Proportionality Doctrine: Balancing Rights

  Sep 01, 2023

Doctrine of Proportionality: Rights Can Only be Restricted Reasonably

Understanding Proportionality with Examples

Proportionality ensures that restrictions on fundamental rights are balanced, only going as far as necessary. Let's break this down with a few scenarios:

1. Freedom of Speech:

Let's say someone shouts "fire!" in a crowded place, causing panic. To prevent harm, the government might restrict such false alarms. But if the government bans discussing fire safety altogether, that's going too far. The rule should match the risk.

2. Right to Assembly:

Imagine there's a protest planned. If there's intelligence suggesting potential violence, the government might set certain rules. But, if they ban all protests without a valid reason, they're being disproportional.

3. Right to Privacy:

Suppose the government is trying to prevent a terrorist attack. They might surveil certain suspects, but if they start spying on everyone in the city, that's excessive.

4. Freedom of Religion:

Consider a ritual that might spread a dangerous disease. It's okay for the government to restrict that specific ritual temporarily. But, banning the entire religion's practice? That's not proportional.

5. Data Collection:

Think about a government program that requires some personal data to ensure security. If they ask for your name and ID, that might be fine. But if they want details about every aspect of your life without a good reason, they've overstepped.

6. Freedom of Movement:

During health crises, like a pandemic, movement restrictions can be necessary. If the government restricts travel to high-risk areas, that makes sense. But if they lock down an entire city without justification, it's likely disproportionate.
In all these cases, the aim is the same: restrictions should be "just right." They should be enough to solve the problem without unnecessarily infringing on rights. Think of it as a balancing act between individual freedoms and societal safety.


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