This blog is authored by Aditi Singh, 3rd year, University of Calcutta, during her internship with NitiNyaya Law Offices
Currently, the news channels and newspapers are filled with the news of the Farmers Protest. This protest has divided the society into two parts; one part is supporting the protest while others are considering it to be a political conspiracy. The protest successfully got the farmers a meeting arranged with the higher authorities. Whatever the result will be, this protest has caused a lot of trouble to the public at large. So, was it valid? Is it not violating the Fundamental Duties?
History of Protest in India
India traces its history back through numerable protests. We acquired our freedom from conducting famous protests like The Quit India Movement (1942), The Non-Cooperation Movement (1929-32), The Swadeshi Movement (1905), The Satyagraha and many more. India is one of the biggest democracies, and the citizens are one of the most integral parts of it. The government develops new policies time-to-time for the welfare and the development of the country and citizens. And after knowing about the policies the people of the nation analyse them and brings out the shortcomings of the policies and to address these shortcomings, they conduct “peaceful demonstration”. If the protests or demonstrations are peaceful in nature, then only it is “lawful”, and if the motive of a certain demonstration is to outrage the public and hinder the daily routine of the public then, it is considered as an “unlawful protest”
Laws pertaining to Protests
One of the most interesting facts is that the Fundamental Right in the Indian Constitution does not even mention any term ‘PROTEST’. But still, our constitution protects the ‘Right to Protest’ of the Indian Citizens.
The Articles which state this right are:
Article 19(1)(a) states the Freedom of speech and expression;
Article 19(1)(b) states, Right to Protest peacefully without arms, and;
Article 19(1)(c) states, the Right to Form Associations & Trade Unions.
These three sub-clauses of Article 19 together provide the “Right to Peaceful Protest” to the Indian Citizens.
But these Rights are not “Absolute” in nature, which means there are certain reasonable restrictions to these rights, which are stated under Article 19(2) & 19(3) of the Indian Constitution itself. Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions to protect the sovereignty & integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to
contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Important Supreme Court Judgements
Protests in India have caused many casualties, police brutalities, arrests, etc. Supreme Court has given numerable judgements to protect the public from violent protests. In the case of Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union of India & Others (2012), the Supreme Court had ruled that “Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest that cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action”. In the Amit Sahani v. Commissioner of Police (The Sheen Bagh Protest), the Supreme Court ruled that the Protestors have no right to occupy public places for an indefinite period, therefore, the administration has the power to clear the blocked public area. The Supreme Court also referred to the judgment of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan v. UOI Anr. (2018) in this case. In the Nirbhaya Gang Rape 2011, the society showed an outrage, expressing that they want stricter laws to stop these kinds of crimes. This protest brought a revolution in the Criminal laws of India. The section of Rape was redefined and punishments were made more stringent. From these cases and their judgements, we can say that protest should always carry a motive which should not be inspired by any political agenda or conspiracy. It should not hinder the regular functioning of the public. It should be conducted peacefully and within the scope of the laws stated.
Right to protest is not just a Fundamental Right but it is also a moral right of every citizen. It is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution to fight against injustice. Peaceful protests are a medium to ensure law and order in the government as well as the society, therefore, this power should not be misused. It should be the duty of the protestors to influence the nation with peacefully as well as the administration should also help the protestors in conducting the protests peacefully.