Case BriefsDistrict Court

Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi: Kamini Lau PO (MACT)-01, granted bail to the applicant Boota Singh, accused of inciting violence and disturbing law and order at Red Fort during Republic Day protest against controversial farm laws.

The applicant had approached the Court for the grant of regular bail. It was pleaded by the applicant that he had no previous criminal antecedents and that no specific role had been assigned to him in the FIR. The applicant further submitted that nothing incriminating was recovered from the possession of the applicant or at his instance and there was no chance of his absconding or tampering with the case or its evidence.

Background

On 26-01-2021 law and order arrangement was enforced in and around the Red Fort in respect of Republic Day Celebration 2021 and proposed Tractor Rally in protest of 03 Agriculture Bills, as demonstrations were being organised at various borders of capital Delhi by the different groups of Kisan Organisations. In order to maintain law & order, police authorities accorded permission for Tractor Rally with the conditions that rally may be held on prescribed routes which were decided during discussions with Kisan Organisations. However, around 1000 1200 persons in 40-50 Tractors, 125-150 motorcycles and private vehicles reached Shanti Van Red Light and tried to break the barricades in order to reach Red Fort. The protestors were also asked to maintain social distancing, in view of Covid-19 pandemic guidelines, but the same were ignored and the protestors broke the baricades with the blunt force of tractors and drove their tractors rashly, negligently and even tried to hit the police personnel deployed on duty. Thereafter, unruly mob broke the barricading at Subhash Marg T-Point, upper and lower Sulbhash Marg and reached Lal Qila Chowk and started shouting slogans against government and indulged in creating nuisance.

It was submitted by the Investigating Officer (IO) that a large numbers of protestors gathered at the Red Fort and started entering inside from Lahore Gate. The agitated mob started beating the police personnel, climbed the Rampart and unfurled the religious flag at the Pole. The protestors said to have attacked on police staff by hurling stones, beating by sticks and even attacking with swords. The riotous mob caused damage to the government vehicles and public property and forced police and security personnel to jump into the moat to save their lives. It was submitted by the IO that the mob robbed body protecting gears like cane stick, shields, helmets etc. from the staff deployed there, destroyed public property at large, robbed arms and ammunition etc, caused hindrance in the celebration of Republic Day by creating mayhem.

Case against the Accused

The specific case against the accused was that during investigations one of the absconding accused namely Gurjot Singh was arrested and at his instance the present applicant/ accused Boota Singh who was also absconding, was arrested. It was pointed out that a cash rewards of Rs. 50,000 was declared on the applicant by the Commissioner of Police, Delhi. The bail of the applicant was opposed on the following grounds:

  1. “There is a video clipping available on case record, wherein applicant/ accused Boota Singh is seen alongside other accused.
  2. In another video clippings on record the accused is seen as part of mob at Red Fort.
  3. CDR of the applicant/ accused revealed that he was present at the Red Fort during farmers agitation on 26-01-202.
  4. The applicant was moving alongside the unruly mob, which started its journey from Singhu Border and reached Red Fort.”

Observations and Findings of the Court

Observing that recently the Delhi High Court while dealing with the bail applications of Natasha Narwal, Devanganakaleta and Asif Iqbal who were arrested for unlawful activities in relation to North-East riots, observed that, “at a time when the society is polarized and fractured across various lines and ideology reached vanishing point, the Court will do all within their mandate to prevent the misuse of the law and alleviate the anxiety which has come to surround these individuals” and that, “the Courts do not function in a vacuum and our judges surely have a view on what is happening around them and that the India democracy is undergoing metamorphosis”; the Court opined that the only allegations against the applicant were that he was a part of an unruly mob which completely disregarded and violated the conditions laid down in the permission / NOC for Tractors Rally by reaching Red Fort illegally. During the course of arguments, a specific query was put by the court as to what was the specific role attributed to the applicant in the Red Fort incident, to which the Investigating Officer submitted that the videos and photographs only show the presence of the applicant at Red Fort.

Noticing that there was no material on record to show that the applicant was involved in any kind of violence or attacking the police officials, the Court asked the IO, if the presence of the accused at the Red Fort was a very grave offence and non bailable, to which the  Investigating Agency appeared clueless. Therefore, the Court held that the allegations against the applicant were of bailable nature.

Directions

Noticeably, 15 accused out of 18 arrested had been granted bail in the same matter. In fact, the main conspirators as per the Delhi Police namely Deep Sandhu and Iqbal Singh had already been granted bail. Moreover, the allegations relating to snatching away the magazine of MP-5 Weapon and a SLR containing 20 live cartridges were general in nature and not specifically against the applicant. Hence, on the grounds of parity, the applicant was granted bail on him furnishing a personal bond to the tune of Rs.50,000 on the following conditions:

  1. The applicant shall appear before the local SHO Le. SHO Police Station Gharyala, Tarn Taran, Punjab on last Saturday till filing of the charge-sheet and the same shall be communicated regularly to the Investigating Officer.
  2. That the applicant/ accused shall share his mobile phone number with the IO
  3. That the applicant accused shall inform about his location to the Investigating Officer over mobile phone on lst and I5th day of every month till filing of the charge-sheet.
  4. That the applicant/ accused shall surrender his passport, if any, before the IO.

[State v. Boota Singh, Bail Application No. 2960/2021, decided on 08-07-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For State: Addl. P.P. Pankaj Bhatia

For the Applicant: Advocate Jaspreet Singh Rai, Advocate Jagdeep Singh Dhillon, Advocate

Kapil Madan, Advocate Nitin Kumar and Advocate Gurmukh Singh

Investigating Officer: Inspector Pankaj Arora

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Arun Monga, J., had directed to maintain status quo and not to appoint anyone on the post of the petitioner who had been allegedly terminated due to his suspected participation in farmer’s protest in New Delhi.

