The Supreme Court of India on July 23, 2018, ruled that there cannot be a “complete ban” on holding protests at Jantar Mantar or India Gate. The bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said there was a need for striking a balance between conflicting rights such as the right to protest and right of citizens to live peacefully.
The verdict came on a batch of petitions, including the one filed by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghtan challenging the decision of the National Green Tribunal, which had banned all kinds of protests at these locations. The apex court stated that there cannot be a complete ban on holding protests at places like Jantar Mantar and Boat Club, near India Gate. The court directed the Centre to frame guidelines for according sanctions to such events.
1. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had announced a ban on all kinds of protests around the Jantar Mantar in Delhi on October 5, 2017, stating that such activities violated the environmental laws.
2. The green panel had said that the state had totally failed to protect the right of a citizen to enjoy a pollution-free environment at the Jantar Mantar Road area, which is located close to Connaught Place at the heart of the national capital.
3. The historic monument had been serving as the main spot for protests and agitations for the past few decades.
4. The tribunal had directed the authorities to shift the protesters to an alternative site at the Ramleela Grounds in Ajmeri Gate.
5. It had also said those participating in protests and raising slogans through loudspeakers had no right to compel the petitioner and others living in the area to tolerate it day and night.
6. The NGT verdict had come on a plea, which alleged that processions and agitations held by social groups, political parties, NGOs at Jantar Mantar Road were a major source of noise pollution in the area.
7. The tribunal had stated that besides constant dharna, slogans and noise pollution, unhygienic conditions generated by the agitators round-the-clock could lead to health problems.
8. It had added that it was the duty of the state to ensure that the rights of the people to live a peaceful and comfortable life were not infringed by those who created noise pollution in the name of their right to freedom of speech and expression, which could never be unlimited.