SC asserts farmers’ right to protest; moots setting up committee for discussion

The apex court has expressed the view that the farmers’ right to protest should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies.

New Delhi: Asserting the farmers’ fundamental right to protest against the Centre’s farm laws, the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday raised a proposal to set up an independent and impartial committee to solve the deadlock between the protesting farmers and the Central government.

“You (farmers) have a right to protest which we are not going to interfere with. You carry on the protest,” said Chief Justice SA Bobde, in a hearing of petitions against the farmer protest.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said it would pass order on constituting a committee only after hearing all the parties including the protesting farmer unions and putting on hold the implementation of new farm laws by the Centre would enable negotiations with farmers.

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“In protests, the aggrieved party must be able to articulate their view and the party who is said to have caused the grievance has option to answer. We think this can be done before an independent committee,” the bench, which also comprises justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said. The bench proposed names like P Sainath, noted journalist and founding editor of People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI).

Taking a dig at the central government’s inability to solve the deadlock, the CJI quipped, “We do not think they will accept your outcomes. We do not want them to do that also. That is for the committee to decide. We saw how successful you have been in negotiations.”

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Adding that the SC only wishes to facilitate a dialogue between the government and farmers, the bench said, “We are familiar with the plight of the farmers. We are Indians. We are sympathetic to the farmers. But we are on the manner of protests.”

The apex court has expressed the view that the farmers’ right to protest should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies as the right to protest cannot mean blockade of the entire city.

The ongoing protests, which are now in its third week, have seen thousands of farmers, primarily from Punjab and Haryana, gathering at the capital’s doorstep.

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