The petitioner was appointed to the post of Senior Treatment Supervisor (STS) under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) by Civil Surgeon-cum-Chairman, Executive Committee, District Health and Family Welfare, Mewat. The petitioner contended that he had been serving uninterruptedly since 2014.  In spite of that, merely on a vague allegation/suspicion of the petitioner having participated in the strike call given by farmers in Delhi on 05-02-2021, his services had been summarily terminated by the impugned order dated 25-02-2021 without holding any inquiry and giving any show-cause notice or opportunity of being hear in-person to the petitioner. To justify the delay in approaching the Court, the petitioner contended that due to current pandemic scenario, he was earlier unable to challenge the impugned termination order as the Courts were working under certain restrictions.

In the light of the above submissions, the Bench passed an interim order directing the State to keep the post of Senior Treatment Supervisor which was earlier manned by the petitioner vacant.[Rajuddin v. State of Haryana, CWP No. 10642 of 2021, decided on 28-06-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioner: Advocate Mohd. Arshad

For the State of Haryana: DAG, Saurabh Mohunta

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Manjari Nehru Kaul, J., had directed constituted a committee to find a way forward to put an end to the piquant situation regarding the farmer’s agitation across the country against the farm laws which had led to illegal blockade created by the protestors outside the Factory the Petitioner. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, the Bench reminded the State to work with the spirit of “malice towards none with charity for all.”

The petitioner company-Adani Wilmar Ltd., having its processing unit at Village Waan, Ferozepur, Punjab, had approached the Court for restraining the respondents from creating illegal blockade outside the Factory premises owned by the petitioner. The company conteded that the said blockade had resulted in the complete stoppage of operations of factory, any movement of goods as well as workers/employees to and from the said factory premises, which was a rice processing unit, in which, about 8752.68 MT of rice was lying stored, and being a perishable item and an essential commodity, was at the risk of being spoiled/rendered useless, if not immediately taken out of the Factory premises and utilized.

The petitioner submitted that since the beginning of the blockade, a total quantity of 26.35 MT of Rice stuck inside the said Factory, had already perished on account of it not being allowed to be taken out of the said Factory and quantity of 117.73 MT of rice was on the verge of being expired/rendered unfit for human consumption, and further, the aforesaid Rice was lying unsupervised and unprotected, as the workers/employees working in the Factory were not being allowed by the protesters to enter the Factory.

Accordingly, the petitioner requested the Court to issue a writ in the nature of Mandamus directing the respondents to remove illegal blockade created by the protestors outside the warehouse and to deploy adequate resources outside the sites in question in order to ensure free and safe ingress and egress of the goods of the Petitioner and also the safe movement of the workers/employees and ensure resuming operations which are currently closed due to the said blockade. The request was also made to direct the respondents to constitute a competent Authority in terms of Section 7 of the Punjab Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2014 to investigate any damage caused to the goods of the Petitioner or to the said Factory and Depot, in which, the said goods were stored. Additionally, relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Destruction of Public and Private Properties: In re, (2009) 5 SCC 212, the petitioner urged the Court to direct the respondent to set up a machinery to investigate the damage caused and to award compensation related thereto in relation to any possible damage that might have been caused to the petitioner’s goods.

Considering the situation to be the extraordinary situation, to reconcile the competing rights and interests of all the stakeholders, the Bench directed the State authorities/respondents to ensure free movement of food grains etc., was not hindered from and to its facility and to ensure that while the Constitutional Rights of the petitioner-firm were not defeated, the situation on the ground did not go out of hand.

Noticing that the State authorities were conscious of the fact that any further delay would result in damaging the food-grains, which were lying stored in the facility of the petitioner firm, the Bench proceeded to constitute a Committee headed by Principal Secretary Home, Government of Punjab, including Additional Director General of Police, Law & Order Punjab,
Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepur, Senior Superintendent of Police, Ferozepur amongst other officers to find a way forward to put an end to the piquant situation expeditiously and to prevent further loss/wastage of about eight thousand metric tonnes of food-grains lying stored in the facility of the petitioner’s firm, which a country like India can ill afford.[Adani Wilmar Ltd. v. State of Punjab, CWP-5645 of 2021, decided on 18-06-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioner: Adv. Ashish Prasad, Adv. Rohit Sharma, Adv. Asheesh Gupta, Adv.Ishan, Adv. Rohit Chandel, Adv.Abhinav Sood, Adv. Pruthi Dhinoja, Adv. Jubin Mehta

For the Respondents: Sr. DAG Gaurav Garg Dhuriwala and Adv. Saigeeta Srivastva

Case BriefsDistrict Court

Sessions Court: Dharmendra Rana, ASJ-02 disposed of Disha A. Ravi’s application for grant of bail.

Applicant’s counsel submitted that the applicant/accused had been falsely arrested and was brought to New Delhi without obtaining any transit remand and remanded to police custody. FIR had been registered for the offences punishable under Sections 153, 153-A, 124-A Penal Code, 1860.

The investigating agency maliciously added allegations under Section 124A IPC in order to portray a minor offence which is punishable upto life imprisonment. Further it was added that the investigating agency maliciously sought to sensationalize the allegations by way of invoking phrases such as “global conspiracy” only with a view o cause tremendous prejudice to the applicant/accused.

