NEW DELHI: Reiterating that prolonged protests cannot be at the cost of continued occupation of public spaces as they affect the rights of others, the Supreme Court has dismissed the review petitions challenging its October 2020 verdict on the Shaheen Bagh protests.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari rejected the review plea filed by 12 individuals seeking a review of its October 2020 judgment, which had held that public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely.
"(The) constitutional scheme comes with a right to protest and express dissent but with an obligation to have certain duties. The right to protest cannot be anytime and everywhere. There may be some spontaneous protests but in case of prolonged dissent or protest, there cannot be continued occupation of public place affecting rights of others," the bench held.
The order on the review petitions appears to be at variance with what the court held on the farm protests outside Delhi, which have been going on for over two months now.
During the hearing, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde vouched for the right to protest and had in its order said: "We clarify that this court will not interfere with the protest in question. Indeed the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order. There can certainly be no impediment in the exercise of such rights as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to the life and properties of other citizens. We are of the view at this stage that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police."
The October ruling came in the context of the protests held against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in South Delhi's Shaheen Bagh area. The protests started on December 15, 2019, and ended only after the government ordered a lockdown on March 24 last year in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"We have to make it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely. Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone," the top court’s October 2020 judgment stated.