A Delhi judge, while granting bail to Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad, quoted from Rabindranath Tagore's ''Where the Mind is Without Fear'' and said citizens have a fundamental right to peaceful protests which cannot be curtailed by the state. Azad has been ordered to stay out of Delhi for four weeks and warned against holding any protest in the capital.
Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau said the constitution guarantees the right to protest peacefully.
The Bhim Army chief was arrested on December 21, a day after he protested at Jama Masjid in the old quarters of Delhi. He was charged with arson, rioting and inciting violence.
"I am reminded of our reverend patriotic poet Rabindranath Tagore who is most relevant today. When the British followed the policy of divide and rule, Tagore visualised a nation where there is no fear in the minds people and education is attained by all," Judge Kamini Lau said.
Rabindranath Tagore wanted his countrymen to be honest and thoughtful. "In our democratic set-up, we have a fundamental right to peaceful protest guaranteed by the Constitution, which cannot be curtailed by the state," said the judge.
"However, at the same time, our constitution strikes a fine balance between the rights and duties. While exercising our right of peaceful protest, it is our duty to ensure that no corresponding right of another is violated and no inconvenience was caused to anyone," she asserted.
"There is no evidence that Azad indulged in violence or inflammatory speech. The only thing he read was the preamble to the constitution, which is a sacred document."
On Tuesday, the judge had rebuked the police for failing to produce evidence of its charges against Chandrashekhar Azad. She was furious when the prosecutor referred to Azad's social media posts to argue that he had incited violence and read out the Bhim Army chief's tweet about going to a dharna in Jama Masjid. "You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan. Even if it was Pakistan, you can go there and protest. Pakistan was a part of undivided India," said the judge.