Maratha Reservation: High Court says citizens have the right to peaceful protest

This development highlights the delicate balance that state authorities must strike between safeguarding public order and upholding the right to peaceful protest during the ongoing Maratha quota protests.

Maratha Reservation: High Court says citizens have the right to peaceful protest

In a significant development on Wednesday, the Bombay High Court conveyed its expectation that state authorities would effectively maintain law and order while simultaneously safeguarding public health and well-being during the ongoing Maratha quota protests. A report in the Latest Laws mentioned that this observation was made during a hearing on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition which sought specific directives from the Maharashtra government to address the escalating law and order issues stemming from the Maratha reservation agitation. The PIL also raised concerns about the unrest caused by the protest activities.

Emphasis on Peaceful Expression and Protesters' Measures

Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arun Pednekar, who presided over the case, underlined the importance of peaceful expressions of democratic aspirations. They stressed that democratic societies allow people to express their aspirations in various forms. However, they made it clear that these expressions should never evolve into disturbances within society. Advocate MS Deshmukh, representing one of the petitioners, pointed out that the protesters had resorted to strong measures over the past few weeks. This included organizing sit-ins and hunger strikes to push for their demands. Deshmukh highlighted a specific incident in the Antarwali Sarati village of Jalna district, where vehicles were set on fire, resulting in disruptions to public life.

Hunger Strike Continues

Notably, Manoj Jarange, a 40-year-old activist, remained steadfast in his hunger strike demanding reservations in jobs and education for the Maratha community under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. Despite government appeals to end his hunger strike, he persists in his cause. Meanwhile, Advocate General Birendra Saraf, representing the state authorities, assured the court that the administration was equally concerned about the situation. He detailed various measures that had been taken to prevent untoward incidents and maintain law and order.

Protecting the Right to Protest

The bench reiterated the importance of safeguarding the rights of individuals and groups to express their aspirations while emphasizing that such expressions must be peaceful. They stated unequivocally that no protest or agitation, regardless of the cause, should lead to a breach of law and order. The bench reminded all that every individual or group has a fundamental right to protest, but it must be conducted peacefully. If there is any breach of this peace, it is the State's duty to prevent such breaches.

Confidence in State Authorities

In response to Advocate Saraf's statements, the bench expressed confidence in the state authorities. They concluded by saying, "We have no reason to believe that the State authorities shall not take appropriate action which may be warranted under law, not only to maintain peace, tranquillity, and law and order but also to take care of the health and well-being of all."

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