Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of V. Kameswar Rao, J. decided a contempt petition filed by Jawaharlal Nehru University seeking action against the respondent Students Union for disobeying Court’s order dated 9-8-2017 whereby Court directed restriction on any protest within 100 meters of the Administrative building.
According to the facts alleged by the University, the respondents disobeyed the said order of the Court and staged protests against compulsory attendance rule inside the Administrative building. They formed human chains, marched throughout the prohibited area, went all the way to VC’s residence, vandalised the area, held University officials under wrongful confinement, etc. The respondents submitted that the contempt petition was vindictive and vexatious. Further, that they believed in rule of law as a part of the basic structure; that they have a right to peaceful protest; that dissent in dialogue and peaceful demonstration were part of the expression of free speech.
The High Court held that the order mentioned hereinabove stood against the respondents till such time as it was set aside or varied, which wasn’t a case here. The Court observed it as a settled position of law that fundamental right under Article 19(1) does not enable any citizen to exercise the same in a manner which may encroach upon a similar right guaranteed to another citizen. Further, the respondents had a fundamental right of peaceful protest but with certain responsibilities towards fellow students/staff/visitors, etc. The Court observed that the respondents did not express any regret for violating the order. It was not a case of non-compliance by mistake, inadvertence or misunderstanding. In such circumstances, the Court held the respondents guilty of contempt and fined each respondent with Rs 2000. [Jawaharlal Nehru University v. Geeta Kumari, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9601, decided on 03-07-2018]