In a hugely influential verdict on protest like the famous more than three-month long Shaheen Bagh anti-Citizenship Amendment Act sit-in by women in Delhi, the Supreme Court ruled that even though a peaceful protest is a part of the democratic process, public places cannot be occupied indefinitely anywhere in India. The verdict came after consignment of petition against the Shaheen Bagh protest cited inconvenience for the general public.
Democracy and dissent go hand in hand and occupying public places for indefinite period of time is not acceptable. As a democratic nation, we should appreciate our right to peaceful protest at a designated place which does not provide blockage to any general public.
Experts note that Indian Democracy is best served when citizens freely express their views, mobilize and protest, but without disrespecting the right of fellow-citizens. It is necessary to balance out the right between the protester and the commuters. The only way to show dissent in a Democracy is through protest by citizens which should not cause nuisance.
Delhi Shaheen Bagh had emerged as the epicenter of anti-CAA protest 2019 where the protestor, mostly women and children, sat for more than three months. Shaheen Bagh Protest had received worldwide attention.
CONSEQUENCES OF PROTEST
The protest not only created a blockade but also caused difficulty for the commuters, mental harassment to public, unnecessary stoppage making it difficult to reach at the desired location on time, etc. This case was not just a protest taking place, but was a protest at an undesignated area with indeterminable number of people gathered for an indefinite period of time creating a grave blockage to the commuters.
Observers also points out that the attempt to replicate Shaheen Bagh, became immediate trigger for Delhi riot. Delhi riots were a horrific incident of violence, clash & arson. The deep root of violence is civil unrest which is caused by several factors. It is caused by a consequence of being unheard, frustrated and oppressed citizens who are ignored after several attempts.
PERFORMANCE OF DUTY
Protest played an important role while providing dissent, objection or disapproval over an idea or action. “Dissent & Democracy go hand in hand” has been correctly stated with regards to protest in India. As it is said our constitution comes with right to express dissent but along with which certain duties which are to be performed. Article 19 of the Act has laid down the protocols, the manner in which the protest is to be carried out, without creating public nuisance.
The mere fact that the issue has come up to the court highlights the political and management failure of the administration and the police. Through various past cases, the SC had made it very clear that the public spaces cannot be used for protests, indefinitely and it was the responsibility of the lawmakers to designate a place for protest failing which public spaces were utilized for attracting the serious attention of the government in the absence of which they won’t be given heed to.
Therefore, a strict action should have been performed by the administration to balance out the right to protest and right to mobility without waiting for an order form the court to free public spaces.
The administration desisted by not taking prompt action against those distress calls resulted in such horrific incident. There were many other reports of failure of any action by the administration on being called upon.
A closure investigation on the chain of events might help dealing with the issue and provide answer to those queries & the administration should take strict action against such protester breaking the law and violating the fundamental right to protest peacefully.
Citizens are treasured with two rights – Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression and Right to Peaceful Protest. These rights enable every citizen to assemble peacefully and express their dissent against the state. But the same should be respected and encouraged by the state for the strength of Democracy.
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