‘Opposing voices can’t be muzzled by force’--The Hindu-31-12-2019-Page-13
The crackdown by law enforcement authorities against protesters opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The Supreme Court, in a series of judgments, has recognized dissent as a symbol of a vibrant democracy.
2018 Bhima-Koregaon case:
A petition was filed by historian Romila Thapar against the arrest of five activists for alleged Maoist links in the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed in his dissenting opinion that individuals who assert causes which might not be in line with that of the government are still entitled to all the freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution. The opposing voices cannot be muzzled by persecuting them.
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud upheld the view that dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy.
1962 Kharak Singh case:
Justice K. Subba Rao in his dissent note in the 1962 Kharak Singh case held that restrictions cannot be imposed on free speech and dissent on the basis of the “personal sensitiveness”. It was also observed that restricting the movement of protestors and movement under the scrutinizing gaze of a policeman is not free movement.
2017 Privacy Judgment:
The nine-judge Bench in the 2017 privacy judgment, has observed that neither life nor liberty is a gift conferred by the State and are inherent rights of an individual.
Shreya Singhal Judgment:
In the Shreya Singhal judgment, Justice Rohinton Nariman stated that protected and innocent speech cannot be curtailed on vague grounds as it being grossly offensive or causing annoyance or inconvenience to some people. What offends, annoys or inconveniences one may not have the same effect on another.
2010 Khushbu case:
The Supreme Court in 2010, upholding actor Khushbu’s right to comment on pre-marital sex observed that free flow of opinions and ideas is essential to sustain the collective life of the citizenry. It upheld the view that an informed citizenry is a pre-condition for meaningful governance and must be encouraged.
The right to protest peacefully is enshrined in the Indian Constitution—Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression; Article 19(1)(b) assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
Article 19(1)(3) says this right is subject to “reasonable restrictions” in the interest of public order. Reasonable restrictions could involve the following:
If the security of the state is in jeopardy.
If the friendly relationship we share with a neighbouring country is at stake.
If public order is disturbed.
If there is contempt of court.
If the sovereignty and integrity of India are threatened.