In a major verdict on Wednesday, the Supreme Court of India categorically stayed that occupying public places indefinitely for protests like Shaheen Bagh is “unacceptable.” The judgement came in reaction to a petition filed by advocate Amit Sahni, several months ago, for a direction to shift the anti-CAA protesters of Shaheen Bagh to an alternative site as they had been “blocking” public movement and causing traffic hazards in the area.
“Occupation of public places or roads by demonstrators, which cause inconvenience to a large number of people and violate their rights, is not permissible under law,” the SC bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and also comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari, said.
The SC said right to peaceful protest is a constitutional right and it has to be respected. But that does not mean agitating people should adopt means and modes of protest that was used against colonial rulers during struggle for independence.
The division bench further held that the administrations should not wait for court’s order to remove such demonstration from Public places. Adding that protests are allowed to be held but at designated places.
The Shaheen Bagh protests was against Citizenship act, which aims to provide easier path to citizenship for persecuted minorities from neighboring Muslim majority communities. The protesters, mostly comprising of women and children at front but men at back, held a vital road at ransom for several months, causing unparalleled inconvenience to innocent residents of the area.
The protests however were had to be withdrawn in wake of Covid-19 pandemic. The petitioner, Mr. Sahni had said though the reason for the petition — the blockage of the main road by Shaheen Bagh protesters — had become infructuous, the court should still pass specific orders that “in future, protests should not hinder public movement”.