As per the prosecutions’ case, the toolkit documents circulating on social media and accessed by the police were inter alia seditious, showing disaffection against the government; the said document was allegedly created by an organisation called “Poetic Justice Foundation”. It was also added that the statements made in the document were not merely statements, but allegedly incited violations of public order and certain alleged acts of public disorder in both India and abroad on 26-01-2021.

The applicant allegedly created and was part of a WhatsApp group that included persons who allegedly edited the toolkit and also communicated with other persons about the document.

It has also been alleged that the applicant was also a part of another WhatsApp group which she deleted and also shared the document with other persons including Greta Thunberg.

Issue:

Whether the applicant/accused Disha was merely involved in peaceful protest and dissent against the farm acts or she was actually involved in seditious activities under the guise of protesting against the said legislation?

 Bench while interpreting the word ‘Sedition’ under Section 124A of IPC, referred to the Supreme Court decision in Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar, AIR 1962 SC 955, wherein the Court dealt with the acts which are proscribed and have a tendency to cause ‘disaffection against India’.

Law proscribes only such activities would be intended, or have intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence. ‘Violence’ seems to be the gravamen of the charge.

In the decision of Bombay High Court, Arun G. Gowli v. State of Maharashtra, 1998 Cr. LJ 4481 (Bombay) it was observed that conspiracy cannot be proved merely on the basis of inferences. Inferences have to be backed by evidence.

Bench analysed the material collected by the investigating agency to substantiate the allegations of the ‘Larger Conspiracy’.

  • Engagement with secessionist forces

ASG pointed out that a pro-Khalistani secessionist group namely the ‘Poetic Justice Foundation’ and people associated with it are directly linked with creation of the “Toolkit” document.

Adding to the above, it was also submitted that the applicant/accused alongwith founders of PJF used social media to peddle support for secessionist Khalistan narrative in the guise of Farmers Protest.

Opinion of the Bench

It is not mere engagement with persons of dubious credentials which is indictable rather it is the purpose of engagement which is relevant for the purpose of deciding culpability.

Any person with dubious credentials may interact with a number of persons during the course of his social intercourse. As long as the engagement/interaction remains within the four corners of law, people interacting with such persons, ignorantly, innocently or for that matter even fully conscious of their dubious credentials, cannot be painted with the same hue.

 Hence, Court decided that in the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused agreed or shared a common purpose to cause violence on 26-01-2021 along with founders of PJF, it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported the secessionist tendencies or the violence caused, simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation.

 No evidence was brought to Court’s notice connecting the perpetrators of the violence on 26th January, 2021 with the said PJF or the applicant/accused.

  • Use of ‘Toolkit’

 It was added that in the main body of the ‘Toolkit’ there was a segment titled “Prior Action” which included Digital Strike through hashtags on 26th January, 2021 and Joining the Farmer’s march into Delhi and then back to the border.

Further, another part of the same document mentioned tasks such as disruption of India’s cultural heritage such as ‘Yoga’ and ‘Tea’ and targeting Indian embassies abroad.

Opinion of the Bench

Court opined on perusal of the ‘Toolkit’ that any call for any kind of violence was conspicuously absent in the same.

Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic Nation. They cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies.

Bench also added that difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter, even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies.

While elaborating more with regard to a healthy democracy, Court added that an aware and assertive citizenry, in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of healthy and vibrant democracy.

Freedom of Speech and Expression includes the right to seek a global audience.

A Citizen has the fundamental rights to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication, as long as the same is permissible under the four corners of law and as such have access to an audience abroad.

Further, there was a mention with regard to hyperlinks in the toolkit by the ASG, the said links were with an intent to malign India abroad. Two such hyperlinks were analysed by the Court and nothing objectionable as found.

The imputations may be false, exaggerated or even with a mischievous intent but the same cannot be stigmatized being seditious unless they have tendency to foment violence.

  • Conduct of the applicant/accused

It was claimed that the applicant/accused created a WhatsApp group by the name of “Intl farmers strike” and added certain persons to the group.

Adding to the above, it was stated that she deleted the group chat from her phone in an attempt to destroy the crucial evidence linking her with the toolkit and PJF.

Also, it was submitted that, she tried her best to conceal her identity so that legal action could not be taken against her. It is further alleged that she gave a global audience to the secessionist elements by manipulating the support of international youth icon Ms Greta Thunberg.

Opinion of the Bench

Bench expressed that the creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence.

 Since, no link was found to be objectionable, mere deletion of the WhatsApp chat to destroy the evidence linking her with the toolkit and PJF became meaningless.

Nothing on record was found to suggest that the applicant accused subscribed to any secessionist idea.

Prosecution failed to point out how the applicant/accused gave a global audience to the ‘secessionist elements’.

Further, no evidence was brought to Court’s notice to support the allegation that violence took placed at the Indian Embassies pursuant to the sinister designs of the applicant/accused and her co-conspirators.

“…it is very difficult to collect evidence for the offence of conspiracy but I’m equally conscious of the fact that what is difficult to prove for the prosecution in the affirmative is virtually impossible for the defence to prove in the negative.” 

Bench stated that it is not aware of rule of law or prudence, that a person is mandatorily required to be detained in custody to be confronted with other co-accused persons.

Court added that the applicant accused is already reported to have been interrogated in police custody for almost about 5 days and placing further restraint upon her liberty on the basis of general and omnibus accusation would be neither logical or legal.

Hence, considering the scanty and sketchy evidence on record, Court opined that the applicant accused deserved to be released on bail subject to filing of personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties, subject to the following conditions:

  1. She shall continue to cooperate with the ongoing investigations and shall join the investigation as and when summoned by the IO;
  2. She shall not leave the country without the permission of the court;
  3. She shall scrupulously appear at each and every stage of the pro­ceedings before the Court concerned so as not to cause any obstruc­tion or delay to its progress.

