Public places cannot be occupied indefinitely: Supreme Court

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News: The Supreme Court has ruled that the indefinite “occupation” of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protestors was unacceptable.

Facts:

  • Background: The ruling came after a petition was filed in the SC highlighting problems caused by the protests which led to the roadblock and traffic problems.
  • What has the court ruled? 
    • The court upheld the right to peaceful protest against a law but made it clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied and that too indefinitely.
    • The right to protest in a public place should be balanced with the right of the general public to move freely without hindrance.
    • Fundamental rights do not live in isolation.The right of the protester has to be balanced with the right of the commuter and has to co-exist in mutual respect.
  • What does the Constitution say?
    • The Constitution guarantees the right to protest and express dissent, but with an obligation towards certain duties.
    • Article 19 confers upon citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and right to assemble peacefully without arms under Article 19(1)(b).
    • However, these rights are also subject to reasonable restrictions mentioned under Article 19(2), imposed in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and public order with the help of police regulations.