The Supreme Court has reiterated that public spaces cannot be occupied in case of prolonged protests and dismissed petitions seeking review of its October 2020 verdict with regards to the Shaheen Bagh protests. The Court observed that the verdict for which a review was sought did not suffer from any apparent error.
“We have considered the earlier judicial pronouncements and recorded our opinion that the Constitutional scheme comes with a right to protest and express dissent but with an obligation to have certain duties. The right to protest cannot be anytime and everywhere. There may be some spontaneous protests but in case of prolonged dissent or protest, there cannot be continued occupation of a public place affecting rights of others,” the Bench comprising of Justices S K Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari said.
“We have perused the Review Petition and record of the Civil Appeal and are convinced that the order of which review has been sought, does not suffer from any error apparent warranting its reconsideration” it added.
In its October 2020 verdict, the Supreme Court had said, “However, while appreciating the existence of the right to peaceful protest against a legislation…we have to make it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely.”
The Shaheen Bagh protests had followed the same pattern of events as the current ‘farmer protests’. The protests had continued for weeks and the blockade of roads had continued until the Coronavirus pandemic forced the protesters to evacuate.