At this stage, farmers’ protest should be allowed, says SC

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday unequivocally pronounced that it will not interfere with the farmers’ protest as the right to protest is fundamental right, but emphasised on forming a committee comprising independent and impartial persons, including domain experts, to resolve the impasse between Centre and farmers unions.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: “We clarify that this Court will not interfere with the protest in question. Indeed, the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order.”

The observation from the top court came after learning from the Centre that roads are blocked by the police in order to prevent the entry of the protesters/farmers in Delhi.

Emphasising on the right to protest, the top court noted that 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.

“We are of the view at this stage that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police,” it said.

Scores of farmers have been protesting for more than three weeks at various Delhi borders, demanding Centre to repeal the three laws — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 — enacted by the Parliament recently.

The bench noted that in order to bring about an effective solution to the present stalemate between the protesters and the Centre, it will serve the interests of justice to constitute a committee comprising of independent and impartial persons, including experts in the field of agriculture, to resolve the issues.

“This may not be possible without hearing all the necessary parties. Till the parties come before us, it would be advisable to obtain suggestions about the constitution of the said Committee from all the parties which may be submitted by them on the date of next hearing in the matter,” it said.

Citing the pleas challenging the farms laws, the bench said the petitions challenging the laws will be decided in due course.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for a petitioner seeking removal of farmers from the borders, contended that 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 top court ordered listing these matters after the ensuing winter vacation with liberty to the parties to move the vacation bench, if necessary.

“In the meantime, the petitioners are given liberty to serve the unserved respondents/ impleaded farmers. The pendency of these matters will not prevent the parties from resolving the issue amicably,” it said.

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