This article on ‘Right to Protest under the Indian Constitution’ was written by Ashok Kumar Choudhary, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental right in India and has been an integral part of India’s history. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, played a pivotal role in India’s independence movement by leading peaceful protests and following the principles of non-violence or Ahimsa. In modern India, protests serve as a platform for citizens to express their opinions and demand change peacefully and democratically. These protests could be for civil rights, social justice, political reform, or any other issue where citizens feel the need for change.
While protests are essential for citizens to express their grievances, it is equally important to remember that peaceful protest is not only a right but also a responsibility. Participants must ensure that their protests do not escalate into violence or destruction of property. It is incumbent upon all participants to uphold the principles of non-violence, respect the rights of others, and ensure that their protests remain peaceful. This responsible exercise of the right to protest contributes to the progress and development of the nation as a whole.
RIGHT TO PROTEST: A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
The Constitution of India guarantees a plethora of rights to its citizens, but the right to protest holds a special place among them. It is a vital right that ensures different freedoms for citizens under Article 19. Although the word “protest” is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution’s fundamental rights, it is implicitly derived from the in-depth reading of Article 19.
The right to protest is protected under Article 19(1)(a), Article 19(1)(b), and Article 19(1)(c). These articles give citizens the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly without weapons, and the right to form associations or trade unions. Together, these three articles constitute the right to protest and allow citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations against any issue of national or social interest.
Freedom of expression is a crucial part of the right to protest, as it allows each person to freely express their opinions through various means such as speech, gestures, or writing. The right to peaceful assembly without weapons enables citizens to hold public meetings or processions without fear of violence or persecution.
Additionally, the right to form associations or trade unions allows citizens to create self-regulatory clubs, professional associations, or companies based on common interests the right to protest is a fundamental right, it comes with responsibilities. Protesters must ensure that their demonstrations remain peaceful and do not disrupt the public order or violate the rights of others. By upholding these principles, citizens can exercise their right to protest in an effective and responsible way.
WHY IT’S ESSENTIAL?
The right to protest is essential because it allows citizens to express their grievances and demand change peacefully and democratically. It is a fundamental right that enables citizens to voice their opinions, beliefs, and concerns without fear of persecution or oppression. Protests serve as a platform for citizens to hold their government and elected representatives accountable for their actions and policies. By protesting, citizens can raise awareness about social, political, or economic issues and demand action from their government.
The right to protest plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy democracy. It allows citizens to participate in the decision-making process, ensuring that the government remains accountable and responsive to the needs and demands of the people. Without the right to protest, citizens may be forced to resort to violence or other forms of civil unrest to make their voices heard the right to protest is a vital tool for citizens to participate in the democratic process, promote social change, and ensure that their voices are heard.
- The right to protest is an essential aspect of a democratic society. It allows individuals to express their opinions and raise their concerns about issues that affect their lives. However, it is important to remember that with rights come responsibilities. While the Constitution guarantees the right to protest, it also places reasonable restrictions on it.
- The right to protest is not absolute, and the state can impose reasonable restrictions on it in the interest of public order, state security, sovereignty, friendly relations with other countries, and contempt of court. The restrictions are necessary to maintain the balance between individual rights and the larger interest of society. Citizens must ensure that their protests are non-violent and do not infringe on the rights of others.
- In addition, each state has its laws related to maintaining public order, and citizens must obtain the necessary permits and certificates to hold a protest rally. The police have the authority to deny permission if they believe that the rally will cause a disturbance to public order. However, this power should not be used arbitrarily.
- It is important to note that the right to protest does not extend to infringing on someone else’s property or rights. Therefore, citizens must be mindful of their conduct during a protest and ensure that it remains within the boundaries of the law the right to protest is a crucial component of a democratic society. However, it must be exercised responsibly and within the framework of the law. It is the responsibility of citizens to ensure that their protests are non-violent and do not cause harm to public property or infringe on the rights of others.
IS THE RIGHT TO PROTEST ABSOLUTE?
No, the right to protest is not absolute. While it is a fundamental right, it comes with reasonable restrictions that are imposed in the interest of public order, state security, friendly relations with foreign countries, and the sovereignty and integrity of India. These restrictions are outlined in clauses 2 to 6 of the Indian Constitution and are necessary to prevent harm to society as a whole.
For example, if a protest poses a threat to the security of the state or violates public order, the government has the power to take appropriate action to maintain law and order. Similarly, if a protest endangers India’s friendly relations with another country or threatens its sovereignty and integrity, the government can take necessary measures to protect national interests.
It is important to note that while the right to protest is not absolute, these restrictions must be reasonable and cannot be arbitrary in nature. Furthermore, the government must follow due process and ensure that the restrictions imposed on the right to protest are proportional to the threat posed by the protest. while the right to protest is an essential part of a healthy democracy, it is subject to reasonable restrictions to prevent harm to society and protect national interests.
The right to protest in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. The Indian judiciary has played a crucial role in shaping the legal framework surrounding this right, with landmark cases such as the Himat Lal K. Shah case providing important guidance on the balance between the right to protest and the need to maintain law and order in society.
The recent farmer protests in India have brought attention to the importance of peaceful protests and the need for authorities to respect the rights of protesters. While the legal framework around the right to protest continues to evolve, the protests have highlighted the need for balanced reporting and the role of media and social media in shaping public discourse around protests the right to protest is an essential component of a democratic society and is vital for citizens to express their opinions and concerns.
- Arun Jaitley, Can The State Restrict A Citizen’s Right To Protest?, Outlook India, 3 February 2022, available at: https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/can-the-state-restrict-a-citizens-right-to-protest/280083
- Sachin, Right to Protest in India, Legal Services India, available at: https://legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-7887-right-to-protest-in-india.html
- Palak Jain, Right to peaceful protest; an absolute emblem, lifeblood of democracy, Times of India, 20 March 2021, available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/right-to-write/right-to-peaceful-protest-an-absolute-emblem-lifeblood-of-democracy-30396/