Freedom of assembly is a human right. The right to peaceful protest comes from this and other rights, including freedom of association and freedom of speech. Those laws that restrict the freedom of assembly, online or offline expression, or the people’s ability to associate in any setting violate the freedom of assembly. A country that does not provide its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression cannot claim to be a healthy democratic nation. It is necessary to maintain a progressive and healthy society, which must be preserved with the freedom to propagate ideas to promote the pursuit of truth.
The Liberty to express opinions and beliefs cannot be snatched away from people in a democratic country. Many international conventions and instruments have provisions to protect freedom of assembly. According to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1976, Article 21 guarantees that the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised and restrictions on this right must only be placed to comply with the necessities in a democratic society to maintain interests of national security and public order.
India is one of the countries to ratify the Covenant.
The foundation of many revolutions in India which changed its structure is rooted in freedom of expression used by citizens to air their grievances and disagreement. From Gandhi’s non-violent measures that have paved the way for many such protests, India is notorious for using Ahimsa as a means of dissent against arbitrary government policies. The Constitution of India safeguards the right to protest unless they are violent or disorderly.
Article 19 (1) (a) enshrines all citizens with the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Article 19 (1) (b) elucidates the right to assemble peacefully and without arms.
Though the words right to protest are not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, they are protected by Article 19.
In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India it was held that if democracy means the government of the people by the people, it is obvious that every citizen must be entitled to participate in the democratic process and to enable him to intelligently exercise his right of making a choice, free and general discussion of public matters is essential. For the smooth functioning of the democracy, there has to be a safe passage for the expression of opinions and public questioning of the government. Forceful or arbitrary restrictions on the rights of protestors for reasons not related to public order or national security but rather for political reasons is a gross violation of the freedom of expression and a danger to the democratic spirit of the country. Further, in Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, it was held that Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest, which cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action. The right to protest was proclaimed a fundamental right. These cases provide that the right to protest is protected by the constitution.
With citizens being the watchdog of the government if they are not allowed to express collective dissent due to political repression and human rights violations it becomes the duty of the judiciary to maintain that the peaceful gatherings are in line with international human rights standards; terminate its policy to allow armed police and other security officials to resort to lethal force to suppress peaceful protests; stop arbitrarily detaining protesters just because they participate in peaceful protests, and punish them.
1. Ohchr.org. 2021. OHCHR | International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [online] Available at: <https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx>
2. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978) AIR 597.
3. Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Union of India and Ors (2012) 5 SCC 1.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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