Farmers' Tractor Rally On Jan 26 | You Are At Liberty To Invoke All Powers Under Law: SC Tells Delhi Police

Protesting farmers have said that they will partake in a tractor rally on January 26 to protest the Centre's new agriculture laws.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) members protest at Ghazipur border during their 'Delhi Chalo' march against the new farm laws, in New Delhi.
Outlook Web Bureau Jan 18, 2021

Asserting that who should or shouldn’t be allowed to enter Delhi or in what numbers is a “matter to be determined by the police” first, the Supreme Court, on Monday, declined to pass any orders on an application filed by the Delhi Police seeking to restrain farmers from carrying out a tractor rally in the national capital on January 26.

However, in a verbal observation that could draw as much criticism as did the top court’s recent decision to stay the implementation of three controversial central farm laws pending deliberations in a SC-appointed panel, Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, also told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal that the State was “at liberty to invoke all powers under the law” to prevent or restrict the tractor rally. While the Attorney General claimed that the tractor rally would create an “unprecedented situation” and asked the court to pass an order emphasizing the powers of the Delhi Police with regard to the proposed rally, the court maintained that it was “not the first authority” to be approached in case of a law-and-order situation.

The Delhi police had, last week, filed an application before the top court stating that the proposed tractor rally is slated to “disturb and disrupt” the Republic Day parade and has the potential of “maligning the nation globally”. Additionally, the Centre, through Attorney General Venugopal, had also alleged in court that the farmers’ protest, now in its second month, has been “infiltrated by Khalistanis and other banned outfits”. Venugopal had also told the court that the Centre would file an affidavit detailing inputs from the Intelligence Bureau to prove this allegation.

Meanwhile, the apex court declined to hear other substantive issues related to the petitions against the farm laws or the farmers’ protests since two of the three judges who heard the matters last week were not available on Monday. The bench hearing the petitions today comprised CJI Bobde and Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran. In previous hearings, the petitions were heard by a bench comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, aside from CJI Bobde. The CJI has directed that the petitions be listed for next hearing on Wednesday when Justices Bopanna and Ramasubramanian are expected to re-join the proceedings.

However, during the brief hearing on Monday, the CJI also rued that the court’s intervention of last week in the case when it constituted a four-member committee to hold discussions with all stakeholders on the farm laws to resolve the ongoing conflict between the government and the agitating farmers over the legislations “has been misunderstood”. The top court had been scorched with criticism for naming Bhupinder Singh Maan, PK Joshi, Ashok Gulati and Anil Ghanwat as members of the committee despite all four of them having publicly endorsed the contentious laws as ‘necessary reforms’. Maan has, since, recused from the committee and a petition is presently pending before the top court seeking reconstitution of the committee.

The agitating farmers have been resolute in their demand for complete repeal of the three laws by the Centre and have rejected the Supreme Court’s offer to mediate a resolution through the committee.

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