Supreme Court says farmers have the right to protest but cannot block roads
The court notes that it had established the law in the case of Shaheen Bagh protests.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court saw farmers and the government take part in a verbal confrontation during a physical hearing.
The farmers, represented by lead defender Dushyant Dave and defender Prashant Bhushan, said the roads were deliberately blocked to turn public opinion against them. Protesters must be allowed to enter the Ram Lila Maidan and Jantar Mantar to continue their protests against the farm laws.
Haryana’s Attorney General Tushar Mehta reminded the court of the Red Fort violence in January that left several hundred injured and others dead.
A bank led by judge SK Kaul acknowledged that “there is a problem with the movement, we will not accept that there is no problem.” He declared that a solution had to be found for the nearly two-year stalemate between farmers and the Government.
The court noted that it had established the law in the Shaheen Bagh protest case that the right to protest should not impede the public’s right of movement.
Judge Kaul observed: “The law is established. There is no reason for the CS to dictate the law over and over again … Ultimately, some solutions must be found: roads cannot be blocked … “
‘A fundamental right’
Mr. Dave argued that the right to protest was a fundamental right. The roads were blocked by the police. The government’s view of the protesters’ violence appeared biased. He asked why farmers were not allowed to enter Jantar Mantar when on Tuesday he saw massive protests organized by the BJP in the area over the attack on Hindus in Bangladesh during Durga pooja. “The solution is to allow us to agitate in Jantar Mantar …”
Mr. Mehta commented: “The last time they came, it became a serious problem … something much more than a serious problem.” He hinted that “sometimes it is felt that the agitation of the peasants is not for the cause but for something else …”
Mr. Dave replied that farmers felt the same about the government’s farm laws. “We also feel that the farm laws are not for farmers but for something else … If you are going to make accusations against farmers, we will make accusations against you.” He repeated that the only solution to the problem would be to allow farmers to enter the Ram Lila Maidan.
Mr. Mehta said that the Ram Lila Maidan “has become a permanent residence for many.” He referred to how there was material to suggest that the protests were financed by anti-national elements.
So far, only four of the 43 farmer bodies and leaders have responded to the higher court’s notification of a request by a Noida resident to remove the blockades.
Mr. Dave told The Bench that another Bench was hearing a similar case and that this case should be transferred there.
The court issued a notice about new petitions filed by other private citizens seeking the removal of the blockades.
The Bench published the hearing on December 7.