The supreme court on Thursday upheld the farmers’ right to hold peaceful protests, suggesting that the Centre should put on hold the implementation of the new farm laws currently. The apex court also put forth the idea of constituting an impartial and independent committee, which may include experts like P Sainath, to end the deadlock.
The Centre pointed out that if the implementation of farm laws was put on hold, farmers would not come forward for negotiations. Responding to the petitions seeking removal of protesting farmers from Delhi borders, the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said it would order for serving of notices to farmer unions, giving them the freedom to approach the vacation bench.
“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 the story,” the CJI said.
“We will not decide the validity of the law today. The only thing which we will decide is the issue of protest and the right to move freely,” the bench stated, intending to facilitate talks between the farmers and the government.
The blockage of roads and the closing down of border points have adversely impacted vehicular traffic. The petitioners in their pleas have said that this was causing hardship to people, including Covid-19 patients, from accessing emergency medical services.
The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said it would ask the Centre to slightly alter the manner of protest so that it does not affect the citizens’ right of movement.
“Farmers have the 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 the manner of protest is going on, to slightly alter it so that it doesn’t affect the citizens’ right of movement,” the Supreme Court said.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the government 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.”
Advocate and Congress Leader P Chidambaram, appearing from the Punjab Government said the farmers only wanted to come to the national capital, Delhi, and protest within the boundaries of the law. They did not intend to block the city borders.
The farmer unions on Wednesday wrote to the government rejecting the December 9 proposal which had offered significant changes to the farm laws. A confirmation for the same was done by an Agriculture Ministry official to The Indian Express.
The ongoing farmers’ protest at the Delhi borders has entered the third week, where the farmers are apprehensive that the new laws would pave the way towards dismantling the minimum support price, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations. The government, however, has maintained its stand that the laws will open new and better opportunities for the farmers of the country.