Right to Protest-A solution?

Right to protest
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Overview

Since the time government came up with its ambitious Farm Bills, what hits the mind is the farmer’s protest. Recently, the Supreme Court reviewed a petition which asked for the permission of protest at Jantar Mantar. Doesn’t it sound so disciplined taking permission from the court? However, the same was rejected. In the first instance, it looks like the Supreme Court denied permission from exercising a basic fundamental right. This brings us to a question, the right to protest, Is a fundamental right?

This article intends to find whether Protest brings us what we want. Most importantly, does it is covered in our fundamental rights to cause losses of life and disrupt the harmony and peace of the country.

Protest and ‘voice’

‘Protest is like a weapon citizens use in any acting democracy. The term protest does not find its definition in the holy Constitution of India. India has been the land observing many protests. Whether its the CAA bill or the Farm bill, protests were done. The Voice of the citizens is the heart of democracy. The voice turning into violence causing loss of life and destruction is what brings the concern. The Punjab government through its sources recorded over 400 farmers in these so-called protests. There lies a very narrow gap between a peaceful and a non-peaceful protest. There requires just a touch of instigation and what is seen is the bloodshed around.

An overlook on Article 19

Let us have a look at articles 19(1) (a), (b), (c)

19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc

 All citizens shall have the right

  1. to freedom of speech and expression;
  2. to assemble peaceably and without arms;
  3. to form associations or unions;

Article 19 is the most exercised fundamental right in a way. This article empowers citizens to present their voices and express their concerns. They are allowed to freely make speech and expression, organize peaceful assembly and form associations. If we connect the dots and refer to the above reference of farm bills protest there existed freedom of speech and expression, unions were there and also the assembly. The most important major missing was the ‘peaceful’.

Former Chief Justice of India S A Bobde did mention that it is a fundamental right for the farmer to protest. The court in the above-mentioned petition said that the court has already intervened by putting a stay on the bill. There is one option to opt- court or protest. This sentence opened a further interpretation of peaceful protest and freedom of speech. Does the court meant that if an issue is in the court, it denies the person from contesting protest over same.

The motive of all this narration is that protest is not done in the way it should be. The anti-CAA protest in Assam as a way of protest blocked the Siliguri corridor or popularly called Chicken’s neck. The consequences of the action were only the hampering of the normal functioning of the country and adding to its despair.

Judicial interpretations

The fundamental rights are not absolute. The Constitution has granted powers to diminish it for the public interest. This is what the court has done.

The court in the case of Himat Lal K. Shah vs Commissioner Of Police observed “The framers of the Constitution were aware that public meetings were being held in public streets and that the public has come to regard it as part of their rights and privileges as citizens. It is doubtful whether, under the common law of the land, they have any such right or privilege but, nobody can deny the de facto exercise of the right in the belief that such a right existed. Common error facit jus (common error makes the law).

This error was grounded on the solid substratum of continued practice, over the years. The same case was referred to in another significant case of Amit Sahni vs Commissioner Of Police which was around the CAA protest.

 The greatest contention here is that if the protest is a fundamental right it does comes at the cost of other people rights. There is a non-participant group and the disruption of the harmony deprives them of their rights

Conclusion

It is now the time that the concept of Protest is evolved. It cannot be ripped off at all because it did bring results. The point to be kept in mind is that there should be no violence. The protests in this decade have only turned into a violent clash between the groups. Then it has invited other concerns. We as the citizens of progressing India should keep in mind that these protests are charging us plenty of economies and precious life.

Always it has been in the courts where the matter has been settled. Courts need to make its role of an arbitrator and try to avoid the destruction under the cover of exercising the right to protest. It is not about overriding the jurisdiction but averting the losses and looking for solutions.

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