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October 23, 2019

Holding protest every citizen’s right: LHC


October 23, 2019

LAHORE:The Lahore High Court Tuesday observed that holding protest is the fundamental right of every citizen and it could not be curbed through judicial orders.

Justice Ameer Bhatti was hearing a petition against establishment of private force by JUI-F’s chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his announced “Azadi March”.

The court observed that political protests and sit-ins were part of a democratic system and such activities could not be contained through judicial orders. Justice Bhatti said that political parties were supposed to hold protests and it was the government’s job to deal with such activities as per law.

The judge asked the petitioner’s counsel under what law the court could order the government to stop people from participating in the protest or sit-in in question.

Advocate Nadeem Sarwar, the counsel, argued that the protest announced by the JUI-F aimed at ousting the elected government, which he said was an unconstitutional act. “The governments are not ousted through long march or political sloganeering,” Justice Bhatti observed referring to months long protests held in past. “Whether courts restrained any sit-in in past,” the judge asked the lawyer and reminded him that the court will not pass any order that was impractical.

Deputy Attorney General Israr Elahi opposed the petition and said the government would deal the protestors as per the law. The judge observed that the petitioner approached the court on mere apprehensions. The judge adjourned hearing for October 29 and directed the law officer to come up with instructions from the government.

The petition moved by a citizen submitted that no private organisation was allowed functioning as a military organisation as it was an offence under Private Military Organisations (Abolition and Prohibition) Act, 1974.

It said Fazlur Rehman was using innocent children of seminaries for political motives against the government. It said the respondent party had also been spreading hatred against a democratically elected government through his provocative speeches, which could cause chaos in the country.

The petition pleaded that the sit-in announced by the respondent was also a violation of fundamental rights of the citizens, including right to representation, right to life and right to free movement.

It asked the court to declare that creation of a private army was unconstitutional and direct the federal government to take stern action under the law against the respondent party and its chief. It urged the court to enforce right to political justice and restrain the respondent from holding the march and sit-in at Islamabad as being unconstitutional, undemocratic and bar him from using students. It sought a direction for the government to initiate process for legislation to regulate sit-in and protests.

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