act of 5 April 1884; that, in addition, the said measure amounts to a misuse of power; that in fact the Mayor, far from banning the demonstration planned by the teachers’ union, took his place at the head of the demonstrators on 11 March 1930 and organized a public meeting in a public market; that the mayor thus made use of his police power to avenge the grudges which his political friends held against the conference speaker; that in any case he could not ban the private conference of 11 March 1930 entry to which was reserved to the holders of named cards;

Having seen the intervention particulars put forward by the Writers’ Society represented by its general delegate acting in the name of the current committee and directed to the same ends and on the same grounds as the application;

Having seen the Acts of 30 June 1881, 28 March 1907, 5 April 1884, 7-14 October 1790 and 24 May 1872;

Considering that the applications recited above, directed against two orders of the Mayor of Nevers banning two conferences, raise the same issues to be adjudged; that it is appropriate to join them to dispose of them by a single decision;

As regards the intervention of the Writers’ Society: Considering that the Writers’ Society has an interest in the annulment of the challenged orders; that hence its intervention is admissible;

On the legality of the challenged decisions: Considering that, although it falls to the mayor under article 97 of the Act of 5 April 1884 to adopt measures necessary to maintain order, the exercise of such powers must be reconciled with respect for the freedom of assembly guaranteed by the Acts of 30 June 1881 and 28 March 1907;

Considering that, to ban the literary conferences of Mr. René Benjamin, featured on the the programme of literary galas organized by the Nevers Tourist Office, both being of the nature of public meetings, the Mayor justified his action on the ground that the arrival of Mr. René Benjamin in Nevers would create a public disturbance;

Considering that it emerges from the evidence that the likelihood of disturbance alleged by the Mayor of Nevers was not so grave as to preclude his maintaining public order without banning the conference, by taking such policing measures as were within his powers;

that hence, without needing to rule on the ground based on misuse of power, the applicants are justified in maintaining that the challenged orders are ultra vires . . .

(Intervention of the Nevers Writers’ Society admitted; orders of the Mayor of Nevers annulled.)

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