A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose, and Krishna Murari said that Shaheen Bagh Judgment of October 2020 “does not suffer from any error apparent warranting its reconsideration.”
By: Priya Kumari, B.A.LL.B., Maharashtra National Law University Aurangabad
The Supreme Court dismissed the review petition filed against its controversial Shaheen Bagh judgment stating that there was no error with the original judgment.
In the original judgment, the Supreme Court held that the right to protest cannot be used to occupy public spaces for indefinite periods.
The court had said that“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 public place affecting rights of others.”
A bench constituting Justices SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose, and Krishna Murari passed this judgment. The same judges also delivered the initial verdict in October 2020 which came in the context of the protests held against the Citizenship Amendment Act that were conducted at south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area. These protests started on December 15, 2019, and ended only after a lockdown imposed by the Central government on March 24, 2020, due to COVID-19. The protests threw traffic out of gear in Shaheen Bagh, prompting one Amit Sahni, a resident of Delhi, to file public interest litigation (PIL) before the Apex court.
The Supreme Court had ruled, “We have to make it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely. Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.”
Twelve activists had filed a review petition in November 2020 as they called the Supreme Court’s October verdict ‘ambiguous.’ The review petition under Article 137 of the Constitution had raised five grounds to challenge the October order, the main ground being the vast powers the judgment conferred on police. They argued that the order of the apex court could lead to abuse of power by the police and the government.
The petitioner contended that by focusing extremely on the regulation of protests by the administration, Article 19 of the Constitution that guarantees the right to criticize the government through the peaceful assembly is being violated.
Further, it was argued that the decision of the court that protests could be held at ‘designated places alone’ went against the five-judge bench decision of the Supreme Court in the Himat Lal Shah Case which was decided in September 1972, wherein the Supreme Court upheld the right of a citizen to hold public meetings on public streets.
Considering all questions raised in the review petition, the review order said, “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 bench having gone through the review petition and record of its earlier order said that they are convinced that the original order does not suffer from any error apparent necessitating its reconsideration. On this count, the review petitions were dismissed.