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Protesting is a Fundamental Right: United Nations

Fundamental Right

In the midst of Global protests demanding political rights and racial justice, a United Nations committee has emphasized that the right to peaceful protest, whether in person or online, remains a fundamental human right.

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What is the news?

A group of independent human rights experts has recently issued a new perspective on the right to peaceful assembly. This committee’s role is to oversee how nations put into practice the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), particularly focusing on Article 21, which ensures the right to peaceful gatherings.


  1. The ICCPR, or International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is an important international treaty. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and it officially came into effect on March 23, 1976.
  2. This covenant is all about ensuring that countries that are part of it respect the basic rights of individuals. These rights include the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to vote, and the right to a fair and just legal process.
  3. As of September 2019, a total of 173 countries are party to this covenant, and six more have signed it but haven’t yet fully ratified it.
  4. The ICCPR is one of three key documents that make up the International Bill of Human Rights. The other two are the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
  5. To make sure that countries are following the ICCPR, there is a UN committee called the UN Human Rights Committee. It’s separate from the UN Human Rights Council and plays a vital role in overseeing how well countries are upholding these important human rights.

SC view on Right to Protest: The Supreme Court has deemed the ongoing occupation of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protestors as unacceptable.

Right to Protest

  1. The right to protest is a vital expression of our freedoms: It encompasses the rights to gather, associate, and speak freely.
  2. India’s Constitution, in Article 19, safeguards these crucial individual liberties.
  3. Peaceful protest finds its place in Article 19(1)(a), ensuring freedom of speech and expression.
  4. Article 19(1)(b) assures citizens the right to assemble peacefully, without carrying weapons.
  5. However, it’s important to note that Article 19(2) places reasonable restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly.

What did the Court say?

The court recognized that the protest at Shaheen Bagh, a powerful display of dissent involving mothers, children, and senior citizens against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, posed challenges for commuters. While the judgment upheld the right to peaceful protest, it emphasized that public spaces and roadways could not be occupied indefinitely. In a democracy, dissent and peaceful demonstrations go hand in hand, but they should occur in designated areas. This particular case not only involved a protest in an undesignated location but also blocked a public road, causing significant inconvenience to commuters.

Reasonable Restrictions do exist in practice

Fundamental rights aren’t standalone; they must harmoniously coexist. The right of protesters should be weighed against the right of commuters, both deserving mutual respect. The court ruled that it’s solely the administration’s duty to prevent any encroachments in public areas.

Read Also: Secularism in India: Freedom, Equality

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