While hearing a petition challenging the farmer protests against the three farm laws on the basis of the fundamental right of citizens to move, the Supreme Court remarked that the right to protest is a fundamental right but it cannot affect the other fundamental rights including the right to life of others. During yesterday’s hearing, the Supreme Court had said that the negotiations between the government did not work and asked the farmer unions to be impleaded so that their side could be heard.
Senior Lawyer Harish Salve said right to protest not absolute
During the oral submissions, senior lawyer Harish Salve appearing on behalf of the petitioner contended that the blockage of roads due to farmer protest, the supply chain has been interrupted leading to price rise in the national capital. He said that no fundamental right is absolute and that the “right to protest cannot be extended to holding a city to ransom”.
Salve : I will tell about the indirect impact. Due to the curtailment of movements of goods, there is price rise. Delhi has a population of 2 million plus which cannot sustain itself. All fruits, vegetables coming from across the borders.#FarmersProtest— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 17, 2020
Responding to Salve’s submission, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde clarified that the court recognised the fundamental right to protest but it cannot affect other fundamental rights.
CJI : One thing we will make it clear. We recognize the fundamental right to protest against a law. But that cannot affect other fundamental rights and right to life of others.#FarmersProtest #SupremeCourt— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 17, 2020
Advocate Salve urged the Court that the farmer unions should be held responsible for the acts of the crowds gathered in the protest. He said that the government should put in place a protocol for asking protesting individuals to identify themselves so that they can be held accountable for damages.
Salve :Unions who are organizing large crowds should be held responsible for the acts of crowds.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 17, 2020
He refers to the Bombay High Court judgment imposing fines on Shiv Sena for public damages.#FarmersProtest #SupremeCourt
The CJI proposed an independent impartial committee
The CJI said that the purpose of the protest could only be achieved through dialogue. While asking the police to refrain from using force, he proposed an independent impartial committee that could hear both the parties and give its opinion. The CJI said that meanwhile the protests could continue in a non-violent manner and asked the government not to instigate violence. The court named journalist P Sainath to be included in the committee along with BKU and other stakeholders.
CJI : For that, we are proposing an independent impartial committee before whom both the parties can state their case while the protest goes on and that the committee will give its opinion, which we expect the parties to follow.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 17, 2020
Responding to the submissions of senior lawyer P Chidambaram, who appeared on behalf of Punjab government, about the farmers being stopped by police, the CJI said that court could not predict whether a mob would turn violent or not. He said that it must be left to the authorities to decide.
CJI : It is not for the court to predict if the mob will turn violent. It depends on intelligence reports based on which the police acts. Whether the mob should be allowed to enter arrest must be left to the authorities to decide and not for the court to decide.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 17, 2020
The CJI on road blockage by farmers
Lawyer appearing for the Bharatiya Kisan Union said that the farmers stopped the starvation of the country and not multinational companies. To this the CJI responded that Delhi would go hungry if farmers blocked the roads. The CJI added that the purpose of the protest would be fulfilled by talking and not by just sitting in protest.
Lawyer for BKU : During lockdown, only farmers stopped the starvation of the country and not multi nationals.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 17, 2020
CJI : The grievance is that people of Delhi will go hungry if you block the roads.
The CJI recalled how 1997 farmer protest near Boat Club would have potentially destroyed everything if not for the rift that appeared among them.
CJI remarks that the farmers protest in 1997 near Boat Club had the potential to destroy everything but fortunately nothing happened because there was a rift among the unions.#FarmersProtests #SupremeCourt— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 17, 2020
The CJI asked the Attorney General whether the central government could give a commitment that the farm laws will not be implemented while the matter was being heard in the court. To this the Attorney General expressed difficulty. The CJI then asked the Attorney General whether the government could assure that no executive action would be taken under the laws in order to facilitate negotiations. The Attorney General said that he could tell only after taking instructions from the government.
The CJI said that the court will pass an order that the parties should be served and that they are at the liberty to move Vacation Bench.