Madras HC: Right to Peaceful Protest is a Vital Democratic Feature

LI Network

Published on: November 29, 2023 at 13:22 IST

The Madras High Court emphasized the significance of the right to peaceful protest without arms, asserting that it is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution and is an integral aspect of a democratic country like India.

The court further stated that the right to protest is an inherent part of free speech and an intrinsic facet of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Justice L Victoria Gowri underscored that attempts to arbitrarily curb legitimate dissent, thereby undermining democratic values guaranteed by the Constitution, must be dealt with firmly.

The court specifically highlighted Article 19(1)(b), which confers the right to assemble and protest peacefully without arms, considering it a significant feature of a democratic nation.

The ruling addressed the suspension of teachers and the issuance of charge memos under Rule 17(b) of the Tamil Nadu Civil Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, asserting that restricting space for legitimate dissent goes against democratic values.

In the case at hand, the court dealt with pleas challenging charge memos issued by the District Educational Officer under Section 17(b). The charge memos alleged that teachers, as members of the Teachers Federation, engaged in waiting agitation, causing disturbance and misconduct.

The petitioners argued that the charge memos were issued without due consideration, and their actions were protected under the constitutional right to protest.

The court found that the charge memos were issued without adhering to guidelines and observed that the peaceful demonstrations by the petitioners against the alleged arbitrary exercise of power were a fundamental right.

The court quashed the proceedings against the teachers, stating that the allegations lacked proper scrutiny and were not covered by the state government’s guidelines.

Case Title: J Jayaraj and Others v The Chief Educational Officer

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