Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Right to Protest

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Right to Protest

Mains level : Right to Protest and restrictions over it

The Supreme Court has found the indefinite “occupation” of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protestors unacceptable.

Right to Protest

  • The right to protest is the manifestation of the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of association, and the 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.
  • Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.

What did the Court say?

  • The court said the protest, considered an iconic dissent mounted by mothers, children and senior citizens of Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, became inconvenient to commuters.
  • The judgment upheld the right to peaceful protest against the law but made it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely.
  • 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.

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.
  • The court held it was entirely the responsibility of the administration to prevent encroachments in public spaces.
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