Blocking of road by Shaheen Bagh protesters unacceptable, says a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday found the indefinite “occupation” of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protestors unacceptable.
The court said the protest, considered an iconic dissent mounted by mothers, children and senior citizens of Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), became inconvenient to commuters.
The 13-page judgment upheld the right to peaceful protest against law but made it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely.
“Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone. The present case was not even one of the protests taking place in an undesignated area, but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters”, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who authored the verdict for a three-judge Bench, observed.
The court suggested that the outcry may have even gone out of hand for the women protesters. It referred to reports about how women were ensconced inside a tent while a “huge periphery” of “male protesters, volunteers and bystanders”, who wanted the blockade to continue, milled around.
While the tent occupied half the road, the other half was blocked by a three-dimensional map of India, a large model of India Gate and even a library. Factors like the absence of leadership and many “influencers” and groups working at cross-purposes saw the movement slip out of the hands of the women of Shaheen Bagh.
“Thus, the Shaheen Bagh protest perhaps no longer remained the sole and empowering voice of women, who also appeared to no longer have the ability to call off the protest themselves. There was also the possibility of the protesters not fully realising the ramifications of the pandemic, coupled with a general unwillingness to relocate to another site”, the court observed.
Source: The Hindu