Context: The Supreme Court has refused to reconsider its judgment that the Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship (Right to Protest Amendment) Act were inconvenient for commuters.
- The right to protest amendment cannot be any time and everywhere. There may be some spontaneous protests but in case of prolonged dissent or protest, there cannot be continued occupation of public place affecting the rights of others.
- On October 7, the court had concluded that protesters should express their dissent only in designated areas chosen by the administration.
- Though the judge had upheld the right to protest peacefully against a law, it unequivocally made it clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely. The right of the protester has to be balanced with the right of the commuter.
Freedom of Assembly [Article 19(ii)of Indian Constitution]
- Every citizen has the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
- It includes the right to hold public meetings, demonstrations and take out processions.
- This freedom can be exercised only on public land and the assembly must be peaceful and unarmed.
- This provision does not protect violent, disorderly, riotous assemblies, or one that causes breach of public peace or one that involves arms.
- This right does not include the right to strike.
- The State can impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of right of assembly on two grounds, namely, sovereignty and integrity of India and public order including the maintenance of traffic in the area concerned.
- Under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (1973), a magistrate can restrain an assembly, meeting or procession if there is a risk of obstruction, annoyance or danger to human life, health or safety or a disturbance of the public tranquillity or a riot or any affray.
- Under Section 141 of the Indian Penal Code, as an assembly of five or more persons becomes unlawful if the object is:
- (a) to resist the execution of any law or legal process;
- (b) to forcibly occupy the property of some person;
- (c) to commit any mischief or criminal trespass;
- (d) to force some person to do an illegal act; and
- (e) to threaten the government or its officials on exercising lawful powers.