The growing number of demonstrations regarding violence against peaceful
protestor has resulted in rapid rise in number of human right violation all
around the world. Every individual possesses, by the virtue of the constitution
of its nation, certain basic Human Rights which touches every corner of civil,
political, fundamental, social, economic, and cultural aspect as well.
Violation of these rights paves the way to disrupted democracy and turns its
ways towards absolutism and oppression. The situation gets even worse when the
very authority, made to protect these rights, backs the magnification of
There exist uncountable incidents in contemporary time which specifically shows
this rise of violence in context of protestors, and to be more precise,
regarding 'peaceful protestors.'
Right To Peaceful Protest:
Peaceful protest is synonymic to non-violent resistance or non-violent actions
done in pursuance of expressing disapproval over things. Even though the
protests generally leads to degradation of country's laws, economy and
government authority but on the contrary Right to peaceful protest has been
recognized as an integral part of an individual's right to expression,
domestically as well as internationally. It has also been reaffirmed by the UN
committee that peacefully protesting, either online or in person, is
a fundamental human right and the same has been believed by the domestic laws of
India by the way of including Right to peaceful protest as being implied under
Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
Police Brutality can be defined as the actions of police authority which leads
to violation of human rights of people. It may include, beatings, racial abuse,
unlawful killing, and indiscriminate use of riot control agents at protests.
Importance Of Peaceful Protests:
Peaceful protests facilitate the protection of other human and fundamental
rights of people, by continuously promoting and representing the progressive
interpretation of national as well as international human rights standards such
as in Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), etc.
Protests play a vital role in introduction of new freedoms in liberal democracy
as this direct non-violent step has resulted in abolition of many anti human or
degrading practices such as slavery, exploitation, labor atrocities, etc.
Remembering the history of Indian freedom movement, peaceful protest was
recognized as the most efficient and justified tool for showing disagreement.
India, being the second largest nation with a huge democratic system has
rendered the freedom of opinion and expressions to its citizens under Article 19
of the Indian constitution.
Article 19(1)(a)(b) and (c) provides the citizens with right to freedom of
expression, right to peaceful assembly without weapon and right to join
association, and these rights impliedly comprises within their ambit, the right
to peaceful protest. Therefore, it is a fundamental right which cannot be
removed from arbitrary or legislative execution.
Even though there exist a wide range of human rights provided to people in
India, the system does not seem to be ready to protect them yet and this can be
justified by the incidents of increasing violence in peaceful protests by
police. Such actions might be in furtherance of some political agenda or for
manipulating the purpose of protest or even for representing the non-existing
gloom ridden side of it. Such needless hot-tempered actions of authorities have
violated the existing rights of people.
Some of the major instances of unnecessary police violence in peaceful protests
can be traced back to the time of emergency when once it was seen that
satyagrahis were taken into police custody without having any case registered
against them. The illegal confinement was backed by physical brutal torture by
the police officials.
Another famous example can be of Anti-corruption Movement started at Ramlila
Maidan where, on 5 June 2011, around 10,000 Delhi police officials raided the
ground at mid night and forced out all the protestors along with Baba Ramdev who
were sleeping at the time when the officials released the tear gas, lathicharge
and threw water on generators to make the ground completely dark.
The incidents resulted out of the Citizenship Amendment Bill are the most recent
examples of how the police officials over-exercised their powers by not just
using violence on the protestors outside but also by physically trashing the
students of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Milia Islamia in their hostel
rooms which was completely unnecessary because releasing tear gas, stun grenade,
etc. in premises affected the protesting as well as non-protesting students. It
was also contended that the police officials not only physically harmed them but
also used communal slurs.
The extra-violent actions of police act in derogation of principle of Salus
populi suprema lex esto (Safety of public is he supreme law), and it continues
to breach many human rights of people.
