After having a read of the gist of the new act, which had it’s first reading in Parliament today, I get the strangest feeling that the act was designed in haste. It is narrow in its scope and this may actually bite the government in its ass later.
However, what disturbs me the most is the nature of the act, which seems to pit the police against the organisers and the participants of any peaceful assembly as defined under the act. It also gives sweeping powers to the Home Minister in many matters.
Another thing that disturbs me is that there is no mention at all on the provision of other public service personnel such as the requirements to provide ambulances, or other emergency services during the rally.
The one thing that I find really funny is the singling out of street protests in the act. There is also a whole list of other areas where peaceful assemblies cannot be conducted at all. The act seems to place unnecessary restrictions on movement of the people.
According to Aziz Bari, this new act is essentially unconstitutional in so many ways. I cannot but agree with the expert on this.
I think that the act needs further improvement. I hope that it actually goes through the committee stage and gets amended so that people get a fair and just act. We need to remind the police that they are to serve the public, which means protecting both the general public and the assembling public.
Protests are an integral part of democracy.