Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Farmers have Right to Protest, but can’t block roads: SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 19

Mains level : Farmers protests and related issues

The Supreme Court has said farmers protesting at Delhi borders against the three farms laws have the right to agitate but they cannot block roads indefinitely.

For students with Sociology optional, can someone list the differences between- Dissent, Protest, Agitation and Movement?

What is Protest?

  • When a group, community, or even a person goes up to protest, it is usually to showcase their disapproval or demur against any action, policy, statement, etc of state or government or any organization.
  • Mostly the flow of protest is driven through political waves that also demonstrate the collective organization of people to make the government or state address their issues and take steps to overcome them.

Issues with ongoing protest in Delhi

  • The question as to the absolute nature of the right to protest is not even a question in the true sense here.
  • We have seen the vandalism protest at Red Fort last year.
  • Hence the rights mentioned above are subject to reasonable restrictions under 19 (2) and 19 (3) on grounds such as sovereignty and integrity of India, and public order.

Right to Protest in India

  • The right to protest is the manifestation of three FRs:
  1. Right to Freedom of Assembly
  2. Right to Freedom of Association and
  3. Right to Freedom of Speech
  • The Constitution of India provides the right of freedom, given in Article 19 with the view of guaranteeing individual rights that were considered vital by the framers of the constitution.
  • The Right to protest peacefully is enshrined in Article 19(1) (a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression; Article 19(1) (b) assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.

In detail: Article 19(1)

It states that All citizens shall have the right:

  • (a) to freedom of speech and expression;
  • (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
  • (c) to form associations or unions;
  • (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
  • (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
  • (f) omitted
  • (g) to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

Do you know?

Right to Internet is a fundamental right and is an essential part of freedom of speech and expression. One might get confused if it is an FR under Article 21.

Reasonable restrictions do exist in practice

  • Fundamental rights do not live in isolation. The right of the protester has to be balanced with the right of the commuter. They have to co-exist in mutual respect.
  • Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on this.
  • The court held it was entirely the responsibility of the administration to prevent encroachments in public spaces.

Conclusion

  • Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.
  • The present case was not even one of the protests taking place in an undesignated area but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters.

 

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