Thursday, May 30, 2024

SC approves of protest but not the ‘manner’ of it; ‘Centre & farmers have to talk’

The Supreme Court today asserted that the Centre and farmers have to talk. It reiterated its plan to constitute an independent and impartial committee and also wondered if the Centre could the new farm laws on hold.

“A protest is constitutional till it does not destroy property or endanger life. Centre and farmers have to talk. We are thinking of an impartial and independent committee before whom both parties can give its side of story,” said Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde.

The three-member bench was hearing a clutch of petitions seeking removal of farmers protesting at the borders of Delhi.

CJI Bobde said it would order for serving of notices to protesting farmer unions and give them liberty to approach the vacation bench.

The apex court said protest could only serve the purpose if talks are held and “we wish to facilitate that.”

“We will not decide the validity of law today. The only thing which we will decide is the issue of protest and the right to move freely,” the bench observed at the very beginning of the hearing.

The bench, also comprising of Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said farmers cannot instigate violence and block a city. The court said it would ask Centre if the protest’s manner could be altered so it doesn’t affect the citizens’ right of movement.

“Farmers have right to protest. We won’t interfere with it but the manner of protest is something we will look into. We will ask Centre what is the manner of protest going on, to slightly alter it so that it doesn’t affect the citizens’ right of movement,” the Supreme Court said.

Appearing for the government, Attorney General KK Venugopal said, “None of them (farmers) wear a face mask, they sit together in large numbers. Covid-19 is a concern, they will visit villages and spread it there. Farmers cannot violate the fundamental rights of others.”

“Blocking Delhi may lead to people in the city going hungry. Your (farmers) purpose can be fulfilled by talking. Just sitting in protest won’t help,” CJI said, adding all the court wanted was to facilitate a dialogue between the government and farmers.

Appearing for the Punjab government, senior advocate and Congress leader P Chidambaram said the farmers only wanted to come to the national capital and were not blocking the city borders.

The CJI replied the court cannot predict which mob can become violent and it was the police’s job. “We cannot jeopardize someone’s life or property,” the CJI said. 

The ongoing farmers’ protests is in its fourth week.

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