Laws related to Protest

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The right to peaceful protest is granted to citizens of India by our Constitution. it's a part of the liberty of speech and expression, which could be a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a).


Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the liberty of speech and expression. Article 19(1)(b) states about the proper to assemble peaceably and without arms. Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the proper to assemble peaceably and without arms and to freedom of speech and expression and none of those rights are absolute in nature. These reasonable restrictions are imposed within the interests of the sovereignty & integrity of India, the safety of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in respect to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. However, there's more thereto. Protesting against injustice is additionally an ethical duty.

Also Read: Agencies that regulate Human Rights in India

Reasonable Restrictions

Article 19(1)(3) says this right is subject to “reasonable restrictions” within the interest of public order. If the protection of the state is in jeopardy, If the relationship we share with a neighbouring country is at stake, If public order is disturbed, If there's contempt of court, If the sovereignty and integrity of India are threatened

Article 246 of the Constitution places ‘public order’ and ‘police’ under the jurisdiction of the state. this provides each authorities full legislative and administrative powers over the police. Each state’s law enforcement agency has two components: the civil police, the armed police While the civil police control crime, the armed police are specialised police units that cope with extraordinary law and order situations. they're organised within the sort of battalions which are used as striking reserves to cater to emergency situations arising within the state. Although matters of the police are a state subject, the Constitution empowers the central government to intervene in certain police matters so as to safeguard the state in times of emergency.

Important SC’s Judgement on protest

  • In 1973, a Constitution bench of the apex court had held, in its judgment within the case of Himat Lal K Shah vs Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad (AIR 1973 SC 87), that the State’s power to manage public meetings on streets doesn’t reach closing all the streets or open areas for public meetings, thereby denying the elemental right which flows from Article 19(1)(a) and (b).
  • In the case of Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors., the Supreme Court had stated, “Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest which can't be got rid of by an arbitrary executive or legislative action.”
  • It was in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India that Justice Bhagwati had said, “If democracy means the government of the people by the people, it's obvious that each citizen must be entitled to participate within the democratic process and so as to enable him to intelligently exercise his rights of constructing a choice, free & general discussion of public matters is totally essential.”


The Position in law

This all-encompassing ban on protests publically spaces except designated areas doesn’t just go against the court’s own judgments from the past, it also runs contrary to the law of nations. A UN Special Rapporteurs’ report on the correct freedom of peaceful assembly notes that while restrictions to the correctness of peaceful assembly will be made within the interest of national security or public order, these must be lawful, necessary and proportionate to the aim pursued. It also notes that these restrictions are to be the exception, not the norm, and, very importantly, that they “must not impair the essence of the proper. To this end, blanket bans, including bans on the exercise of the proper entirely or on any exercise of the proper in specific places or at particular times, are intrinsically disproportionate, because they preclude consideration of the particular circumstances of every proposed assembly. 

The right of peaceful protest is enshrined within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the world organisation in December 1948. In terms of law, the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression are recognized in various treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together, these rights constitute the correct to protest.

Mass protests increased annually by a median of 11.5 percent from 2009 to 2019 across all regions of the globe, with the most important concentration of activity within the Middle East and geographical region and also the fastest rate of growth in a geographic regions. Analysis of the underlying drivers of this growth suggests the trend will continue, meaning the quantity and intensity of worldwide protests is probably going to extend. Protests have resulted in an exceedingly broad range of outcomes, starting from regime change and political accommodation to protracted political violence with many casualties. Factors that might increase the speed of protest include- slowing global economic process

worsening effects of global climate change foreign meddling in internal politics via disinformation and other tactics Russia, China, and Iran are notably active in suppressing protest movements within their own borders. Three potential catalyzing factors, which could intensify the trend or make it more manageable, warrant particular attention: the employment of technology by protestors and governments alike, the strain between shifting democratic and authoritarian government types

the need for improved understanding and responsiveness between governments and their citizens.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in early 2020 appears to have temporarily interrupted the surge of protests from 2019 in the city and Iran, though protest movements from Canada to India continue.

Ethic line

Non-violent protests, also called direct action, are utilized by a number of our greatest historical leaders. Gandhi, theologian King Jr. and national leaders all lead their followers in peaceful protests including marches and sit-ins. However, over the past few years, there are several instances of protests for legitimate causes, which have changed into violent protests or riots.

The citizens’ right to protest may be a pillar of Indian democracy. While citizens are allowed to peacefully assemble, however, protests and demonstrations sometimes take a violent turn. folks that are prepared to use violent confrontation will be psychologically different from those that aren't. Those who are prepared to adopt violence are more likely to report feelings of contempt for political adversaries whom they hold to blame for wrongdoing. Debates in India are veering towards the damaging trend of an exercise in hypocrisy, diversion and counter accusations.

Impact on day-to-day functioning

The right of citizens to protest and gather peacefully without arms could be a fundamental aspect of India’s democracy. While it's also the right of the government to guard civilians from violent protests, certain essential principles have to be kept in mind. It must be questioned what quantity of it's in democratic character and what good one is serving the country, if the protests keeps the work days from going smoothly and disrupts existence.

Sometimes, protests also are a nuisance to people who don't share the identical opinion or simply want to travel ahead with their everyday routine. this example needs a nuanced response.

Protest is so important for democracy

Contributing to all or any spheres of life: Protests play a vital part within the civil, political, economic, social and cultural lifetime of all societies. Positive social change: Historically, protests have often inspired positive social change and therefore the advancement of human rights, and that they still help define and protect civic space altogether parts of the planet. Advancement of human rights: Protests encourage the event of an engaged and informed citizenry. Strengthening democracy: They strengthen representative democracy by enabling direct participation publically affairs. Making authorities accountable: they allow individuals and groups to specific dissent and grievances, to share views and opinions, to show flaws in governance and to publicly demand that the authorities and other powerful entities rectify problems and are in control of their actions. Essential for marginalized section: this is often especially important for those whose interests are otherwise poorly represented or marginalized.


The role of technology

Digital technologies offer new opportunities and challenges to protests and they are used both as an important medium for enabling protests to require a place and a platform for protest. Technological advancements have also significantly enhanced the power of governments to infringe and potentially violate human rights in protests.


In a democracy, the elemental right of every citizen is ‘sacrosanct’. However, the collective cannot undermine the identical. During protest, citizens should be cognisant that within the name of protest, “the lifetime of a civilized society can not be allowed to be paralyzed”.


1. What are the rights of protesters?
2. Do we need permission for protest?