Right to protest, a core part of any democracy to make the individuals voice to be heard by its three pillars. Since the first struggle for freedom in 1857, the right to protest became the only common voice of the respective community or people. The right to protest, a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution of India under the Article 19(1)(a) that guarantees the freedom of speech and expression: Article 19(1)(b) assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
At the same time, this right is (obliged) attributed to Article 51A that makes it a fundamental duty for every person to safeguard public property and to avoid violence during the protests and resorting to violence during public protests results in infringement of key fundamental duty of citizens. These two articles not fully in contrast but draw a tolerance line on protesters. However, the recent protests are overlapping and infringing the others right, public disturbances, free movement etc.
I recall an incident that I remember when I am studying 10th class. In August 2013 the protests and agitation in united Andhra Pradesh are taking a swift and aggressive path on both sides those who support bifurcation and those who do not support. Many student organisations, employee associations supported respective motives on the Congress Working Committee (CWC) decision. The schools were shut for nearly 3 months, public – transport was halted, trains were ceased to depart, govt. employees on roads, etc. During this period state accrued a huge loss. Peoples life nearly halted, goods & services are getting scarce and expensive. But none to be made liable.
And ongoing protests in Punjab against the 3 new farm laws by the union government. The halting of train services merely caused the shortage of urea, coal and other essential commodities. However, the farmers and govt. statement differ at each on blocking the railways while it seems that the state govt. is being opportunistic. In the very recent judgement(Amit Sahani v Commissioner of Police and Others ) the supreme court said that the indefinite blockade of roads by shaheen bagh protesters is unacceptable. While acknowledging the right to dissent, the Court stated that “demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.”
So, the question is Who will hear our voice and what does the designated place mean?
The SC judgement put many on a dilemma while safeguarding the right to mobility. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave said that “the Court’s decision is self-contradictory”. None, at least recognise any form of dissent if it isn’t being in a public place. Neither there is any such designated place for protests. If it is a poor country or if it is a well-developed country the protest always march through a public place. For instance, in the USA the protesters go as near as the white house that led a president trump to take shelter in a bunker. However, this is not a scenario in India. But oppressing right to protest is certainly an infringement on individuals fundamental right.
Now it’s time to seriously debate if the tolerance and the extent of Right to protest should be constrained while not infringing others rights. A protest erupts only if there’s a strong motive which adversely affects the fundamentals of their living or community. At the same, it is also to be thought while exercising one’s rights is infringing on others rights.
the right of the people peaceably to assemble‘ part of ‘the Constitutional substitute for revolutionAbraham Lincoln