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.