[State v. Disha A. Ravi, Bail Application No. 420/2021, decided on 23-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared for the matter:

Sh. Irfan Ahmed, Ld. Addl. PP for State.
Sh. Abhinav Sekhri, Ld. counsel for applicant/accused.


Image Credits of Disha A. Ravi: ANI

Hot Off The PressNews

On the request of Twitter, Secretary Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India held a virtual interaction with Ms Monique Meche, Vice President Global Public Policy and Mr Jim Baker Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal.

In view of the order issued by the Government of India directing Twitter to remove Tweets and accounts using hashtag related to ‘farmer genocide’ and accounts supported by Khalistan sympathizers and backed by Pakistan and blog post issued by Twitter.

Secretary told the Twitter representatives that in India, we value freedom and we value criticism because it is part of our democracy. India has a robust mechanism for protection of freedom of speech and expression that is very elaborately explained as Fundamental Rights under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India. But freedom of expression is not absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions as mentioned in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India. Various judgments of the Supreme Court have also upheld this from time to time.

He further highlighted that:  Twitter is welcome to do business in India. Due to India’s conducive business environment, open Internet and firm commitment to the freedom of expression Twitter as a platform has grown significantly in India in last few years. Twitter, as a business entity working in India, must also respect the Indian laws and democratic institutions. Twitter is free to formulate its own rules and guidelines, like any other business entity does, but Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament of India must be followed irrespective of Twitter’s own rules and guidelines.

Secretary took up the issue of using a hashtag on ‘farmer genocide’ with Twitter executives and expressed strong displeasure on the way Twitter acted after an emergency order was issued to remove this hashtag and content related to that. Spreading misinformation using an incendiary and baseless hashtag referring to  ‘farmer genocide’ at a time when such irresponsible content can provoke and inflame the situation is neither journalistic freedom nor freedom of expression as envisaged under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Despite the attention of Twitter being drawn to such content by the Government through a lawful process, the platform allowed the content with this hashtag to continue, which was extremely unfortunate.

Secretary reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath. He expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter’s differential treatment in the two incidents. A deep sense of disappointment at seeing Twitter side not with ‘freedom of expression’ but rather with those who seek to abuse such freedom and provoke disturbance to public order, was conveyed to the Twitter representative.

Secretary also mentioned that revelations around a certain “Toolkit” has made it evident that a strong social media campaign was planned in a foreign country around farmers protest. Misuse of Twitter’s platform for execution of such campaigns designed to create disharmony and unrest in India is unacceptable and Twitter must take strong action against such well-coordinated campaigns against India, through compliance with the applicable law of the land.

Lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless. Secretary expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order. He took this opportunity to remind Twitter that in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme. It is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land.

The Govt. conveyed to the Twitter leadership that the manner in which Twitter officially allows fake, unverified, anonymous and automated bot accounts to be operated on its platform, raises doubts about its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on this platform.

Twitter leadership affirmed their commitment towards following Indian laws and rules. They also expressed their continuing commitment towards building their services in India. They have also requested for better engagement between Government of India and Twitter’s global team.


Ministry of Electronics & IT

[Press Release dt. 10-02-2021]

[Source: PIB]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJI and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has stayed the arrest of congress MP Shashi Tharoor and Journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath, Anant Nath and Vinod Jose, in multiple FIRs filed against them over tweets on the death of a protester n during the January 26 tractor rally in the Capital.

The bench has issued notice in the matter and had listed the matter after 2 weeks.

The order reads,

“Issue notice returnable in two weeks. In the meantime, there shall be stay of arrest of the petitioners.”

As reported in Hindustan Times[1], the petitioners have sought quashing of the criminal cases against them and protection of their fundamental right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

[Shashi Tharoor v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 73, order dated 09.02.2021]


[1] Supreme Court stays arrest of Shashi Tharoor, Rajdeep Sardesai and 5 other journalists, Hindustan Times, Published on Feb 09, 2021 12:30 PM IST

Hot Off The PressNews

Over 140 advocates have signed a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India, asking the Court to take suo moto cognizance to suspend the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 31.01.2021 imposing internet shutdown in and around the protest venues and directing it to restrain from imposing further Internet shutdowns at the protest sites and adjoining areas.

The “open letter” written by advocates Sitwat Nabi and Abhisht Hela and signed by 141 advocates, further seeks setting up of a Commission of Enquiry under the guidance of the Chief Justice of India, to probe into:

  • Police inaction in controlling the violence and the role of the Delhi Police in allegedly facilitating the mob attack on 29 January, 2021 and failing to ensure peace and security.
  • Action against the 200 local hoodlums who, as reports state, had engaged in the manhandling of protestors, and journalists at the Singhu Protest venue.
  • Strict action against the journalists and the news channels who are spreading provocative content and fake rumors about the farmers and their protest.

The 6 pages has been written in the light of ongoing the Farmers protest since the past sixty-four days at the three protest venues with Singhu Border being its focal point alongside Tikri and Ghazipur Border.

