Disposing a clutch of petitions in connection with the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely and protests must be allowed only in designated areas.
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, it said.
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.”
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. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that though Right to Protest is a fundemental right, it is subject to reasonable restrictions.
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.
In January, a 25-year-old man fired shots in the air 50 mt away from the stage but that too didn’t make the protesters leave. Petrol bombs were also hurled by unidentified persons at the protest site when the country was observing Janata curfew. No one was injured in the incident. The same month the apex court had appointed interlocutors to hold talks with the protesters and report back on the ground situation.
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