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Roads can't be blocked indefinitely for protest: SC

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  • Categories
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    23rd Oct, 2021


The Supreme Court said farmers had the right to protest, but roads cannot be blocked indefinitely (impeding the right of citizens to commute without hindrance).

Right to Protest

  • Although the Right to Protest is not a fundamental right under Fundamental Rights, it can be derived from Article 19 of the Freedom of Speech and Speech.
    • Article 19 (1) (a): The right to freedom of expression and expression is transformed into the right to freedom of expression.
    • Article 19 (1) (b): The right to assemble is necessary for the formation of organizations for political purposes.
      • These can be formed to collectively challenge government decisions.
    • Article 19 (1) (c): The right to peaceful assembly allows people to question and oppose government actions by demonstrating, exploiting and public meetings, initiating ongoing protests.
    • These rights, collectively, enable all citizens to assemble peacefully and to protest against an act or omission of the State.
  • Right to Protest ensures that people can act as watchdogs and constantly monitor governments' acts.
    • It provides feedback to the governments about their policies and actions after which the concerned government, through consultation, meetings and discussion, recognizes and rectifies its mistakes.

Restrictions on Right to Protest

  • Section 19 (2) sets out appropriate restrictions on free speech and expression. These reasonable limits are set for the interests of the following:
    • Sovereignty and integrity of India
    • Security of the State
    • Friendly relations with foreign States
    • Public order
    • Decency or morality
    • Contempt of court
    • Defamation
    • Incitement to an offence
  • Further, resorting to violence during the protest is a violation of a key fundamental duty of citizens. 
  • Enumerated in Article 51A, the Constitution makes it a fundamental duty of every citizen “to safeguard public property and to abjure violence”.

Related Supreme Court’s Judgment

  • The Supreme Court hearing the plea regarding Shaheen Bagh Protests in 2019, upheld the right to peaceful protest against the law but also cleared that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied and that too indefinitely.
  • SC has spoken out about its 2018 decision in the case of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan vs Union of India and another, which dealt with protests at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.
  • The decision sought to balance the interests of local residents and protesters with protests and instructed the police to establish a fair use of the area for peaceful protests and protests and to set targets for this.

In Ramlila Maidan Event v. Secretary of Home Affairs, Union Of India & Ors. Case (2012), the Supreme Court had stated, "Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest which cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action”.