Here are the “unfortunate events” highlighted in the letter:

  • On 26th January, 2021, there was a clash between the farmer protestors and the Delhi police.
  • On 29th January, 2021, around 200 men claiming to be local residents barged into the protest site at Singhu Border to vacate the area as has been reported by Hindustan Times and several other online and print media. They pelted stones, damaged properties, and attacked the protestors (men, women, elderly- no bar) despite the presence of heavy security of the police. As an outcome, 44 people were arrested, and various criminal cases including an attempt to murder being registered in Alipur police station.
  • On 29th January, 2021, the Home Ministry ordered internet shutdown from 11pm 29.01.2021 till 11pm- 31.01.2021 (First Order of shutdown) which eventually got extended by the order dated 31.01.2021.
  • Since 1st February 2021, the government has turned the protest sites especially the Delhi-Ghazipur border into a fortress where it seems like they are waging war against their own men. Embedding more than 2000 iron nails, multi-layer metal barricades, cement walls, and heavily armed security officials- these cannot be considered as law-and-order situations.

Stating that the suspension of internet order issued by the MHA is a gross misuse of power by the Central government and is causing disruption to the protestors and individuals in exercising their fundamental conferred under Article 19 (1) (a), the letter mentions that it’s been 6 days since the internet services have been suspended in and around the protest venues and its adjoining and hence, farmers are rightly convinced that their voices are being shunned down and only one-sided narrative of the government is being pushed forward, which is a clear attack on the fundamental values of the Constitution.

“Theoretically, the Right to Internet access exists in the “new India”, however, practically we are still thriving in the dungeon of the past where the demand for existence of the Right to Internet access should label us non compos mentis.”

It further states that the plight of the farmers is worsening because of the biased reporting by few mainstream media channels and that labeling farmers as “terrorists” by the mainstream media and airing provocative content is a pressing issue.

The letter highlights that there are claims of over 100 farmer protestors including minors who have been missing since 26th January 2021 as reported by various newspapers.

“In a situation like this, the internet shutdown is evidently causing disruption of communication and increasing the difficulty of thousands of families who are dependent on the Internet to have access to information on their respective family members who are missing or are in languishing in jails.”

Moreover, there are school students living across the border sites who are unable to attend classes virtually and working professionals who thrive on the internet while working- from-home in this pandemic situation, the regular citizen not having to do anything to do with the protest are ending up being deprived of their Fundamental rights.

Another argument against the Order issued by the MHA, is that it is bad in the eyes of law and will not hold water when put to test of ‘Wednesbury Principle’, i.e., Principle to test the Unreasonableness of the any legal document, which scratches the Fundamental Constitutional values.

The letter, hence, urges “to the sounding board of the Nation, guardian of human rights and key custodian of the justice delivery system to intervene and take active steps over the matter and strike down further such suspension of Telecom Services Order15 so that the freedom conferred to every individual as a fundamental right, under The Constitution of India can be protected and exercised freely.”


Read An open Letter to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-Judge Bench of S.A. Bobde, CJ and A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., stays the implementation of farms laws until further orders.

Three categories of petitions have been filed before the Court, all revolving around the validity or otherwise of three Farm Laws namely:

  • Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
  • Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
  • Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020

 Categories of Petitions

The first category of petitions challenges the constitutional validity of the farm laws. A petition under Article 32 challenging the validity of the Constitution (Third Amendment) Act, 1954 enabling the Central Government also to legislate on a subject which was otherwise in the State List has also been included within this category of petitions.

Another Category of petitions included the ones which support the farm laws on the ground that they are constitutionally valid and beneficial to the farmers.

The third category included the ones filed by individuals who are residents of the National Capital Territory of Delhi as well as the neighbouring States, claiming that the agitation by farmers in the peripheries of Delhi and the consequent blockade of roads/highway leading to Delhi, infringes the fundamental rights of other citizens to move freely throughout the territories of India and their right to carry on trade and business.

Negotiations

Further, the Bench noted that several rounds of negotiations took place, yet no solution seemed to be in sight and the on-ground situation is as follows:

  • Senior citizens, women and children are at the site, exposing themselves to serious health hazards posed by cold and COVID
  • A few deaths have taken place, though not out of any violence, but either out of illness or by way of suicide.

While applauding the Farmers for their peaceful protest, Court noted that it was pointed out that a few persons who did not belong to the farmer’s community also joined, with a view to show solidarity with the farmers.

A specific averment was made in an intervention application that an organization by name “Sikhs for Justice”, which has been banned for anti-India secessionist movement is financing the agitation. The said contention was also supported by the Attorney General.

Constitution of a Committee of Experts

Bench noticed that the negotiations between the farmers’ bodies and the government did not yield any results so far, therefore the constitution of a committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and Government of India may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers.

Stay on implementation of Farm Laws

Court also opined that a stay of implementation of all the three farm laws may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith.

Attorney General argued that none of the petitioners who have attacked the farm laws has pointed out any single provision which is detrimental to the farmers and that the laws enacted by Parliament cannot be stayed by this Court, especially when there is a presumption in favour of the constitutionality of legislation.

“…this Court cannot be said to be completely powerless to grant stay of any executive action under a statutory enactment.”

 Senior Counsel, P. Wilson representing one section of farmers from Tamil Nadu welcomed the proposal to stay the implementation of the Laws and the constitution of the Committee and stated that his client would go before the Committee.

Similarly, A.P. Singh Counsel appearing for the Bhartiya Kisan Union also submitted that the representatives of the Union will participate in the negotiations.

Insofar as the apprehension regarding MSP [Minimum Support Price] being done away with, it is submitted across the Bar that the same may not be dismantled. The learned Solicitor General also confirmed that there are inherent safeguards, in-built in the Farm Laws, for the protection of the land of the farmers and that it will be ensured that no farmer will lose his land.

Interim Order

(i) The implementation of the three farm 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, shall stand stayed until further orders;

(ii) As a consequence, the Minimum Support Price System in existence before the enactment of the Farm Laws shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ landholdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws.

