ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Right to Protest

Landmark Decision on Limits to State Action

Flagrant violations by the state of the right to free speech and expression in India tend to be met with silence or half-hearted protests. However, in 2016, the Supreme Court sent a clear message that any irresponsible exercise of the state’s power to restrict protestors’ right to free speech and expression willattract legal consequences and not just censure. This decision is likely to be a landmark in constitutional actions against the state in the context of the right to protest and corresponding limits on state action.

Flagrant violations or restrictions on free speech and expression under the Indian Constitution are confronted with either silence or half-hearted protests. However, a recent decision of the Supreme Court has underlined the importance of these rights, with a clear message to the state that while free speech and expression are to be exercised within reasonable restrictions, the restrictions imposed must indeed be reasonable and enforced responsibly.

The practice of constitutionalisation of tort wrongs under public law, and the consequent grant of compensation without any applicability of sovereign immunity exceptions, began with the cases of Khatri v State of Bihar (1981), Rudul Shah v State of Bihar (1983), and Bhim Singh v State of J&K (1986), and crystallised in Nilabati Behera v State of Orissa (1993). The practice has pertinently, and inevitably, become applicable to cases of violations of freedom of speech and expression. In a decision delivered on 12 August 2016 in Anita Thakur and Ors v Government of J&K and Ors (2007), the Supreme Court granted compensation to the victims of disproportionate police (state) action in quelling an unlawful assembly, for violation of the fundamental right to speech and expression under Article 19 of the Constitution.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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