Supreme Court on Shaheen Bagh protest: Public spaces cannot be occupied 'indefinitely', says apex court
A three-judge bench observed that while dissent and democracy go hand in hand, protests must be carried out in the designated areas
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that occupying public places like Shaheen Bagh for protests is not acceptable and such a space cannot be occupied "indefinitely".
The apex court's verdict came on a plea against anti-CAA protests which had led to blocking of a road in Shaheen Bagh in the National Capital last December.
A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul, Krishna Murari, and Hrishikesh Roy held that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely like during the Shaheen Bagh protests.
As per LiveLaw, the Bench said: “Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated areas. Such kind of occupation of public place for protests is not acceptable.”
The court held that the Shaheen Bagh movement began as a protest but caused inconvenience to commuters. “Social media channels often fraught with danger lead to highly polarising environment and this is what was witnessed in Shaheen Bagh,” it said.
The Bench also said that Delhi Police ought to have taken action to clear the Shaheen Bagh area from the protesters.
The top court said that it adjudicates the legality of the action and added that the ruling was not meant to “give a shoulder” to the administration, reports LiveLaw. It is the “responsibility of the respondent parties to take suitable action but such actions should produce suitable results,” the three-judge Bench observed.
As per Scroll.in the apex court said it had referred to different protests across Delhi and taken into account various rulings by parties including regulations on demonstrations before arriving at the judgement. “Shaheen Bagh produced no solution,” it said.
The verdict came on a plea of lawyer Amit Sahni against the blockade of a road in Shaheen Bagh area by those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The bench had reserved its verdict at the last hearing on 21 September. "We have to balance the right to protest and blocking of roads.
In a parliamentary democracy, protests can happen in parliament and on roads. But on roads, it has to be peaceful," the bench had said at the time.
The apex court had said there cannot be a "universal policy" on the right to protest and possible curbs as the situation may vary from case to case.
In the previous hearing on 21 September, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre said suggested that the petitions may not survive in light of the developments in the case, however, none of the petitioners, barring one agreed to withdraw their pleas.
Petitioner Amit Sahni, said that these kinds of protests should not be allowed in the larger public interest. "This was allowed to continue for more than 100 days and people faced difficulty," he said.
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for an intervenor, said that there was a right to peaceful protest, and "some people from a political party went there and created riots".
"We have the right to protest. State machinery is not sacrosanct. Members of a political party went there with the police and created the situation," PTI quoted him as saying.
But Mehta disagreed, saying that the right to protest cannot be absolute, and cited some previous judgements that supported his claim. In response, the top court reserved its verdict and said that it had appointed "interlocutors" in the Shaheen Bagh case as an experiment and they had suggested some measures which can be looked into.
Shaheen Bagh became the epicentre of the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) as mostly women, some with young children, staged a sit-in protest there for over three months. The protest was called off in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
With inputs from PTI
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