Supreme Court says right to protest is crucial in democracy like India.
New Delhi: In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Monday held that the right of people to hold peaceful protests, dharnas, demonstrations, etc. is a fundamental right under the Constitution and this is crucial in a vibrant democracy like India.
Giving this ruling, a bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan directed the Delhi police commissioner to frame guidelines for holding such protests and demonstrations at Jantar Mantar on Parliament Street in the national capital. At present, the police allow such protests at Ramlila Maidan, far away from Jantar Mantar.
Writing the judgment Justice Sikri said that the right to protest is crucial in a democracy, which rests on the participation of an informed citizenry in governance. This right is also crucial since it strengthens representative democracy by enabling direct participation in public affairs, where individuals and groups are able to express dissent and grievances; expose the flaws in governance; and demand accountability from state authorities as well as powerful entities.
The bench agreed with the detailed reasoning given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for banning dharnas at Jantar Mantar on the ground that holding of demonstrations in the way it has been happening is causing serious discomfort and harassment to the residents.
At the same time, the bench said it is also to be kept in mind that for quite some time Jantar Mantar has been chosen as a place for holding demonstrations and was earmarked by the authorities as well.
The bench suggested the authorities to frame regulations and guidelines to ensure that slogans by protesters are within the parameters of noise pollution norms and that there is no shouting or sloganeering at night hours or during the early morning hours.
The bench directed the Delhi commissioner of police, in consultation with other concerned agencies, to devise a proper mechanism within two months for limited use of the area for such purposes.
The verdict came on a batch of petitions, including the one filed by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghtan challenging the decision of the NGT, which had banned all kinds of protests at these (Jantar Mantar, Boat Club) places.