Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, National Security, Political Expression
The Case of 94 Government Critics (U.A.E.)
United Arab Emirates
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The High Court of Calcutta allowed the petitioners to hold a sit-in demonstration at a venue outside the Central Park, Kolkata, after directing them to restrict themselves to within the parameters set up by the Covid-19 protocols. The petitioners had filed a writ petition in the Court after their application to hold a sit-in demonstration was refused by the state authorities on “flimsy and inadequate grounds”. The judges held that the petitioners’ fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression and to assemble peacefully could not be curtailed by the State and that a balance had to be struck between their rights and public order.
The petitioners’ application dated December 24, 2020 seeking permission to hold a sit-in demonstration in front of the Bikash Bhavan at Salt Lake or in the adjacent area, was refused by the respondent authorities on “flimsy and inadequate grounds”.
The case was presided over by Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of Calcutta High Court. The central issue for consideration was whether the rejection of petitioners’ application to hold a sit-in demonstration at Salt Lake, was in contravention of the Indian Constitution.
The petitioners contended that the refusal of their application on flimsy and inadequate grounds violated their fundamental rights as enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution of India. At this point, the respondent authorities submitted that the sit-in demonstration could be permitted only if it was held at an alternate area to the one sought and for a limited period only, in order to obviate difficulties ensuing from an indefinite permission. It was further suggested by the respondent authorities that if the demonstration was held for a reasonably limited number of days, maintaining all the Covid-19 protocols which were in place, then such permission could be given for the area lying 50 meters away from the gate of the Central Park.
After considering arguments of both the parties, the judge observed that the petitioners’ fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression and to assemble peacefully could not be curtailed by the State and that concurrently, a balance had to be struck between the rights of the petitioners and public order as well as security, in view of the stipulations in Article 19(6) of the Constitution of India. While noting the same, the judge granted permission to the petitioners to hold a sit-in demonstration at a venue outside the Central Park, at a distance of 50 meters away from the gate of the Central Park. The judge further directed the petitioners to restrict themselves to within the parameters set up by the Covid-19 protocols as well as all pollution control norms.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The judge expanded expression by permitting the petitioners to hold a sit-in demonstration which was previously rejected by the government authorities on flimsy and inadequate grounds.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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