Twelve individuals, who took part in the Anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act at Shaheen Bagh, on Monday sought a review of the Supreme Court judgment which declared the demonstration of dissent as ‘unacceptable’ for blocking a public road.
On October 7, a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the protest, considered an iconic dissent mounted by the mothers, children and senior citizens of Shaheen Bagh against the controversial citizenship law, was inconvenient for commuters.
The court had said the protesters should express their dissent only in designated areas chosen by the administration. Right to dissent should not hamper the right of movement of the public. Protest should not become a nuisance, the 13-page verdict had said.
Though the judgment had upheld the right to peaceful protest against a law, it unequivocally made it clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely.
Fundamental rights do not live in isolation. The right of the protester has to be balanced with the right of the commuter. They have to co-exist in mutual respect, the court had explained in October.
In the review petition, Kazi Fatima and 11 others said the protesters were not even heard by the court.
The review asked how the court can restrict expressions of dissent to certain designated areas.
“Restricting protests to designated areas upsets the very concept of dissent and protests... Protests are the only way for citizens in a democracy to show their dissent. Curb on this freedom leaves citizens with no resort to voice their concerns,” the review petition said.
It referred to how the “police have in the recent past acted arbitrarily by beating students and protesters”.
The observations made by the court in the judgment “clothes the police with an arbitrary discretion to attack any peaceful protesters”.
“This would lead to a situation wherein the administration would never engage in dialogue with protesters, but instead take action against them, including their prosecution,” the review petition said.
The court had said it was finally the gaining pandemic, which intervened like the “hand of God”, that led the protesters to relent and end the blockade. The demonstration was removed by the police from the site on March 24.