BH CORRESPONDENT, New Delhi: In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Monday said people have the fundamental right to protest in a democracy but they should not be blocking roads. “There must be a balance. This could create chaos,” a two-judge Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph observed in course of a hearing on the Shaheen Bagh protest that has been blamed for causing inconvenience to people.
“The question is where should they protest…It should not be a place like a street,” the Bench said right at the beginning of the hearing on Monday.
“Democracy works on expression of views. But there are lines and boundaries. They can protest and need not wait for the Supreme Court judgment (on the Citizenship Amendment Act). But the issue is, is a road the place to hold protests,” asked Justice Kaul.
The Supreme Court was hearing two petitions filed by lawyer Amit Sahni and BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg, asking the top court to order anti-CAA protesters to end the road blockade on the Shaheen Bagh-Kalindi Kunj stretch. Last week, Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad also requested the court to become a party in this case.
The Kalindi Kunj road in Delhi is a vital route since it connects three states — Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana — and the road closure has led to huge difficulties not only for the residents of the area but lakh of commuters who are not able to use the road due to the blockade. Azad, in his request, however, underscored that a bit of this inconvenience was linked to the police blocking other roads that could have been used by commuters. Azad had also alleged that the authorities would use any order to remove protesters to justify police force on the peaceful protesters.
The judges have asked two senior lawyers Santosh Hegde and lawyer Sadhana Ramachandran to reach out to the protesters at Shaheen Bagh to ask them not to block roads. “Right to protests has been recognised world over in democracies, especially in India. It is a fundamental right subject only to public order and security of state,” said Justice K.M. Joseph. The Bench hoped the two lawyers could possibly suggest an alternative site where the protesters could be shifted.
With agency inputs