Attorney General KK Venugopal’s immediate response was: “This (defer) is not possible”. When the apex court bench said the government could consider this to help resume stalled talks, it caved and said it would argue with the Center. However, Attorney General Tushar Mehta he said vehemently that the deferral was out of the question. The bench told the SG not to take the floor when the AG had already said it would argue with the government and respond.
The court also noted that the constitutional right of farmers to protest cannot stand in the way of citizens’ right to free movement.
The suggestion of deferment came towards the end of an hour-long hearing before a bench by Chief Justice SA Bobde and Judges AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, where any move forward on the controversial issue became a challenge as none of the major Protestant farmers’ unions were represented.
In its comments, the court reiterated the agricultural unions’ right to protest, but also noted that talks were needed, otherwise the protest could drag on without results. It also noted that the right to protest should not violate the right of other citizens to carry on their daily life and activities.
There has been no result from the long hearing as alone the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) was represented by a lawyer. This faction has been called a non-entity by the government. The SC asked the AG to help serve petitions on major protesting farmers’ unions and to move the court for an urgent hearing during the winter holidays if necessary. Since breaking the ice between the Center and the agitation of agricultural unions seemed difficult, the bank did not even give a precise date for the next hearing.
Importantly, the bench said the CS will not interfere with agricultural protests. “Indeed, the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can, in fact, be exercised subject to public order. There can certainly be no impediment to the exercise of these rights as long as it is non-violent and does not cause harm to the public. life and property of other citizens and complies with the law. At this stage we are of the opinion that the protest of the peasants should be able to continue unhindered and without any violation of the peace by the protesters or the police, “said the bench led by the CJI.
He reiterated his intention to set up a committee to unblock talks. “The purpose of the protest can only be achieved by talking and discussing the issues with the government. Otherwise you (farmers) will sit for years and nothing will happen,” the bench said. The Punjab government, represented by a senior lawyer P Chidambaram, supported the formation of a committee.
The bench said: “In order to achieve an effective solution to the current stalemate between the demonstrators and the Indian government, we consider it appropriate, in the interest of justice, to set up a committee composed of independent and impartial people, including experts in the field. of agriculture for the purpose. This may not be possible without having heard all the necessary parties. Until the parties come before us, it would be advisable to obtain suggestions on the constitution of such committee from all the parties which can be presented by them on the date of the next hearing on the matter. ”
The tone for the remainder of the hearing was set by the senior lawyer Harish Hi, which appeared for a Delhi resident. He said: “No one has a quarrel with farmers’ right to protest agricultural laws. But the question is: can it be at the expense of other citizens’ fundamental rights? Citizens’ right to life is affected by the blocking of highways, which it is hindering the supply of cereals, vegetables and other essential products Prices are soaring and this has hit the middle class which is facing a difficult time due to the pandemic.
“No fundamental right is absolute and it would be necessary for the court to determine the contours of the right to freedom of speech and expression involved in farmers’ protest and the extent to which this right can be exercised consistently with the rights of other citizens.”
The counter was quick to reply: “We are clarifying. We recognize the fundamental right of farmers to protest against a law. There can be no limitation of that right. But, at the same time, it cannot violate the rights of other citizens to move. freely or their right to life “.
The bench argued that the petitions contesting the validity of the Agricultural Trade and Trade Act (promotion and facilitation), the Essential Goods Act (amendment) and the agreement with farmers (accountability and protection) on the guarantee of prices and the law on agricultural services will be decided later.