“Public places cannot be occupied indefinitely”: SC on Shaheen Bagh Protests

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday held the protests at Shaheen Bagh by demonstrators against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act by blocking a public road in the national capital were “not acceptable”.

    “Public places cannot be occupied indefinitely by protestors whether in Shaheen Bagh or elsewhere. It is the duty of the administration to keep such spaces free from impediments. Not wait to fire from court’s shoulder,” the SC said.

    The bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari noted,

    “Democracy and dissent go hand in hand.”

    The Court held that while the right to protest is a constitutionally protected right, it is not absolute and it cannot be exercised in a manner so as to cause obstruction to other citizens.

    In light of the anti – CAA protests at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, two petitions were filed before the Supreme Court for the clearance of Kalindi Kunj Road, which is in proximity to the site of the protests. The first petition was filed by lawyer, Amit Sahni. Sahni has prayed for certain specific directions for the removal of the obstruction at the protest site.

    The second petition was filed by Nand Kishore Garg. He requested for the removal of the protesters from the site on Kalindi Kunj Road.

    While hearing the petitions seeking the clearance of the protest site at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, the SC had asked a team of interlocutors to hold discussions with the protesters. The interlocutors – Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde and Advocate Sadhana Ramachandran – had submitted the report before the Court on February 26.

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the site of the protest had to be cleared out earlier this year, after several months of a peaceful sit-in protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

    While reserving its verdict in the matter, the Court had noted that a balance needs to be drawn between people’s right to protest and the right to free movement of others.