National Green Tribunal: While directing the respondents to immediately stop all the activities of dharna, protest, agitations, assembling of people, public speeches, using of loud speakers, etc. at Jantar Mantar road, NGT placed special emphasis on the adverse health affects from protests, especially on account of aggressive noise pollution.
NGT reiterated that the right to free speech and expression under Article 19 cannot encroach upon fundamental rights under Article 21,
“While one has a right to speech, others have a right to listen or decline to listen. If anyone increases his volume of speech and that too with the assistance of artificial devices so as to compulsorily expose unwilling persons to hear a noise raised to unpleasant or obnoxious levels then such person is violating the right of others to a peaceful, comfortable and pollution-free life. Article 19 cannot be pressed into service for defeating the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21.”
The directions were passed by Judicial Member Justice RS Rathore with the assistance of Expert Member Dr. Satyawan Singh Garbyal.
Jantar Mantar had become a symbolic protest battle ground, although the place for such activities has already been earmarked at Ram Leela Miadan for creating a peaceful environment for the residents on the Jantra Mantar stretch. NGT noted there were specific executive/judicial orders for the use of an alternate site for such protests i.e. the Ram Leela Maidan. Whereas earlier, protests used to be held at the Ram Leela Maidan, gradually they began to shift to the Boat Club lawns near India Gate. An administrative order was also passed by the Delhi Police to shift venue to Jantar Mantar Road. This was deemed to be improper by the NGT.
NGT noted, “the place for such activities has already been earmarked at Ram Leela Maidan, for gathering of more than five thousand people. This would strike a balance between the rights of the people in respect of their freedom of speech and expression and that of all the residents of the Jantar Mantar road to live a peaceful, comfortable and pollution free life at their residences.”
NGT thus proceeded by giving the following directions to stop the protests related activities on the Jantar Mantar road:
1. Government of Delhi, NDMC and Police Commissioner, Delhi were asked immediately to stop all activities related to protests, agitations, assembling of people, etc, at Jantar Mantar road.
2. All the temporary structures, loud speaker were asked to be removed from the stretch of Jantar Mantar road.
3. NDMC was also asked to immediately remove the garbage lying on the same stretch of Jantar Mantar road.
4. All the protestors, agitators holding dharnas to be shifted to an alternative site at Ram leela Maidan, Ajmeri gate, forthwith.
5.All the above directions to be complied within a period of four weeks by subsequently filing respective compliance report before the Tribunal. [Varun Seth v. Police Commissioner, Delhi Police; 2017 SCC OnLine NGT 65, order dated 05.10.2017]