Supreme Court ruled that there cannot be a complete ban on holding protests at places like Jantar Mantar

Date :23/07/2017

There cannot be a “complete ban” on holding protests and sit-ins at Jantar Mantar and Boat Club in New Delhi, the Supreme Court said on Monday as it asked the Centre to frame guidelines to grant the necessary permission to hold such events.

The Supreme Court bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan today ruled that there can not be a blanket ban on protests in Central Delhi. Allowing the non violent protest in Jantar Mantar and different regions in Central Delhi the Court has asked the police to frame the rules and regulations.
The bench said there was a need to strike a harmony between clashing rights, for example, such as the right to protest and right of citizens to live peacefully.
“There cannot be a complete ban on holding protests at places like Jantar Mantar and Boat Club (near India Gate),” it added.
The Bench was passing its judgment in a writ petition filed by the NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan challenging the self-assertive and repeated imposition of police orders under section 144, CrPC by which, for all intents and purposes, the whole Central Delhi territory is declared a restricted area for holding any open gathering, dharna or peaceful protest. The petition asserts that the ban so imposed is violative of Article 19(1)(b) of the Constitution in to such an extent as it diminishes the fundamental right to peaceful protest and assembly.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan had represented the petitoners, while Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Central government. ASG Mehta had assisted the court upon a request made by the Bench.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, submitted, 
“After the Mahendra Singh Tikait agitation, protests at Boat Club lawns were restricted. In fact, the unrestricted right to protest was severely curtailed and the entire Central Delhi area which is close to the establishment offices has been turned into a fortress and the fundamental rights of the citizens completely denied. From 1993 till recently, the only place where the protests were allowed was Jantar Mantar. However,on 5th October 2017, the National Green Tribunal has entirely banned protests at Jantar Mantar on the grounds that it creates a nuisance for the residents of the area and violates environment protection statutes.”
In asserting that such restrictions are in contradiction of the fundamental rights of citizens under provisions (a), (b) and (c) of Article 19(1), the judgment in Anita Thakur and Ors versus Government of J&K and Ors [(2016) 15 SCC 525] was refered to, in so far as it was led thereunder,
“Article 19(1)(a) confers freedom of speech to the citizens of this country and, thus, this provision ensures that the Petitioners could raise slogan, albeit in a peaceful and orderly manner, without using offensive language. Article 19(1)(b) confers the right to assemble and, thus, guarantees that all citizens have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms. Right to move freely given under Article 19(1)(d), again, ensures that the Petitioners could take out peaceful march.”
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in October, 2017 had banned all the protests and sit-ins in the area saying such activities violate environmental laws.
The green panel had earlier said the state has totally failed to protect the right of enjoying a pollution-free environment of the citizens living in the Jantar Mantar Road area, close to Connaught Place.
pollution, cleanliness, management of waste and public health has grossly deteriorated. Besides, constant dharna, slogans, noise pollution, health problems due to unhygienic conditions generated by the agitators round-the-clock is unique in the instant case,” the NGT had said.
The NGT verdict had come on a plea moved by one Varun Seth and others, alleging that processions and agitations held by social groups, political parties, NGOs at Jantar Mantar Road were a major source of noise pollution in the area. 
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal welcomes the Supreme Court verdict upholding peaceful right to protest at Jantar-Mantar - 
"Attempts to convert Delhi into a police state is dangerous for democracy and rightly struck down by Hon'ble Supreme Court."
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