NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely for protests, which must be carried out in designated areas alone. A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul said, “Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.
The present case was not even one of protests taking place in an undesignated area, but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters.” The order was passed on batch of petitions against the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh.
“While appreciating the existence of the right to peaceful protest against a legislation (keeping in mind the words of Pulitzer Prize winner, Walter Lippmann, who said “In a democracy, the opposition is not only tolerated as constitutional, but must be maintained because it is indispensable”), we have to make it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely,” the bench ruled.
“Administration ought to take action to keep the area clear of encroachments and obstructions,” the bench said, while calling their inability to resolve the protest as unfortunate. It noted the court was forced to intervene because there was no action by the administration. The bench also highlighted how social media can lead to a highly polarising environment, as in Shaheen Bagh. “We live in an age of technology and development and social media often sees parallel conversations with no constructive outcome,” it said.
Administration ticked off
“In what manner the administration should act is their responsibility and they should not hide behind the court orders or seek support therefrom for carrying out their administrative functions,” the bench said