The International laws have been structured precisely for making its base strong
in order to protect and promote the Human Rights all around the world. Their
exist number of international declarations, conventions, treaties, etc. which
are formulated for protecting the human rights but the increasing violence of
police authorities has resulted in violation of all these principles leading to
alienation of individual from their basic rights.
The UN Human Rights Commission ha interpreted the meaning and scope of peaceful
protest in its report as, peaceful protest can be done virtually as well as in
form of physical gatherings. It recognized Article 21 of ICCPR which provides
with Right to assemble peacefully to provide base to right to peacefully protest
and also recommended the authorities to avoid the unnecessary force on such
protestors as it will be an inappropriate step taken by authorities because as
per the UNHRC protestors may include children, women, migrants, foreign
nationals, and asylum seekers.
Following are the principles of International law which are violated by police
brutality on peaceful protestors:
- Right to life:
Article 3 of UDHR and Article 9 of ICCPR provide for right to
life, liberty and security in person to all, and generally the protection of
this right is relied upon the police. But ironically, this right of peaceful
protestors gets violated by the right protectors.
- Torture and Inhumane behavior:
Article 6 of UDHR and Article 7 of ICCPR gets
violated when the police authority use unnecessary extreme measures against
- Freedom of expression and opinion:
Article 19 of UDHR and ICCPR provides freedom
of expression and opinion to all individuals which impliedly contains the right
to peacefully expressing their disagreement over government policies or other
- Right to assemble peacefully and form association:
This right is enshrined under
Article 20 of UDHR and Article 21 of ICCPR, which gets violated when the
peaceful gatherings become subject to harsh actions of authorities.
- Right to criticize:
UDHR in general sense and ICCPR in specification, deals with
the political rights of people which are fundamental to all. The political
rights also include right to criticise by peaceful means.
After considering the spike in cases of police brutality, it was urged by the UN
from the governments not to needlessly squander the trust of their people, to
refrain from unwarranted violence, coercion and divisiveness, and to prioritize
and promote dialogue and tolerance.
Policing The Protests:
Seminar on effective measures and best practices to ensure the promotion and
protection of Human Rights in context of Peaceful Protests was held on 2
December 2013 which expressly dealt with the question of managing the Peaceful
As everyone is allowed to participate in lawful and peaceful assemblies, it
should be done in accordance with principles of UDHR and ICCPR and there may be
certain ways of policing the peaceful protests other then violation of human
rights and causing physical harm to people.
Following points were suggested in the seminar for management of these protests:
- The government, law enforcing bodies and police officials shall not
unnecessarily opt for violent measures.
- Where the protest is unlawful but non-violent, the force should be restricted to
the minimal amount.
- It was highlighted that, while securing the Right to life is necessary at
protests, other Human Rights such as, right to dignity, has retained their
importance as well and therefore, these adds reasons for holding back the
- The management of these assemblies should remain within the framework of Human
- No action of police authorities should result in arbitrary deprivation of right
to life, arbitrary detention, torture or inhumane behaviour, etc.
- Other peaceful methods are to be preferred over violent control, such s having
good faith dialogue with protestors.
- Guidelines are required to be upgraded and abide by the police authorities in
context of using substances such as tear gases which, in instances, causes death
Right to peaceful protest has been an implied portion of the Human Rights or
Fundamental Right or Basic Right of an individual. Neither domestic law nor
International law provides the authorities with power to snatch away the human
rights without any reasonable cause and the same applies in context of Right to
There have been many instances where the police authorities have over acted to
their powers and misused their authority by using the most violent procedures
even in case of a non-violent protest which has resulted in violation of not
just national but also international human right principles. There arises a need
to control the actions of law protectors as they sometimes in exercise of their
powers acts ironically to be law abusers.
- Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- Constitution of India
- United Nations News
- Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident vs. Home Secretory and Ors, (2012) 5 SCC, 2012
AIR SCW 3660
- Kartar Singh vs. State of Punjab, (1994) 3 SCC 569.
- Supra note 2.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Sakshi Rajawat
Authentication No: AR210122292169-11-0422