Right to Protest in India: Constitutional & Legal Provisions

Published: December 17, 2019

The right to protest peacefully is guaranteed by the Constitution and lies at the heart of the democracy. Articles 19 (1)(a) and 19 (1)(b) provide citizens with the right to freedom of speech and expression and to assemble peacefully.

However, under Articles 19(2) and 19(3) places reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech wherein the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India are involved.

As per Law
The legal provisions are covered by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Indian Penal Code, 1860 and The Police act, 1861.
The CrPC sections 129-132 deal with dispersal of assembly by the use of civil force in situations of civil unrest.
Section 130 of the CrPC deals with the use of armed forces to disperse assembly and do little injury to person and property.
IPC section 141 to 158 deal with unlawful assembly and liabilities & punishments related to this offence.

As per Courts
The Punjab and Haryana court in a 1979 judgement provided for the use of force, in case three pre-requisites are satisfied.
Firstly, there should unlawful assembly with the aim of committing violence or an assembly of persons likely to cause disturbance of peace.
Second, the assembly is ordered to be disburse and Third, despite of such orders, the assembly does not disburse.

As per UN
The UN adopted the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials in 1990 to resolve that law enforcement officials while carrying out their duty shall apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Force or firearms may be used in case other means remain ineffective for achieving the desired result.
It also mentions that the government needs to ensure the abusive use of force and firearms by law officials is punished as a criminal offence.

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