HC raps farm agitators, says can’t use tractor trailers on highways - Hindustan Times
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HC raps farm agitators, says can’t use tractor trailers on highways

By, Chandigarh
Feb 22, 2024 10:14 AM IST

The bench of acting chief justice GS Sandhawalia and justice Lapita Banerji also questioned the Punjab government for allowing the assembly of farmers in such large numbers.

The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday slammed protesting farmers, camping at the Shambhu border with hundreds of tractors, and said that tractor trailers cannot be used on highways.

The court was hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) -- one moved by advocate Uday Pratap Singh and another by lawyer Arvind Seth (Shutterstock)
The court was hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) -- one moved by advocate Uday Pratap Singh and another by lawyer Arvind Seth (Shutterstock)

The bench of acting chief justice GS Sandhawalia and justice Lapita Banerji also questioned the Punjab government for allowing the assembly of farmers in such large numbers.

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“According to the Motor Vehicle Act, you can’t use tractor-trailers on the highway...You are travelling from Amritsar to Delhi on trailers,” the bench orally remarked adding that it is only in this country that tractor-trailers are plying on highways. “If you want to go to Delhi, you may go by bus,” observed the bench while dismissing an intervener application moved by lawyer, SS Swaich, who was arguing that the state can’t use lethal weapons, which has resulted in so many people losing their vision.

The court was hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) -- one moved by advocate Uday Pratap Singh and another by lawyer Arvind Seth. Singh’s PIL seeks directions to the state to lift restrictions imposed by invoking Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the suspension of mobile internet services and bulk SMS in several districts of Haryana. Seth’s PIL seeks directions to ensure that all national and state highways and railway tracks in Punjab and Haryana are not blocked by the farmers and immediate action be taken against the said agitators.

The farmers have been camping on the Shambhu border since February 13, when they were stopped from marching to Delhi, seeking a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) on all crops, implementation of Swaminathan Commission’s formula, full debt waiver for farmers among other demands.

Four rounds of talks of farmer leaders with the Centre have failed.

During the hearing, the court asked Punjab to ensure that people do not collect in large numbers. “You should ensure that people should not collect in large numbers…they have right to protest but it is subject to reasonable restrictions,” the bench further remarked posting the matter for hearing next week. A detailed order of the proceedings is awaited, however, the court asked Centre to submit a report on the outcome of parleys with farmers by the adjourned date.

13,000-odd farmers’ assembly

reported at Shambhu border: Punjab

In its report to high court, the Punjab government has said that as on February 19, the number of farmers during the day was 13,000 to 13,500, which was recorded at around 11,000 during the night time. The gathering has 1,155 tractors, 1,363 trailers, 127 cars/ SUVs, 10 mini buses and 80 water tanks, says the report filed by Arpit Shukla, special director general of police (law and order), Punjab.

The report further said that at Khanauri border in Sangrur, daytime gathering was recorded on February 19 at 4,500/4,600 and night time of 3,700/3,900. They have 500 odd trailers/ tractors, 24/25 cars/ SUV and 20 water tankers.

The affidavit further said, upon a report from Haryana that heavy machinery such as JCBs are being mobilised by protesters to protest sites, the state government has directed all the deputy commissioners and senior superintendent of police not to allow movement of such machinery towards borders. SSPs of Barnala, Malerkotla, SAS Nagar, Bathinda and mansa have been directed to put round the clock nakas.

Farmers may break barricades: Haryana

As of Haryana, in his affidavit, TVSN Prasad, additional chief secretary (home), Haryana government, has said that there are inputs that if demands are not met by the Centre, thousands farmers in modified tractors with other machineries may try to break barricades at the interstate borders and move towards Delhi. All important borders of Delhi-Haryana have been sealed by Delhi police, said Prasad, adding that if farmers are allowed to move further, they would be camping within the state. Prasad further said that considering previous experience, the administration has taken all precautionary measures and accordingly farmers have been stopped at barriers using legal means. “Haryana will take all possible steps against the violators of law-and-order to ensure that the protesters do not block important roads and places in the state,” he said, further informing that 18 places across Haryana have been earmarked for peaceful protests.

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