NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked how can highways be blocked “perpetually”, remarks that came against the backdrop of the road blockades by the protesting farmers at the Delhi borders, and said it is the Executive’s duty to implement the law laid down by the court that dealt with protests at public places.
The top court was apparently referring to the October 7, 2020 verdict relating to the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh here in which it was held that public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely and demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.
“The redressal of problems can be through judicial forum, agitation or through Parliamentary debates. But how can the highways be blocked and this is happening perpetually. Where does this end?” said a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh.
The top court was hearing a plea of a NOIDA resident Monicca Agrawaal, who has sought removal of blockades saying earlier it took 20 minutes to reach Delhi and now it is taking over two hours and that people of the area are facing hardships due to the protests at the UP Gate on the Delhi border.
The protests against the three farm laws are continuing for the last 10 months.
It also allowed the Centre to file a formal application to make farmer unions party to the plea for removing the road blockade at the UP gate at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.
“At the request of the Solicitor General, in order to enable him to move an appropriate application to implead some parties, list on October 4, 2021. If the application is in order, list the same along with the main petition,” the bench said in its order.
At the outset, the bench asked Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj what is the government doing in the matter.
Nataraj said they had convened a meeting with the protesting farmers and details have been mentioned in the affidavit.
The bench then said, “We may lay down a law but how to implement the law is your business. The court cannot implement it. It is the Executive which has to implement it”.
The top court had on October 7, 2020 held that the occupation of public places during the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh here was “not acceptable” and observed that democracy and dissent “go hand in hand” and constitutional scheme comes with the right to protest and express dissent, but with an obligation towards certain duties.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it is the duty of the Executive to implement the law.
The bench then went on to observe, “When we lay down the law, you will say it is encroachment and we trespassed into the domain of the executive. This has ramifications but there are also grievances which need to be addressed. This cannot be a perpetual problem”.
Mehta said that at the highest level a three-member committee was formed to address the grievances but the farmers’ representatives who were invited refused to join the discussions.
Mehta said the court should allow the petitioner to make the farmers union a party to the petition, so that later they don’t say they were not made parties in the matter.
The bench told Mehta that it is he who will have to move an application for making a farmers representative a party as the petitioner, a private individual, may not know who their leaders are.
“If you feel that someone is to be made party, you will have to make a request. You move a formal application giving details about the steps taken to resolve their grievances and how the impleadment of representatives of farmers will help in the resolution of the dispute”, the bench said, while listing the plea for hearing on October 4.
Mehta said that they will file the application by Friday.
On August 23, the top court had said that the Centre and Delhi’s neighbouring states should find a solution to the road blockades on the national capital’s borders due to farmers’ protest.
It had then said, “Solution lies in the hands of the Union of India and the concerned state governments. They have to coordinate to find a solution that when a protest takes place, roads are not blocked and traffic is not disrupted to cause inconvenience to the common people”.
The Solicitor General had said that if the court is willing to pass some orders then the two farmers unions can be made parties and he can give their names.
The top court had said that tomorrow another two unions will come forward and say they represent the farmers and this will go on.
On March 26, the top court had issued notice to Uttar Pradesh and Haryana on the plea by Monicca Agrawaal.
The UP government has said in its affidavit that continuous efforts are being made to remove the blockade at the Delhi-UP border and there are at present about 141 tents and 31 ‘langars’ around the area, and the protestors have installed a platform on the flyover from where the leaders give speeches.
Similarly, the Haryana government also told the top court that protesters staging a ‘dharna’ at the Singhu border have been camping on about a 6-km stretch of lanes of NH-44 since November 27 last.
The farmers are protesting against the passage of three laws–Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
Initially, the protests started from Punjab in November last year and later spread mainly to Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.