The Supreme Court on Monday said there cannot be a “complete ban” on holding protests and sit-ins at places like Jantar Mantar and Boat Club in New Delhi and asked the Centre to frame guidelines for according sanctions to such events.
A bench comprising justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said there was a need to strike a balance between conflicting rights such as the right to protest and the right of citizens to live peacefully.
“There cannot be a complete ban on holding protests at places like Jantar Mantar and Boat Club (near India Gate),” the bench said, while directing the Centre to frame guidelines on the matter.
The verdict came on a batch of petitions, including one filed by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, challenging the decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to ban all kinds of protests at the said places.
The NGT had, on October 5 last year, banned all protests and dharnas around the historic Jantar Mantar in Delhi, which has been a hotspot of many agitations over the past decades, saying such activities violated environmental laws.
The green panel had said 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.
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.
The tribunal had directed the authorities to shift the protesters to an alternative site at the Ramleela Grounds in Ajmeri Gate “forthwith”.
“The environmental condition at Jantar Mantar Road in relation to noise pollution, cleanliness, management of waste and public health has grossly deteriorated. Besides, constant dharna, slogans, noise pollution, health problems due to unhygienic conditions generated by the agitators round-the-clock is unique in the instant case,” the NGT had said.
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.
The NGT verdict had come on a plea moved by one Varun Seth and others, alleging 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.