Holding peaceful demonstrations in order to air grievances and to see that their voice is heard in the relevant quarters is the right of the people. Such a right can be traced to the fundamental freedom that is guaranteed under Article 19(1)(b). The Constitution of India, 1950 guarantees the freedom to assemble peacefully and without weapons or arms under Article 19(1)(b) and gives the right to the citizens to protest against the government or any other public authority. Protests in India are allowed only if they are non-violent and carried within the reasonable restrictions provided under the constitution of India. There are a few restrictions on which authorities can take action which include preserving : 1
- Interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India
- The security of the State
- Friendly relations with foreign States
- Public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court
- Defamation or incitement to an offence
The responsibility of maintaining ‘law and order’2 rests with the states, therefore, multiple state acts have been enacted that regulate protests. To illustrate, before holding a protest in Odisha, a Non-objection Certificate is required from the Revenue Authority of the place which has been selected for protest and the permission from the Police that is given after assessing on safety /security and law & order point of view. The police can deny issuing NOC if they feel that the protest can go against public order or cause unrest. The right to protest cannot be taken away by police or the court lightly and they need to establish subjective satisfaction that such protests will lead to public unrest before posing any restrictions.3
- Article 19(3), Constitution of India, 1950
- Law and Order, Ministry of Home Affairs, (August 18, 2020), https://www.mha.gov.in/commoncontent/law-and-order.
- Soumya R. Reddy v. State of Karnataka, WP 52731/2019.
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