‘Violates Art 19’: Review Filed Against SC’s Shaheen Bagh Order

Petitioners fear that the SC’s order empowers the administration while debasing the right to peacefully protest. 

2 min read
Petitioners fear that the SC’s order empowers the administration while debasing the rights to peaceful protest. 

Almost a month after the Supreme Court said the occupation of a public road by those protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh was ‘not acceptable’, a petition has been filed before the apex court seeking a review of its earlier stand.

Calling the Supreme Court’s October verdict ‘ambiguous’, the petition, filed by a group of activists, says that the apex court’s order could lead to abuse of power by the police and the government.

Grounds for Review

Petitioners say that by empowering the administration to take action and clear encroachments in cases where public spaces are blocked, the Supreme Court’s verdict offers “unrestricted sanction” to the police.

“This is all the more troublesome when the police has, in the recent past, acted arbitrarily by beating students and protesters. The above observations, it is submitted, have clothed the police with an arbitrary discretion to attack any peaceful protester.”

SC Order Ignores Article 19, Argue Petitioners

The petition further argues that providing the administration with the option of either engaging in negotiations or taking appropriate action, the state machinery would be tempted to act against those protesting its policies.

It adds that in a liberal democracy, questions that deal with the threat to one’s personal citizenship cannot be left to the ‘mercy of political representatives’ in a manner which excludes protesters from choosing a location where their voices can be heard.

“It is submitted that propositions like holding protests at ‘designated places alone’ coming from judicial pronouncements shall upset the very concept of dissent and protests.”

Finally, the petition contends that by focusing excessively on regulation of protests by the administration, the right to criticise the government through peaceful assembly – guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution – is being ignored.


What the Supreme Court Ruled in October

On 7 October, the Supreme Court had held that the Constitution gives a right to dissent and protest, but that such protests cannot occupy public spaces, in a judgment relating to the pleas against the Shaheen Bagh protests against the CAA that ran from December 2019 to March 2020.

“We make it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely. Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.”
Supreme Court

The bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari had been told during the arguments in the matter that the occupation of roads had been a method of protest during the freedom struggle as well.

However, the judges have held that this cannot be equated with the current situation.

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