There is no right to protest.
Article 19 of the Constitution under Right to Freedom mentions the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. This is not the right to protest but is interpreted as the right to protest.
On 7/10/2020 Supreme Court gave its judgment in Civil Appeal No. 3280 of 2020, Amit Sahni versus Commissioner of Police and & Ors case. The bench consisted of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose, and Krishna Murari.
The case was about blocking of Shaheen Bagh road to public traffic from 15/12/2019 onwards by people protesting against Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019. The petitioner had filed Writ Petition (Civil) No. 429/2020 on 14/1/2020 at Delhi High Court to clear the encroachment. Delhi High Court on the same day disposed of the petition directing the respondent authorities to look into the grievances of the petitioner and at the same time keep in mind larger public interest and maintenance of law and order. Nothing changed. The petitioner moved Supreme Court.
Supreme Court in its order dated 17/2/2020 noted the question was where and how the protest was to be carried on, without affecting public roads. It appointed two interlocutors to talk to protesters. They were unsuccessful in making protesters vacate the road. Meanwhile Corona struck and lockdown began. Shaheen Bagh was vacated.
The case proceeded in the Supreme Court. In its judgment it made unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces can not 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. Shaheen Bagh case was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters.
Supreme Court could have decided this judgment in February itself. Why it appointed interlocutors and took a long time is inscrutable. Lockdown changed the ground situation but Justices delayed the judgment. Sometimes Supreme Court opens after midnight. In this case it did not even have regular hearings on working days.
Delhi Police also did not act. They could have cleared the encroachment. In Baba Ramdev case they had cleared people at night at Ram Leela Ground.
Shaheen Bagh protests began when Delhi Legislative Assembly elections were due. BJP claimed AAP was hand in glove with protesters. Protests continued after Delhi elections were over and AAP retained power. In August more than 50 protesters joined BJP. AAP claimed protests were work of BJP. Delhi Police did not remove protesters on instructions of BJP and is hand in glove with BJP.
State governments have duty to maintain law and order. Many times they have failed. In Rajasthan, during Gujjar agitation, protesters sat on railway tracks for days. Trains were cancelled or diverted causing inconvenience to passengers. In Haryana, during Jat agitation, roads were blocked and crimes were committed. Gorkhaland agitation lasted 104 days. Schools were shut.
B. R. Ambedkar in his last speech to Constituent Assembly in November 1949 spoke against civil disobedience, non-co-operation and satyagraha. Where constitutional methods are open there is no justification for unconstitutional methods.
No party or group has right to enforce bandh. Sometimes people have died because they could not go to doctor due to bandh. Sometimes state governments declare bandhs. Once Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments declared bandhs. It was about Cauvery dispute.
In 1988 Kiran Bedi ordered lathi charge on protesting lawyers. Justice D. P. Wadhwa Committee recommended that Bedi be transferred. Bedi said there was bias from the beginning. In 2019 lawyers thrashed policemen and burnt one police vehicle. Police protested. They should have arrested the criminals. In both cases Tis Hazari Court was the place.
There is no right to protest.