Context: The Supreme Court found the indefinite “occupation” of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protestors unacceptable.
- The SC dismissed a clutch of petitions in connection with the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest.
- Recently the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest against the citizenship law was cleared by Delhi police after curbs were imposed on assembly and movement of people in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The protest had been on for more than 100 days.
- It began on December 15 in Southeast Delhi, with at least 300 women at the forefront of it. It sparked many similar demonstrations across the country.
Key takeaways from the judgement:
- Right to protest and right to commuters
- It upheld the right to peaceful protest against a law but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.
- Right to Protest is a fundamental right, it is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and public order.
- Fundamental rights do not live in isolation. The right to protest has to be balanced with the right of the people to use a public road.
- The seeds of protest and dissent were sown deep during the Freedom struggle. But dissent against colonial rule cannot be equated with dissent in a self-ruled democracy.
- The court held it was entirely the responsibility of the administration to prevent encroachments in public spaces.
‘Leaderless’ dissent and media
- Technology and social media could both empower and weaken mass movements.
- The ability to scale up quickly using digital infrastructure has empowered movements to embrace their often-leaderless aspirations and evade the usual restrictions of censorship.
However social media channels are often fraught with danger and can lead to the creation of highly polarised environments.
Image source: The Wire