Farm Laws: SC not to intervene into farmers protest

Right to protest is part of fundamental right: SC declines to intervene into farmers protest

Farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment, the top court said

A farmer plays an instrument at 'Khap Panchayat' during a protest against the new farm laws, at Delhi-UP border near Ghazipur in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Credit: PTI Photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to intervene into the farmers protest here against the three recently passed agricultural laws but emphasised that they must hold talks to resolve the issues, arising out blockade of Delhi roads, and to serve their purpose.

"We clarify that this court will not interfere with the protest in question. Indeed the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order," a bench presided over by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.

Read: Supreme Court 'sympathetic' to cause but wants farmers to hold talks

In a written order passed on a batch of petitions against on-going protest for affecting people's right to movement and essential supplies, the bench said, "We are of the view at this stage that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police."

During hearing the court, however, orally asked Attorney General K K Venugopal if the Union government can say no executive action will be taken under the three laws to facilitate the negotiations.

Venugopal sought time to take instructions, though initially expressing difficulty.

He maintained the farmers unions cannot say either repeal or will continue their protests indefinitely.

"The damage caused by 22 days of blockade is enormous. People are not able to go for jobs. Ambulances are not permitted to move. Also there is risk of Corona virus. When protesters go back to their villages, they will spread coronavirus like wildfire," he said.

Venugopal also complained that the farmers unions said they have come prepared for six months. "This kind of blockades cannot be permitted. This happens only during a war where you cut off supply etc and block borders," he said.

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Earlier, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for a petitioner, suggested that the court may pass an order directing the authorities and police to ensure that the life in city was not affected by the blockade. He said the protest was seriously inhibiting the supply of essential goods to the city, which would result into sharp increase of price rise.

He said the fundamental right to protest cannot extend to holding the city to ransom. He asked the court to ensure the government put a protocol that a person calling for the protests will identify himself so that he can be held accountable for damages.

The court, for its part, again suggested for forming an independent panel for "an effective solution to present stalemate". It broached up the name of noted journalist P Sainath for the purpose. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta agreed that some persons of eminence could facilitate a talk.

The court directed for serving a notice to various farmers Unions and indicated to put the matter for consideration before another bench during winter vacations, starting from Saturday.

The court clarified that the petitions filed by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and RJP Manoj K Jha against the validity of laws would be taken up subsequently.