Natasha Narwal case: Delhi HC questions on misuse of UAPA, ‘difference between right to protest and terrorism’

The Delhi High Court, while delivering the verdict in the Natasha case, said that demonstrations against government and parliamentary proceedings are valid. However, expect such protests to be peaceful and non-violent.

The state has blurred the line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activities. If such blurring increases, then democracy is in danger. Drawing the line of democracy on the line between the right of the public to protest and terrorist activity, the Delhi High Court made this remark while granting bail to three accused, including Natasha Narwal, a member of the Pinjra Tod group.

Activist Natasha Narwal was arrested last year as an accused in the Delhi violence case. He was accused of plotting the Delhi violence. The strict anti-terror law UAPA was imposed on 3 accused including Natasha Narwal. But now the Delhi High Court, while granting bail to Natasha, also made strong comments on UAPA and said, ‘We believe that the possibility of shaking the foundation of our nation by mere protest is negligible.’

Aaj Tak spoke to senior advocate Dushyant Dave on these comments of the court. Talking to Aaj Tak, he said, ‘The fundamental rule of democracy is that it is a birthright to protest, if the government or police bring pressure on that right, then it is not good for democracy. This is a good decision, which the judge has written, should be appreciated.

Cage break activist Natasha Narwal’s father dies of Kovid, herself in jail At the end of the bail period, Natasha went to jail again, now in the High Court when Delhi Police was opposing the grant of bail to the three accused including Natasha. Then commenting on the imposition of UAPA sections, the court said, “Protests against government and parliamentary proceedings are valid. However, expect such protests to be peaceful and non-violent. When there is widespread opposition to government or parliamentary work, it is not uncommon to make provocative speeches, organize riots and the like.

Senior advocate Geeta Luthra said in a conversation with Aaj Tak, ‘The court has rightly said, these laws suppress the human rights of the citizen. There are constant comments coming from the court on first imposing sedition sections on those who raised their voice against the government and now on imposing sections of law related to terrorism. The question is whether the police will understand the intention of the court or will the sections of the law continue to be used from the point of view of politics?

SC’s remarks 6 decades ago When the right of citizens to protest was presented in the court as sedition in different cases, the courts have made strong comments in the past as well. 59 years ago, the Supreme Court had said that speeches would be charged with sedition only if they caused any violence, discontent or social dissatisfaction.

The Supreme Court had also said six decades ago that shouting slogans only once or twice cannot be seen as spreading hatred or discontent against the government. In March this year, Delhi’s Patiala House Court had also said that citizens in a democratic country cannot be sent to jail just because they disagree with any policy of the government.

In March itself, this Delhi court, while commenting in a case, said that the case of sedition cannot be imposed only to plaster the broken pride of the government.

In the first week of this month, a bench of Supreme Court Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran had said that a citizen has the right to criticize or comment on the measures taken by the government and its office bearers. If it is necessary that there should not be politics on the constitutional right of the citizens to protest, then it is also necessary that no government should mix protest against the Constitution and the right to freedom of expression.

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