RIGHT TO PROTEST – A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
Author: Vaishnavi Kaishav, II year of B.B.A.,LL.B. from Chanderprabhu Jain College of Higher Studies and School of Law, Affiliated to GGSIPU
Fundamental rights are regarded as an integral part of the basic framework of the Indian constitution, which cannot be abused in any situation. These constitutional rights safeguard citizens' rights and offer redress if they are violated.
While all rights are important and serve different purposes, Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution is an important right that guarantees people various freedoms. It is only in Article 19 that the right to protest is included. Although the term "protest" is not expressly stated in the Indian Constitution's fundamental rights, it is inferred from a careful reading of Article 19. According to Article 19(1) (b) of the Constitution, the right to a peaceful assembly without weapons is a constitutional right.
In India, we are experiencing unprecedented mass demonstrations. Thousands of people are still demonstrating in the streets, demanding that the government reconsider the Amendment, Act or bill passed by the government. Such public demonstrations are the mark of a free, democratic society, whose logic requires that the people's voice be heard by those in power and that decisions be made after due deliberation.
RIGHT TO PROTEST: A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
Articles 19(1)(a), 19(1)(b), and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution guarantee people the right to freedom of speech, the right to meet freely without arms, and the right to join associations or labour unions. These three articles provide the right to protest, stating that a protester can exercise his right to demonstrate against any topic of national or social concern.
1. Each person has the right to freely express his or her opinions by means such as gestures or posture.
2. The right to free assembly in the absence of arms, such as holding public meetings or closing a procession.
3. The right to join self-regulatory clubs, professional organizations or businesses in the area of mutual interest was referred to as the right to form associations or trade unions.
Mazdoor Kisan Sanghatan v. UOI, The police authority was directed by the Supreme Court to establish rules and guidelines in this case. For the restricted use of the Jantar Mantar area for demonstrations, and outlined a few factors to consider when determining whether or not to allow protests, including traffic disturbance, possible breaches of public tranquilly, and potential damage to public safety, among other items. The court ruled in Amit Sahni vs. Commissioner of Police (Civil Appeal 3282/2020) that public ways and roads cannot be used for protests because they cause public inconvenience.
The three-judge panel ruled that the fundamental right to protest cannot be exercised in a way that prioritizes the rights of others over protestors' rights. According to the court, all legal and peaceful demonstrations must take place in designated areas. The bench also noted that protests against an oppressive colonial government were not conducted democratically. The protestors' claim that since the right to demonstrate is a fundamental right, everyone can assemble in any public place, such as a road or another public place, and occupy it was rejected by the Court.
REASONABLE RESTRICTION ON THESE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
It's important to note that all demonstrations are only legal if they're nonviolent and done with the proper permits. ‘Respect for the rule of law and not destroying public property are fundamental constitutional responsibilities.'
These fundamental rights are not absolute and are subject to fair limitations, as if people were granted total freedom without any supervision of their actions, which could have far-reaching consequences for society. As a consequence, under article 19 clauses 2 to 6 of the Indian Constitution, the right is subject to fair restrictions, including a restriction imposed by State law in the name of preserving public policy.
There are many reasons for this.
1. If the state's stability is threatened;
2. If our good ties with a neighbouring country are jeopardized;
3. In the event of a public order violation;
4.If there is a case of contempt of court;
5. If India's sovereignty and integrity are jeopardized.
WHAT MAKES THE RIGHT TO PROTEST SO IMPORTANT?
The government introduces many policies in the interest of people and for the development and progress of the country, which are constantly monitored by citizens who express their opinions in the same manner so that if there is a mistake or a vacuum, it can be filled by peaceful protests. As a result, residents serve as watchdogs who keep an eye on all government activities. Protest plays an important role in correcting mistakes in decisions or policies in this situation.
The government must support and even promote these rights. The state must assist in the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in its broadest sense, rather than to hinder that exercise by exercising executive or legislative powers, issuing directives, or taking measures to restrict that right in the name of equal limitations. As a consequence, for reforms to take place and the country to advance, the right to protest is a crucial component of democracy.
Protesting against injustice is not only a constitutional right provided by the Indian Constitution, but it is also a moral obligation. By now, we've established that the right to protest is protected by the constitution. It is considered "treasure" in some cases to guarantee the right to free expression and peaceful protest, and it should be secured in all circumstances. However, these rights are not absolute and should be subjected to fair limitations, as defined under Article 19(2), which is critical in the interests of the country's sovereignty and dignity. Fundamental rights should not exist in isolation, and the rights of protestors and commuters should be balanced.
 Pragadeesh Iyer, legal service India,