(iii) A Committee comprising of (1) Shri Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee; (2) Dr. Parmod Kumar Joshi, Agricultural Economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; (3) Shri Ashok Gulati, Agricultural Economist and Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and (4) Shri Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana, is constituted for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the farmers relating to the farm laws and the views of the Government and to make recommendations. This Committee shall be provided a place as well as Secretarial assistance at Delhi by the Government. All expenses for the Committee to hold sittings at Delhi or anywhere else shall be borne by the Central Government. The representatives of all the farmers’ bodies, whether they are holding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws shall participate in the deliberations of the Committee and put forth their view points. The Committee shall, upon hearing the Government as well as the representatives of the farmers’ bodies, and other stakeholders, submit a report before this Court containing its recommendations. This shall be done within two months from the date of its first sitting. The first sitting shall be held within ten days from today.

While parting with the decision, the Court expressed that:

“While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmer’s bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.”

Matter to be listed in 8 weeks. [Rakesh Vaishanv v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 18, decided on 12-01-2021]

Case BriefsSupreme Court Roundups

2020 has been a year of COVID-19, challenges, and changes. Of many things that this year has taught us, one of the biggest lessons has been our ability to work from home alone – but together! Like most of us, the Courts too took the cue and started functioning via video conferencing when the pandemic hit the World. At first, the Supreme Court restricted it’s functioning to avoid mass gatherings in Courts and directed that only urgent matters will be heard, however, soon all the in-person hearings were completely banned and the Court directed that it would hear “extremely urgent” matters via video conferencing.

Ultimately, faced with the unprecedented and extraordinary outbreak of a pandemic, Supreme Court issued guidelines on functioning of courts through video conferencing. It said that it was necessary that Courts at all levels respond to the call of social distancing and ensure that court premises do not contribute to the spread of virus.

Also read:

When the video conference hearings first began, the Courts and the public at large were skeptical about it’s success, however, the Supreme Court, in October, said that the “the system of Video Conferencing has been extremely successful in providing access to justice.” 

Read: SC says “system of Video Conferencing has been extremely successful”; alters only one guideline from April 6 order

Here are a few unmissable facts and stories from the highest Court of the country:

  • Even though most of the Court functioning took place online and through video conferencing, 696 judgments were delivered in the year 2020 .
  • All the Constitution bench verdicts were unanimous with no dissenting opinion. [Read more]
  • In a first, Single-Judge bench started hearing cases. [Read more]
  • A new dress code was notified for advocates in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. [Read more]
  • 228 advocates registered as Advocates-on-Record of the Supreme Court. [Read more]
  • 2 judges, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Arun Mishra retired

Read:

Read: “Justice Ramana’s proximity with Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is too well-known”; Read what Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy wrote in his letter to CJI

Here’s a quick roundup of all the important Supreme Court judgments:

11 Constitution bench judgments 

  • All the Constitution bench verdicts were unanimous with no dissenting opinion.
  • 9 out of 11 Constitution bench judgments were delivered by benches consisting of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran and M.R. Shah, followed by Justices Aniruddha Bose and S. Ravindra Bhat who were part of Constitution benches in 5 and 4 cases, respectively.

Read more…


Maintenance in matrimonial disputes| Extensive guidelines framed; Issue of overlapping jurisdiction under different Laws resolved

The bench ofIndu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ framed guidelines on overlapping jurisdiction under different enactments for payment of maintenance, payment of Interim Maintenance, the criteria for determining the quantum of maintenance, the date from which maintenance is to be awarded, and enforcement of orders of maintenance.

Read more…

Also read: Guidelines

[ Rajnesh v. Neha,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 903 ]


Appointments and functioning of Tribunals

A 3-judge bench issued extensive directions in relating to selection, appointment, tenure, conditions of service, etc. relating to various tribunals, 19 in number, thereby calling for certain modifications to the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities [Qualification, Experience and Other Conditions of Service of Members] Rules, 2020.

“Dispensation of justice by the Tribunals can be effective only when they function independent of any executive control: this renders them credible and generates public confidence.”

Read more…

Also read: ‘It’s high time we put an end to the disturbing trend of Govt ignoring our directions.’ Read why Supreme Court directed constitution of National Tribunals Commission

[Madras Bar Association v. Union of India2020 SCC OnLine SC 962 ]


Constitutionality of imposition of GST on lotteries, betting and gambling

Lottery, betting and gambling are well known concepts and have been in practice in this country since before independence and were regulated and taxed by different legislations. When Act, 2017 defined the goods to include actionable claims and included only three categories of actionable claims, i.e., lottery, betting and gambling for purposes of levy of GST, it cannot be said that there was no rationale for including these three actionable claims for tax purposes.

Read more…

[Skill Lotto Solutions v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 990 ]


Homebuyer can choose between seeking remedy under the RERA Act or the Consumer Protection Act

The bench of UU Lalit and Vineet Saran, JJ held that the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA Act) does not bar the initiation of proceedings by allottees against the builders under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Read more… 

[Imperia Structures v. Anil Patni,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 894 ]


Domestic Violence| Wife’s right to residence in shared household belonging to not just husband but also to his relatives

“The domestic violence in this country is rampant and several women encounter violence in some form or the other or almost every day, however, it is the least reported form of cruel behavior. A woman resigns her fate to the never-ending cycle of enduring violence and discrimination as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a partner or a single woman in her lifetime.” 

Read more…

[Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 841 ]


Daughters’ coparcenary rights

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, SA Nazeer and MR Shah, JJheld that daughters have right in coparcenary by birth and that it is not necessary that the father coparcener should be living when the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 came into force.

