Farmers’ agitation: SC to examine if right to protest against a law not in force is ‘fundamental’

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October 05, 2021 2:15 AM

The apex court also wondered why protesting farmers were still on the roads when implementation of the farm laws in question had already been stayed and the issue was under consideration of the highest court of the country.

Farmers Protest 02The counsel replied that debate, dialogue and protest can simultaneously go on in such matters.

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will examine a larger constitutional issue – if the right to protest by the farmers against the three agriculture laws, when the statutes have already been stayed, is an “absolute right.”

The apex court also wondered why protesting farmers were still on the roads when implementation of the farm laws in question had already been stayed and the issue was under consideration of the highest court of the country.

A Bench led by Justice AK Khanwilkar sought response from the Centre on a plea filed by Kisan Mahapanchayat seeking permission to hold ‘Satyagrah’ against the farm laws at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

“There is nothing to be implemented. What are the farmers’ protesting about?… No one other than the court can decide the validity of the farm laws. When that is so, and when farmers are in court challenging the laws, why protest on street… It is still intriguing, there is no Act in place at moment. The government has assured they won’t give effect to it, protest is for what,” the bench asked.

“When you have already filed a petition before a court challenging the Act or action of the executive, how can you then protest? Who are you protesting against? How can the executive allow these protests? What is the validity of these protests,” the bench further asked counsel Ajay Choudhary, appearing for the farmers body.

The counsel replied that debate, dialogue and protest can simultaneously go on in such matters.

“We are on principle. Once you go to court and challenge executive action, how can the same party say that matter is before court, nevertheless I will still protest, the bench said, adding “protest why when law is not in force at all? And the court has kept the laws in abeyance. Law is made by Parliament, not government.”

Referring to the Monday’s incident at Lakhimpur Kheri related to death of farmers and others, Attorney general KK Venugopal termed the course of events as “unfortunate” and submitted that the court should make it clear that they can’t continue the protests to avoid such unfortunate incidents that happened on Sunday at Lakhimpur Kheri.

The court also observed that “nobody takes any responsibility when loss of lives and properties take place.”

A separate bench had on January 12 while staying implementation of three farm laws had constituted a committee to look into the matter. The panel had already submitted its report on March 19 after consulting a large number of farmers and several stakeholders. The report is yet to be made public. Last month, Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sanghatana and a commitee member, had urged the CJI to release the report and implement its recommendations.

Farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s borders for over a year against the centre’s three agricultural laws. The farmers groups, which started their protests against the three laws since November 26, 2020, continue to stage their sit-ins at the borders of the national Capital.

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