Mohali: The apex court has agreed to hear a plea submitted by 35 students of Panjab University in the form of open letter addressed to Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde on December 2, 2020.
The letter highlighted human rights violations at the farmers’ protest around the borders of New Delhi. The Supreme Court (SC) registered the open letter as a public petition on January 4, 2021.
In their letter, the students have urged the SC to inquire into the police excesses used on agitating farmers by the Haryana government, to look into illegal detentions of protestors and to withdraw cases against farmers by the Haryana police “registered under political vendetta”.
The letter notes: “…After more than two months of peaceful protests in their home states, served with incompatible gestures of Government of India when farmers (felt marooned) decided to approach to the National Capital Delhi, the peaceful protestors (farmers) were thrashed and walloped that it seemed raising voice for the Fundamental Rights as provided by the Supreme Law of the Nation is a dreadful crime.”
The letter also seeks that the SC must direct both the state and Central governments to provide basic amenities like mobile toilets vans, especially to women and children, at the protest venues.
In addition, the letter categorically urges the SC to take action against media channels who have “engaged in misrepresentation, polarisation and sensationalisation” of the farmers’ movement. It notes: “…despite addressing this gruesome situation, government and unconscientious overly- biased media outlets are trying to polarise the whole peaceful movement by associating it with separatism.”
Speaking to The Wire, Gurmohanpreet Singh, a law graduate and currently a student of human rights at the Centre for Human Rights and Duties, Panjab University, Chandigarh, who has drafted the letter, said that the SC’s admission of the letter as a public petition is a welcome move.
“The death of farmers, the use of force by Haryana, Delhi police, and now even the Punjab police is a gross violation of human rights of dissenters. So our plea is solely on humanitarian grounds,” he said.
“While I was at Singhu, I saw protestors sleeping on the roads wrapped in blankets. That’s when I, who is a law graduate, was reminded of the Menaka Gandhi judgement, where the SC had said – ‘the right to life is more than mere animal existence’. That’s when the idea to write to the SC was born.”
Singh said that his seniors and people who work in the field of human rights fully supported him in carrying this out. “We are now waiting for this matter to get listed and heard,” he said.
He added that over the course of over 100 days of the farmers’ protest, this is the first petition filed in favour of the protest. Earlier a petition was filed seeking the removal of farmers from the borders of New Delhi.
On December 17, while hearing a batch of petitions seeking removal of farmers from Delhi borders, the SC had said that there can be no impediment in the exercise of right to protest as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to the life and properties of other citizens.