Supreme Court: Refusing to interfere with the ongoing Farmers’ protest, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has said that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police.
“Indeed the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order. There can certainly be no impediment in the exercise of such rights as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to the life and properties of other citizens and is in accordance with law.”
In order to bring about an effective solution to the present stalemate between the protesters and the Government of India, the Court suggested the constitution of a Committee comprising of independent and impartial persons including experts in the field of Agriculture but said that it would do so only after hearing all the necessary parties. The Court has, however, made clear that the pendency of the matters will not prevent the parties from resolving the issue amicably.
The Court is hearing the case wherein the residents of NCT of Delhi/Haryana, having a population of more than two million people, have claimed that the manner in which the protest is being carried on is seriously inhibiting the supply of essential goods to the city because of restrictions on the free movement of goods vehicles. According to the petitioners, this will result in a sharp increase in the prices of goods which would be difficult for people to bear in these times of Pandemic. They say,
“… no fundamental right is absolute and it would be necessary for the Court to determine the contours of the right of free speech and expression involved in the farmers’ protest and the extent to which this right can be exercised consistently with the rights of other citizens.”
The respondents, on the other hand, claim that the roads are blocked by the police in order to prevent the entries of the protesters/farmers to the city of Delhi.
Yesterday, the petitioners were allowed to serve copies of these petitions upon the impleaded farmers’ Associations and today the Court was to hear the farmers who are agitating at the Borders of National Capital Region of Delhi. However, none of the impleaded respondents-farmers’ associations have appeared today though the petitioners claim to have informed them over their respective mobile/whatsapp numbers.
The Court will now take up the matter after winter vacation. The parties, however, liberty to move the Vacation Bench if necessary. On the next date of hearing, the parties have been asked to submit suggestions about the constitution of the Committee.
The farmers’ protest is mainly directed against the three laws:
(1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020,
(2) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and
(3) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
Aforesaid laws are also under challenge before the Supreme Court.
[Rakesh Vaishnav v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1032, order dated 17.12.2020]
For Petitioners: K.Parameshwar, AOR
For Union of India: Attorney General K.K. Venugopal
For Punjab: Senior Advocate P. Chidambaram
For U.P.: Advocate Garima Prashad
For Bharatiya Kisan Union: Advocate A.P. Singh.