A long row of tractors on Western Peripheral Expressway headed towards Singhu Border on January 7. The march came a day before the government and the farmers’ unions were slated to hold their next round of talks. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
A long row of tractors on Western Peripheral Expressway headed towards Singhu Border on January 7. The march came a day before the government and the farmers’ unions were slated to hold their next round of talks. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

SC to hear Delhi Police's plea to stay tractor rally by farmers on Republic Day

The Delhi Police in its application seeking injunction against farmers taking out a tractor rally had said that the tractor rally could cause law and order problems and embarrass the country.
By Abraham Thomas, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 10:33 AM IST

The Supreme Court will take up on Monday an application by the Delhi Police seeking injunction against farmers’ unions from causing any disruption to the Republic Day celebrations in the national capital.

The Delhi Police had informed the Court that according to news reports, the farmers’ unions were planning to hold a Tractor Rally coinciding with the Republic Day celebrations in the capital.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde had issued notice on the application on January 12 and sought response of the farmers’ unions appearing before the Court.

The Delhi Police in its application seeking injunction against farmers taking out a tractor rally had told the Court that such a rally could cause law and order problems and create an embarrassing situation for the country in the eyes of the entire world.

Also read | Farmers’ protest: Tractor rally today likely to disrupt traffic on Delhi outskirts

"Right to protest is always subject to the countervailing public order and the public interest. The right to protest can never include maligning the nation globally,” the Delhi Police said in its application.

On Saturday, one of the protesting farmers’ unions Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Lokshakti had filed its response to the application and raised the demand for removing the three members of the Committee constituted by the Court. This Committee, constituted by the Court on January 12 initially had four members. This Committee was tasked with the responsibility of hearing the concerns of farmer unions over the three farm laws as well as that of the Centre and submit its recommendations to the Court in eight weeks.

The members were Bhupinder Singh Mann (National President, BKU and All India Kisan Coordination Committee), Pramod Kumar Joshi (Agricultural Economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute), Ashok Gulati, Agricultural Economist and Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana. The Committee was to hold its first sitting by January 22.

Two days later, Mann refused to join the committee in solidarity with the protesting farmers leaving just three members. The response by BKU-Lokshakti referred to news clippings where the remaining three members had openly supported the farm laws and criticized protesting farmers of being misled by political parties.

Also read: What the farm stir can learn from Gandhi

“When all committee members appointed by the Supreme Court are already in favour of these three farm laws and already support the laws made and passed by the Central government without enough discussion with farmers, then how can they make fair report without any bias before the Court,” the BKU-Lokshakti said in its response filed through advocate AP Singh.

The union further requested the Court to “remove all three members from the committee” and appoint persons who would prepare the report on basis of “mutual harmony” and who can “think about the interest of farmers with impartiality, trust and goodwill.” It requested the Court to appoint independent, impartial persons such as former Supreme Court judge and include within the Committee the President of BKU-Lokshakti among other farmers’ organization leaders participating in the protests.

A bench of CJI SA Bobde, and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran is expected to consider this affidavit as well on Monday.

The Centre was also expected to file an affidavit on the concern expressed by the Court on the last occasion where an allegation was leveled by a farmer union in support of the laws that the protest by farmers had presence of pro-Khalistani persons.

Indian Kisan Union had moved an application in the Court claiming that an organization by name “Sikhs for Justice”, which is banned for anti-India secessionist movement is financing the agitation. The bench had asked Attorney General KK Venugopal if this was true. Venugopal supported this averment but sought permission of the Court to file an affidavit based on inputs received from Intelligence Bureau.

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