The Supreme Court today said it needs to take a holistic view of protecting the fundamental rights of citizens to protest, as well as protection of environment and rights of commuters, while earmarking the space for agitations in Delhi.
The Centre today sought time from the apex court saying deliberations are on to earmark a particular place in Delhi, where the citizens can exercise their right to protest.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan granted two weeks time to the Centre to file a comprehensive reply after taking a holistic view of the situation and posted the matter for further hearing on March 5.
The counsel appearing for the Centre said that deliberations are being held at the ministry level for arriving at a solution after taking a holistic view and earmark a space in Delhi, where citizens can stage their protest.
On December 4 last year, the apex court had said that proper guidelines should be framed on the issue of right to protest so as to ensure a balance between the fundamental right of the citizens to protest and the maintenance of law and order.
The apex court’s observation had come as it issued notice to the Centre and the Delhi Police on a plea seeking to declare as illegal the banning of all assemblies and protests in central Delhi and the New Delhi area.
The plea had said that continuous imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was an “arbitrary and unreasonable restriction” on the fundamental rights of citizens to hold peaceful protest.
The plea, filed by NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan, had challenged the “repeated imposition” of orders by Delhi Police under section 144 of the CrPC, saying it virtually declared the entire central Delhi as a prohibited area for holding any public meeting, dharna or peaceful protest.
The petition, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has sought directions to formulate guidelines for holding public meetings, dharnas, peaceful demonstrations in parts of New Delhi.
“As per sub-section 4 of Section 144 CrPC, an order can be issued for a maximum period of two months. Therefore, the Delhi Police has adopted the tactic of issuing the same order repeatedly,” the plea said.
It also sought to quash several orders passed by police from January to October last year by which the entire Central or New Delhi areas were declared prohibited areas.
The National Green Tribunal had on October 5 entirely banned protests at Jantar Mantar near Connaught Place on the ground that it created nuisance for the local residents and violated environment protection statutes.
The plea before the apex court has claimed that, “With the NGT order banning protests at Jantar Mantar, it is evident that distancing a protest site from where it is most visible to the government and concerned authorities, will have the effect of diluting the impact that the protest seeks to gain.
“Besides the cost of using Ramlila Maidan for protests is Rs 50,000 per day which would make protests at the site practically impossible for the common citizens,” it said.