The Supreme Court on Monday, July 23 said there cannot be any "blanket ban" on holding protests at Delhi's historic Jantar Mantar, located at the periphery of Parliament Street and the Boat Club on Rajpath.
Emphasising on the need to balance between the right to protest and the security considerations, a bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan said that the Delhi Police will have to frame guidelines to regulate protests at both spots. Directing the guidelines to be framed "very soon", the bench also noted that, as it is, there was need for police permission for holding protests or demonstrations.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, said on Twitter that the apex court “has today struck down the government's ban on rallies and meetings in the Boat Club and Jantar Mantar area of Delhi. This ban was a gross violation of the fundamental right of people to meet, assemble and protest. The Court has asked the police commissioner to frame guidelines within two months.”
MKSS through its founder member Aruna Roy had approached the apex court in December 2017, challenging the powers of police to arbitrarily curb protests in the heart of Delhi by imposing Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), arguing that it was in violation of a citizen’s right to protest, the Economic Times had reported. Under Section 144, CrPC, more than five persons can be disallowed from congregating in a place. Section 144 has been used continuously in central Delhi to virtually ban protests in and around the seats of power, including at Jantar Mantar and the Boat Club lawns, both near Parliament.
Legal news website Bar & Bench reported that MKSS had contended that the police and the authorities restricted demonstrations in Central Delhi by continuously imposing Section 144. "Delhi police had been regularly issuing prohibitory orders for several years as soon as the previous order expired. These repetitive orders of the Delhi police amounted to an abuse of power and hindered the citizen’s Fundamental right to protest, the petition stated,” reported Bar & Bench.
MKSS had submitted that such restrictions were violative of Articles 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (b) of the Constitution, including the right to assemble peacefully and without arms. “….holding peaceful demonstrations in order to air grievances and to see that their voice is heard in the relevant quarters, is the right of the people,”, said the petition quoted by Bar & Bench.
With IANS inputs