“The conferral of right is by birth, and the rights are given in the same manner with incidents of coparcenary as that of a son and she is treated as a coparcener in the same manner with the same rights as if she had been a son at the time of birth.”

Read more…

[ Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, (2020) 9 SCC 1 ]


Permanent commission to all women Army officers

The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has ordered that the permanent commission will apply to all women officers in the Indian Army in service, irrespective of their years of service.

“Underlying the statement that it is a “greater challenge” for women officers to meet the hazards of service “owing to their prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families” is a strong stereotype which assumes that domestic obligations rest solely on women.”

Read more… 

[Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya, (2020) 7 SCC 469]


RBI’s ban on Cryptocurrency trading quashed

The 3-judge bench of Rohinton Fali Nariman, S Ravindra Bhat and V Ramasubramania, JJ has struck down the curb on trading in virtual currency, cryptocurrency and bitcoins in India.

In the 180 pages long verdict penned by Justice Ramasubramania, it was held,

“When the consistent stand of RBI is that they have not banned Virtual currencies (VCs) and when the Government of India is unable to take a call despite several committees coming up with several proposals including two draft bills, both of which advocated exactly opposite positions, it is not possible for us to hold that the impugned measure is proportionate.”

Read more…

[Internet & Mobile Assn. of India v. Reserve Bank of India, (2020) 10 SCC 274 ]


Installation of CCTV Cameras in all Police Station

The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman*, KM Joseph and Anirudhha Bose, JJ directed all the States and UTs to install CCTV cameras in all Police Stations and file compliance affidavits within 6 weeks. The Court said that the directions are in furtherance of the fundamental rights of each citizen of India guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and hence, the Executive/Administrative/police authorities are to implement this Order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible.

Read more… 

[Paramvir Singh Saini v. Baljit Singh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 983 ]


Automatic expiration of stay 

“Whatever stay has been granted by any court including the High Court automatically expires within a period of six months, and unless extension is granted for good reason, within the next six months, the trial Court is, on the expiry of the first period of six months, to set a date for the trial and go ahead with the same.” 

Read more…

[Also read detailed report on the 2018 verdict in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. v. Central Bureau of Investigation, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 310,  here.]


Political parties to publish criminal antecedents of candidates & give reasons for their selection

A bench of RF Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ directed all political parties to upload on their website details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls, noting that there has been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics. The Court said political parties will also have to upload reasons for selecting candidates with pending criminal cases on their website.

Read more… 

[Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora, (2020) 3 SCC 733 ]


SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 constitutionally valid

 A 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has upheld the constitutional validity of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, and said that a court can grant anticipatory bail only in cases where a prima facie case is not made out. In the unanimous verdict, Justice Mishra penned the opinion for himself and Justice Saran whereas Justice Bhat wrote a separate but concurring opinion.

Read more… 

[Prathvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India, (2020) 4 SCC 727 ]


Test for determining non-arbitrability of disputes

The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*Sanjiv Khanna** and Krishna Murari, JJ overruled the ratio in Himangni Enterprises v. Kamaljeet Singh Ahluwalia, (2017) 10 SCC 706 wherein it was held that landlord-tenant disputes governed by the provisions of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, are not arbitrable as this would be contrary to public policy.

Read more…

[Vidya Drolia v. Durga Trading Corporation, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1018 ]


Admissibility of electronic evidence without certificate under Section 65B of Evidence Act, 1872

In a reference dealing with the interpretation of Section 65B of the Evidence Act, 1872 that deals with admissibility of electronic records, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, S. Ravindra Bhat and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ held that the certificate required under Section 65B(4) is a condition precedent to the admissibility of evidence by way of electronic record, as correctly held in by the 3-judge bench in Anvar P.V. v. P.K. Basheer, (2014) 10 SCC 473, and incorrectly “clarified” by a division bench in Shafhi Mohammad v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2018) 2 SCC 801. The Court further clarified that the required certificate under Section 65B(4) is unnecessary if the original document itself is produced.

Read more…

[Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal, (2020) 7 SCC 1 ]


Advance tax ruling system

The bench of SK Kaul and Indu Malhotra, JJ has recommended the Central Government to consider the efficacy of the advance tax ruling system and make it more comprehensive as a tool for settlement of disputes rather than battling it through different tiers, whether private or public sectors are involved. It suggested that a council for Advance Tax Ruling based on the Swedish model and the New Zealand system may be a possible way forward.

Writing two postscripts, the Court said that it was forced to do so on account of the backbreaking dockets which are ever increasing and as a move towards a trust between the Tax Department and the assessee.

Read more… 

[National Co-operative Development Corporation v. Commissioner of Income Tax, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 733 ]


Telecos get 10 years to pay AGR dues

Asking Telecom Operators to make the payment of 10% of the total AGR dues as by 31.3.2021, the 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, SA Nazeer and MR Shah, JJ gave 10 years to the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to complete the payment of their AGR dues.

Read more…

[Union of India v. Assn. of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, (2020) 9 SCC 748 ]


All petitions challenging the IBC provisions relating to personal guarantors transferred to Supreme Court

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is at a nascent stage and it is better that the interpretation of the provisions of the Code is taken up by the Supreme Court to avoid any confusion.

Read more…

[Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India v. Lalit Kumar Jain,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 884 ]


The final order that sealed the fate for the Nirbhaya convicts

Putting the last nail in the coffin for the Nirbhaya death row convicts, the 3-judge bench of R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and AS Bopanna, JJ dismissed the plea file by Pawan Kumar Gupta challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the President on the ground that his plea of juvenility had not been finally determined and this aspect was not kept in view by the President of India while rejecting his mercy plea.

The hearing took place late at night at 2:30 AM.

