ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday observed that the state should protect the rights of protesters and the rights of those who do not want to protest.
The court asked the local administration to take a decision on Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s request for holding the ‘Azadi March’ in the capital in accordance with the law.
The court, disposing of petitions against the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) protest, observed that peaceful citizens could not be deprived of their right to protest, but that the state may in certain circumstances restrain a person from exercising this right.
"The state only in extraordinary and exceptional circumstances can restrain a person from exercising his or her right to protest on the ground of national security," the court observed in its order.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah told one of the applicants’ lawyers that holding a protest was the basic right of every citizen and that no court in the world could deny this right to any citizen.
The chief justice recalled that earlier in 2014, when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was not being granted permission to hold a protest in the capital, the same court had allowed the party to exercise this right.
The court observed that it was the state’s responsibility to ensure the rights of all citizens. In its four-page order, the IHC said holding peaceful, unarmed protest was a constitutional right and that protesters must notviolate the rights of other citizens. It said no court can deny the right of peaceful protest.
It said some conditions and restrictions could be imposed in order to regulate the peaceful protesters. The administration "may impose restrictions regarding route or venue or impose any other condition having regard to maintaining public order and protecting the rights of other citizens," the court wrote in its judgment. It added that the organisers and participants of the protest had the obligation to remain peaceful, unarmed, and to comply with the law.
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