Protests can continue says Supreme Court

Farmers’ protests at the border areas of Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) can continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police, the Indian Supreme Court said on Thursday, 17 December.

A three judge Bench led by comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde with Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said that there can be no impediment to the rights of farmers to protest as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to life and properties of other citizens.

“Indeed the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order. We are of the view at this stage that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police,” the Court said in its order.

To resolve the issue, the Supreme Court has proposed to constitute a committee comprising independent persons and agricultural experts and wants to hear all parties on that.

“In order to bring about an effective solution to the present stalemate between the protesters and the Government of India, we consider it appropriate in the interests of justice to constitute a Committee comprising of independent and impartial persons including experts in the field of Agriculture for the purpose. This may not be possible without hearing all the necessary parties,” the order said.

That in turn means, there is still a long way to go if the apex court has to find a resolution to the issue. The case has been adjourned to be listed again after the winter break or during the break if needed after the service is complete.

“List these matters after the ensuing winter vacation with liberty to move the Vacation Bench if necessary, after service is complete. In the meantime, the petitioners are given liberty to serve the unserved respondents/ impleaded farmers,” the Court stated.

At the next hearing (or two or three) depending on how lawyers and various stakeholders play, a committee would be constituted to consulkt and find a solution which will take the ongoing protests to perhaps end of January or early February 2021.

Unless of course, parties decide to either resolve it amicably as the court envisaged indirectly saying, “The pendency of these matters will not prevent the parties from resolving the issue amicably.”

Or in the very unlikely scenario, the farmers decided to end the protest – looking at the long road the Supreme Court has chalked out for them.

The Supreme Court is endeavouring to take an all encompassing approach so that once the resolution is reached, there are no legal skirmishes left for the vested interests to employ in courts to derail the implementation of the resolution if and when found. Read the full order here.

That of course will take time. And in winter (as it is in India), it is not easy for those who are leading and want the farmers protests to continue, to be out under the open sky and keep their cool.

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