Apex Court’s latest legal limits for Protesters and Security forces

New Delhi: The Supreme court of India recently defined the limits beyond which people’s right to protest can be illegal and also the restrictions that can be exercised by the police to maintain law and order.

A Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and RK Agrawal said

The people had a fundamental right to hold only “peaceful protests”, not unruly demonstrations threatening public order and national sovereignty and integrity.

The bench also defined that the police and other security forces could use force only when it was absolutely necessary and they should stop the moment the situation came under control.

“It becomes a more serious problem when taking recourse to such an action, the police indulge in excesses and crosses the limit by using excessive force, thereby becoming barbaric or by not halting even after controlling the situation and by continuing its tirade,” the apex court said.

These clarifications were given out by the bench in a judgement on a PIL by Jammu and Kashmir migrants. The migrants were agitating back in 2007 and the course had turned violent. The police had allegedly committed excesses while dealing with protesters.

“Recent happenings show an unfortunate trend where such demonstrations and protests are on increase. There are all kinds of protests: On social issues, on political issues and on demands of various sections of the society of varied kinds.

It is also becoming a common ground that religious, ethnic, regional language, caste and class divisions are frequently exploited to foment violence whenever mass demonstrations or dharnas take place…In Kashmir itself there have been numerous instances where separatist groups have provoked violence,” the Bench noted.

“To deal with these situations, there was need for providing special training to policemen as events often took an ugly turn and went out of control because the security personnel did not know how to defuse such crises,” the apex court said.

Putting in force the aforementioned principals, the bench awarded a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to Anita Thakur, the main PIL petitioner and general secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party, and Rs 1 lakh each to the party’s secretary and a journalist. The trio were the victims of human rights violations committed by the police while dealing with the protest by migrants.

The Bench rejected the state government’s contention that its policemen enjoyed protection under the “doctrine of sovereign immunity”. Such benefit did not apply to cases involving violation of fundamental rights, it said in the August 12 judgment.

The Jammu migrants were taking out a march from Jammu to Delhi to demand benefits on a par with their counterparts from the Valley when the police stopped them near Katra town.

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