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Up to govt, cops to decide on farmers’ rally: SC

Krishnadas Rajagopal New Delhi | Updated on January 18, 2021

An outside view of Supreme Court building, in New Delhi on November 25, 2009. Photo: V. Sudershan   -  The Hindu

It is a law and order issue and still there’s plenty of time to invoke all powers, it says

The Supreme Court on Monday said the Centre and the Delhi police should take a call on whether or not the protesting farmers can hold tractor or vehicle rally on Republic Day in the national capital. The government cannot ask the court to decide on issues concerning law and order.

“Entry into Delhi is a law and order issue. Who should be allowed entry and on what conditions are all determined by the police. We cannot be the authority to decide it,” Chief Justice of India Sharad A Bobde told Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Chief Justice Bobde said there is still time for the Union of India and the Delhi police to “invoke all its powers”.

Venugopal said people were camping outside the city. There was a threat of illegal entry on January 26. The government was looking to the court to “strengthen its hands”. The government wants the court to pass an injunction order to restrain farmers from holding rallies to “disrupt” Republic Day celebrations in Delhi. The government said the right to express dissent against the farm laws does not include a right to malign the nation globally.

‘Not first authority’

“Why do you want us to tell you how to use your powers. We are not the first authority in law and order issues. Authorities prohibit and then the court acts. It is not that the court prohibits and the authorities carry out,” Chief Justice Bobde said.

The CJI said how the court had intervened in just “one matter” in farmers’ protest case, and how it was misunderstood. The court had, on January 12, stayed the implementation of the farm laws and formed an expert committee to negotiate between farmers and the government. Mehta said there was also an issue of constitutional dignity at stake in this case.

“Where is the constitutional issue in this case?” the CJI enquired.

The Solicitor General urged the court to list the case on Wednesday, to which the bench agreed. Advocate AP Singh, appearing for a farmers’ union, said protestors should be given access to the Ramlila Maidan to continue with their peaceful demonstrations.

The union has also a change in the Constitution of the expert committee after one of its four members, Bhupinder Singh Mann, had recused himself.

“It has come to the knowledge of the security agencies through various sources that a small group of protesting individuals/organisations have planned to carry out a tractor/trolley/vehicle march on Republic Day.

‘Government’s concern’

The proposed march is slated to disturb and disrupt the August celebrations of the nation on Republic Day and would be bound to create a massive law and order situation,” the government application had said. It said such a protest would cause an “embarrassment to the nation”.

On January 12, Venugopal had said there was no question of a huge group of people entering the city on Republic Day.

The court had also noted Venugopal’s “support” of a “specific averment” by Indian Kisan Union that an organisation, Sikhs for Justice, banned for anti-India secessionist movement, is financing the agitation. Venugopal had orally remarked in the hearing that there were reports that Khalistanis had infiltrated the protests.

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Published on January 18, 2021
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