The Supreme Court on Thursday said farmers protesting at Delhi borders against the three farm laws have the right to agitate but they cannot block roads indefinitely.
A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul said it was not against the Right to Protest even when the legal challenge is pending but ultimately some solution has to be found.
“Farmers have the Right to Protest but they cannot keep roads blocked indefinitely. You may have a right to agitate in any manner but roads should not be blocked like this. People have right to go on roads but it cannot be blocked,” the bench also comprising Justice M M Sundresh said.
The top court asked the farmer unions, who have been arrayed as parties in the case, to respond within three weeks on the issue and posted the matter for hearing on December 7.
The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by Noida-resident Monicca Agarwal, complaining of delays in daily commute caused due to the road blockade owing to the ongoing farmers’ protests.
During the hearing, SG Tushar Mehta cited Republic Day violence and said the incident took place despite the farmers’ unions giving a written undertaking that there will be no violence during the tractor rally on January 26.
To this, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (an umbrella body of farmers’ unions) claimed that the -Day violence was engineered and stage-managed by the Central government.
The apex court asked the SKM whether they have the right to block the road. In response, SKM said that the road management can be done better by the police and if they are unable to manage then farmers should be allowed to protest at Delhi’s Ram Lila Ground or Jantar Mantar.
Farmers have been camping at Delhi borders to demand that the three agri laws be rolled back.
The Parliament passed three agriculture acts — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — during its monsoon session culminating on September 23, 2020.
The contentious bills, which received the President’s sign off on September 27, 2020, were passed amid an uproar by opposition party leaders and farmer groups alike.
Farmers from different parts of the country have been camping at the Delhi borders since November 26 last year, demanding the repeal of the three central farm laws.
While the farmers have been expressing fear that the laws would do away with the Minimum Support Price system, leaving them at the mercy of the corporations, the government has been projecting them as major agricultural ‘reforms’.
The Supreme Court had in January suspended the implementation of the laws.
With the last talk between the farmers and the government held on January 22, 2021, 11 rounds of talks between the two parties have failed to break the deadlock.