Read more…

Also read:

[Pawan Kumar Gupta v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 340 ]


Shaheen Bagh Protests

“Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone. The present case was not even one of protests taking place in an undesignated area, but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters. We cannot accept the plea of the applicants that an indeterminable number of people can assemble whenever they choose to protest.” 

The 3-judge bench of SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari, JJ has, in the Shaheen Bagh protests matter, held that while there exists the right to peaceful protest against a legislation, public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely.

Read more…

[Amit Sahni v. Commissioner of Police, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 808 ]


Farmers’ protest

“Indeed the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order.”

Refusing to interfere with the ongoing Farmers’ protest, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ 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.

Read more…

[Rakesh Vaishnav v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1032 ]


Sushant Singh Rajput Death Case

When truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after Life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate.”

A single judge bench of Hrishikesh Roy, J has held the ongoing investigation by the CBI to be lawful and further directed that if any other case is registered on the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the surrounding circumstances of his unnatural death, the CBI is directed to investigate the new case as well.

Read more… 

[Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 654 ]


Scandalous allegations against Supreme Court judges

After finding advocates Vijay Kurle, Nilesh Ojha and Rashid Khan Pathan guilty of levelling scandalous allegations against Justice RF Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran, the bench of Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has sentenced all 3 to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of 3 months each with a fine of Rs. 2000/-. It further said that in default of payment of fine, each of the defaulting contemnors shall undergo further simple imprisonment for a period of 15 days.

Read: 

[Vijay Kurle, In re, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 407  and Rashid Khan Pathan v. Vijay Kurle, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 711]


Vikas Dubey Encounter

After Vikas Dubey, a history-sheeter and gangster-turned-politician, was killed in a police encounter on July 10, 2020, the Supreme Court gave a go ahead to Inquiry Committee headed by Former SC judge Justice B S Chauhan.

Later,  a 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ refused to scrap the Judicial Committee constituted to look into the killing of Vikas Dubey and said that the allegations of bias made against the members of the Commission merely on the basis of newspaper reports and nothing more, are liable to be rejected outright.

“ … the Chairman and a Member of the Commission had held high Constitutional positions and while making allegations the petitioner has based his claim only on the newspaper report and the manner in which the averments are made in the application is unacceptable.”

Read: 

[Ghanshyam Upadhyay v. State of Uttar Pradesh2020 SCC OnLine SC 587 and 2020 SCC OnLine SC 658 ]


Prashant Bhushan Contempt proceedings

Twitter row

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ has, in a 108-pages long verdict, held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets. It held,

The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing of ‘criminal contempt’. 

The Court, however, sentenced Bhushan with a fine of Rupee 1 for his contemptuous tweets and said

“If we do not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to the lawyers and litigants throughout the country. However, by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe punishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of  Re.1/­ (Rupee one).”

Read:

[Prashant Bhushan, In re, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 646 and  2020 SCC OnLine SC 698 ]

Tehelka contempt

In another contempt proceeding against Bhushan, after refusing to accept the explanation of advocate Prashant Bhushan in the 2009 contempt petition against Advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Tehelka Tarun Tejpal, the 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and MR Shah, JJ framed larger questions in the matter that will have far-reaching ramifications.

Read more… 

[Amicus Curiae v. Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 651 ]


Kunal Kamra and Rachita Taneja contempt cases 

The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, JJ issued notice to cartoonist Rachita Taneja and comedian Kunal Kamra in two separate cases relating contemptuous social media posts.

Read more…

[Shrirang Katneshwarkar v. Kunal Kamra2020 SCC OnLine SC 1041 and Aditya Kashyap v. Rachita Taneja, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1042 ]


Here’s the list of some of the important COVID-19 Orders/Direction issued by the Supreme Court:

“Even if one survives from COVID-19, many times financially and economically he is finished.”

“To a worker who has faced the brunt of the pandemic and is currently laboring in a workplace without the luxury of physical distancing, economic dignity based on the rights available under the statute is the least that this Court can ensure them.” 


Also read:

2020 Roundup: 11 Constitution bench judgments, 17 judges, Zero dissent

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

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.

OP. ED.SCC Journal Section Archives

Introduction

The most notable anti-governmental protests have sparked across the streets of “Europe’s Last Dictatorship” as Belarusian citizens have been peacefully demonstrating against the allegedly manipulated August 2020 Presidential elections, rampant police brutality and the inhuman treatment meted out to the detainees by the State machinery. These protests have become one amongst many amplifying demonstrations that various establishments across the world are grappling with along side the constant threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The right to protest is the expression of the protester of showing dissent against the authority.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, coincidentally at a propitious time, adopted General Comment No. 37 on Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights1 (hereinafter, “Iccpr”) that enshrines the right to peaceful assembly. The general comment reinstated the responsibility of law enforcement State agencies to protect and enable these peaceful demonstrations2 and the non-usage of “indiscriminate use of firearms” except a minimal force to curb an escalated tension3. The UN Committee has thus held the right to protest, whether offline or online, as a vital human right4 well protected by the principles of international law, particularly the Iccpr and various other regional human rights conventions.

This article attempts to provide a comparative analysis with respect to the legal principle of the right to protest in two distinctive jurisdictions, India and Belarus as analogous agitations against the ruling dispensation have been observed in both the countries.

To read the full text of the article, click here.


Note: This article was first published in Practical Lawyer (2020) PL (HR) November 71. It has been reproduced with the kind permission of Eastern Book Company.

* BA LLB, 5th year and Student Coordinator

** BA LLB, 2nd-year Member, RGNUL, Centre for Advanced Studies in Human Rights (CASIHR)