Listen to this article:
New Delhi: The Supreme Court made oral remarks on the farmers’ sustained protests against the three farm laws brought by the Union government last year.
Hearing a public interest litigation by a Noida resident who complained of alleged delays caused in daily commute due to the protest of the farmers that occupies a section of the roadways connecting Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, the Supreme Court said, “Highways cannot be blocked perpetually.”
“Redressal can be through judicial forum agitation or parliamentary debates but how can highways be blocked and this cannot be a perpetual problem,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul has said, according to a report by LiveLaw. Also on the bench was Justice M.M. Sundresh.
Justice Kaul had also headed the Supreme Court bench which had, in October 2020, delivered the order that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely, in a petition that sought the Shaheen Bagh protest in New Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act be moved to a designated location.
“Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated area,” the bench, also comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari, had said.
Justice Kaul, on Thursday, made mention of this ruling and said that the Supreme Court has already “laid down the law” and that it was the duty of the Union government, and the state governments of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to implement it as executives.
“The solution lies in the hands of the Union of India and state governments. They should coordinate with each other to ensure that if the protests are on, the traffic should not be stopped in any manner so that to and fro for people is not disturbed and does not cause any inconvenience to them,” the apex court had said on August 24, hearing the same petition.
Farmers, however, have repeatedly insisted that it is police barricades that are causing the “blockade” and that they themselves have streamlined the protest site enough to allow traffic to pass smoothly.
Writing for The Wire, Rohit Kumar has highlighted:
The police and security forces are the ones who have blocked the highways to prevent the farmers from coming into Delhi and protesting peacefully for their rights. The protestors, on the other hand, have set up camp in such a way as to leave ample room for traffic to pass as freely as possible, especially ambulances and other vehicles performing essential services.
Those who complain about the ‘inconvenience’ caused by traffic diversions fail to see that the farmers are not sitting on their roads because they want to, but because they are compelled to. They have no other way to convince the government to take back laws they never wanted in the first place. For them, it is a matter of survival as farmers.
The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on September 30, however, told the bench that a high-level committee was constituted to hold talks “but the protesting organisations refused to participate.”
Talks have not taken place between the Union government since the protests in Delhi on January 26, 2021, when, faced with police barricades, a section of protesters clashed with police in places. In the talks before, the Union government had been unwilling to grant farmers their steadfast demands – the repeal of the laws and a guarantee of Minimum Support Price.
When the SG asked the Supreme Court to implead the farmers’ unions in the matter, the court asked for a written application.
Earlier this month, The Wire had reported how 10 months after the farmers’ agitation began at the borders of Delhi, the Haryana government announced it would repair roads to ensure alternative routes to Delhi became operational.
Farmers protesting at the Kundli-Singhu and Tikri borders of Delhi and Haryana have insisted that it is not them but the government that has blocked approach roads to Delhi and have rejected talks with the government on the issue.