Against the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case pertaining to the Shaheen Bagh protests in Delhi, a review petition has been filed in the Supreme Court.
The three Judge bench of the Supreme Court led by the Justice SK Kaul in October 2020 held that the right to peaceful protest against legislation exists, but the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.
The authorities were reprimanded by the bench for hiding behind the court orders and stated that, authorities should take suitable actions instead seeking support from judicial institutions.
The Supreme had held, “In what manner the administration should act is their responsibility and they should not hide behind the court orders or seek support there from for carrying out their administrative functions. The courts adjudicate the legality of the actions and are not meant to give shoulder to the administration to fire their guns from.”
Kaniz Fatima (a protestor) is a petitioner who contended that this finding is prima facie erroneous inasmuch as it gives an “unrestricted sanction” to the police to take action by misusing these observations.
It is submitted that, “propositions like holding protests at ‘designated places alone’ coming from judicial pronouncements shall upset the very concept of dissent and protest. In case of administrative action coming up with such propositions, the Citizens still may approach the courts of law. However, in the present situation, the citizens are vulnerable and helpless.”
“The order under review holds that in the face of protests the administration can either engage in negotiations or take appropriate action. This would lead to a situation where in the administration would never engage in dialogue with protesters, protesting against a Government policy or action, but would instead take action against them including their prosecution,” the plea states.
It is contended that, by holding that the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstructions, the impugned verdict takes away the Constitutional protection guaranteed to peaceful protesters under Article 19 of the Constitution.
The plea further states, “It is pertinent to point out at this stage that the only way for citizens in a democracy, to show their dissent towards legislations, policies and other Governmental acts and omissions, is by way of peaceful protests. To put any kind of curb on this freedom to show dissent leaves the citizens with no resort whatsoever to voice their concerns,”
It is pointed out that, the order goes against the principle laid down in case of Himat Lal by five-Judge bench, where it was stated that streets and public parks exist primarily for other purposes and the social interest promoted by untrammelled exercise of freedom of utterance and assembly in public street must yield to social interest which prohibition and regulation of speech are designed to protect.
It was argued that, without giving an opportunity of hearing to the Petitioner, who was also the protesting against CAA-NRC, the order was passed.
“Except for the brief interaction with the Interlocutors appointed by this Hon’ble Court, neither the present Petitioner nor any of the protesters got the opportunity to make submissions in the proceedings”, the plea submits.
Seeking to remove the protests against CAA-NRC at Shaheen Bagh, alleging that the protests were blocking the roads, affecting the right of free movement of the public, the impugned order was passed on a petition filed by Advocate Amit Sahni. The court proceeded to hear the matter on the larger issue of balancing the right to protest with the right to free movement of people.
The petition is filed through Advocate Kabir Dixit and drafted by Advocate Rashmi Singh.