Occupying public places for protests is not acceptable and areas like Shaheen Bagh — which had seen prolonged anti-CAA demonstrations starting December last year — cannot be occupied “indefinitely”, the Supreme Court held on Wednesday.
It said protests should be at a designated place and any 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. It also said authorities concerned should not hide behind courts and act on their own in such situations.
A Bench headed by Justice S K Kaul said balance has to be struck between the right to protest and other public rights like the right to movement.
“Democracy and dissent go hand in hand,” said the Bench, also comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari.
It does not mean that the agitating people should adopt means and modes of protest that were used against colonial rulers, it said, adding that public places cannot be occupied "indefinitely" for protests like in the Shaheen Bagh case.
The verdict came on a plea of lawyer Amit Sahni against the blockade of a road in Shaheen Bagh area by persons protesting against the CAA which aimed to provide Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Pronouncing the verdict via video conferencing, the Bench said the authorities like Delhi Police ought to have taken action to clear Shaheen Bagh area from the protesters.
The top court had reserved its verdict in the case on September 21 by observing that there cannot be a “universal policy” on right to protest and possible curbs as also balancing it with acts like blocking of roads are needed because the situation may “vary” from case-to-case.