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SC: public places cannot be occupied indefinitely

Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

SC: public places cannot be occupied indefinitely:

What was the case?

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.

  • Even the apex court had appointed interlocutors to hold talks with the protesters and report back on the ground situation.

What has the Supreme Court ruled now?

  1. The judgment upheld the right to peaceful protest against a law but made it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely.
  2. It is the duty of the administration to remove such road blockades.
  3. Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated area.

Restrictions on Fundamental Rights:

Fundamental rights do not live in isolation. These rights are subject to reasonable restrictions imposed in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and public order.


Right to Protest peacefully:

The right to protest peacefully is guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) give to all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression, and to assemble peaceably and without arms.

However, under Articles 19(2) and 19(3), the right to freedom of speech is subject to “reasonable restrictions”.

  • These include the sovereignty and 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.

Powers of state:

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, and The Police Act, 1861.


Prelims Link:

  1. Rights under Article 19.
  2. What are reasonable restrictions?
  3. Overview of Right to Protest peacefully.

Mains Link:

Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated area. Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.