SC reserves order on plea on right to protest in wake of Shaheen Bagh

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its order on a number of petitions seeking guidelines and other directions on the right to protest in wake of the Shaheen Bagh protest where a group of people had gathered for months to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) blocking a key road connecting Delhi and Noida.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and also comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari, reserved its order and observed that the right to protest should be balanced with the right of movement of people.

“The right to protest is not absolute, but there is a right,” the bench said adding that protests can be done peacefully.

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The apex court, hearing a batch of petitions filed by the petitioner and lawyers-in-persons Amit Sahni and Shashank Deo Sudhi against protest, which had blocked a high-traffic road causing problems to the commuters, and seeking removal of the protestors.

“In the future, the protest should not continue as per their choice and demand. In the larger public interest, a decision may be taken. I request the Supreme Court to keep this matter pending and an elaborate order may be passed,” Sahni submitted.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, a senior law officer of the Central government, said that earlier the Supreme Court had refused to entertain any intervention in the case.

Thousands of people, including a large number of Muslim women, had staged a sit-in protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area blocking a stretch of GD Birla Marg since mid-December last year against the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens.

The top court had earlier appointed senior advocates — Sanjay Hedge, Sadhana Ramachandran, and former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah — as interlocutors to talk to the protestors and convince them to demonstrate at an alternate location.

The interlocutors had submitted their report in a sealed cover in February.
The petitions filed in the matter had sought directions to the respondents, including the Centre, for laying down “detailed, comprehensive and exhaustive guidelines relating to outright restrictions for holding protest/agitation” leading to obstruction of the public space.

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