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‘Shaheen Bagh case: Public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely, says SC’

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    13th Oct, 2020

Disposing a clutch of petitions in connection with the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest, the Supreme Court said that public places cannot be occupied ‘indefinitely’ 

Context

Disposing a clutch of petitions in connection with the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest, the Supreme Court said that public places cannot be occupied ‘indefinitely’ and protests must be allowed only in designated areas.

About

Right to Protest in India

  • The right to protest, to publicly question and force the government to answer, is a fundamental political right of the people that flows directly from a democratic reading of Article 19.
  • The right to peaceful protest is bestowed to Indian citizens by our Constitution.
  • It is part of the freedom of speech and expression, which is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a).
    • Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression.
    • Article 19(1)(b) states about the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
    • Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the right to assemble peaceably and without arms and to freedom of speech and expression and none of these rights are absolute in nature.
      • These reasonable restrictions are imposed in the interests of the sovereignty & integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
    • On September 21, the bench reserved its verdict after observing that the right to protest has to be balanced with the right of the people to use a public road.

Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest

  • On March 23, the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest against the citizenship law was cleared by Delhi police after curbs were imposed on assembly and movement of people in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The protest had been on for more than 100 days. It began on December 15 in Southeast Delhi, with at least 300 women at the forefront of it.
  • It sparked many similar demonstrations across the country.
  • The protest saw several elderly women, some in their 80s, participate daily.

Legal Provisions

  • The legal provisions and avenue available to police for handling agitations, protests, and unlawful assemblies are covered by-
  • the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973
  • the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860
  • the Police Act, 1861

What has the apex court observed?

  • The apex court observed it is the duty of the administration to remove such road blockades. Unfortunately no action by administration and hence court’s intervention in the matter.
  • A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul, Krishna Murari and Hrishikesh Roy said:

“Public places cannot be occupied indefinitely. Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated area… Such kind of occupation of public place for protests is not acceptable.”

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