SC issues notice to Union govt on plea to remove protesting farmers from Delhi border

The SC indicated it may form a committee comprising representatives of the government and farmer bodies to resolve the dispute.
Farmer protests
Farmer protests
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Union government, states and other stakeholders over a plea seeking the removal of the farmers who are protesting at Delhi’s borders over the three contentious farm laws. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde indicated it may form a committee comprising representatives of the government and farmer bodies across the country to resolve the dispute.

The counsel for the petitioner relied on the Supreme Court’s Shaheen Bagh judgement, where the court had said that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely, to seek that the farmers be removed from the spots they are protesting. However, CJI Bobde said, “there can be no precedent in a law and order situation.”

The court told the petitioner to make the protesting farmer unions and organisations a party to the case and adjourned the hearing to Thursday, December 17. 

Appearing for the Union government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the government will not do anything which is against the interest of farmers. 

However, indicating that it may set up a committee to resolve the dispute, the bench said, “Your negotiations with protesting farmers have not worked apparently till now.”

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea filed by law student Rishabh Sharma, who has sought directions from the Supreme Court to the authorities to open the roads at Delhi borders, shift these protestors to an allotted place and provide guidelines on social distancing and use of mask at the protest place to contain spread of COVID-19 cases. The petition had claimed that Delhi Police had on November 27 allowed these protesters to hold demonstration peacefully at Nirankari ground at Burari here but despite that they have blocked the borders of Delhi.

It referred to the October 7 verdict, delivered on a petition against blockade of a road in Shaheen Bagh area here by those protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act, in which the apex court had said that public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely and demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.

Referring to COVID-19 guidelines issued by the government, the plea has said that despite the advisories not to hold large gathering amid the pandemic, lakhs of farmers have gathered on Delhi borders and this might lead to increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and elsewhere have been protesting near various border points of Delhi including Singhu and Tikri for over a fortnight demanding the Centre repeal three new farm laws.

On Monday, leaders of around 32 farmer unions observed a day-long hunger strike at the Singhu border as part of the protest.  Agitating farmers have expressed apprehension that the new agri marketing laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations. The government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.

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