shaheen-bagh-case-public-spaces-cannot-be-occupied-indefinitely-says-sc

Context: The Supreme Court found the indefinite “occupation” of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protestors unacceptable.

Background:

  • 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