Tractor Rally threat on 26 January

The application filed by Delhi Police seeking injunction against farmers taking out a tractor rally on January 26 will come up for hearing in the highest court of India – the Supreme Court of India – today. The Delhi Police is asking for a stay on tractor rally pleading it could cause serious law and order problems.

There are grave fears that farmers’ unions – with their tractor rally (if it is not stayed) would not only cause disruption to the most important Republic Day celebrations in the national capital but could lead to India’s embarrassment in the world. The militant farmers’ unions – perhaps under the influence of “Sikhs for Justice” group which is based in the UK and the US – have been threatening to do just that – which will be – directly aimed to disrupting the Indian Army’s celebratory marches on Raj Path on that auspicious day.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde had issued notice on the application on January 12 and sought response of the farmers’ unions appearing before the Court.

“Right to protest is always subject to the countervailing public order and the public interest. The right to protest can never include maligning the nation globally,” the Delhi Police said in its application.

Responding to the Court’s request for their response, three days later on Saturday, one of the protesting farmers’ unions Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Lokshakti filed its response demanded the removal of the remaining three members of the Committee constituted by the Apex Court on January 12. The 4-member Committee was tasked with the responsibility of hearing the concerns of farmer unions over the three farm laws as well as that of the Centre and submit its recommendations to the Court in eight weeks.

Of the 4 members, Bhupinder Singh Mann (National President, BKU and All India Kisan Coordination Committee) with 48 hours, recused himself and announced he would not be available to be part of the committee. There are media reports that he was allegedly threatened with consequences and pressured to recuse himself.

If Twitter is any guide, the apprehensions are seriously accurate:

In their response filed on Saturday, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Lokshakti  demended the removal of the other three members – Pramod Kumar Joshi (Agricultural Economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute), Ashok Gulati, Agricultural Economist and Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana.

The critics of the committee alluded to some reports which suggested that the other three members had also expressed support for the new laws and thus disqualified themselves from being members of the committee – who have to have open mind on the issue.

“When all committee members appointed by the Supreme Court are already in favour of these three farm laws and already support the laws made and passed by the Central government without enough discussion with farmers, then how can they make fair report without any bias before the Court,” the BKU-Lokshakti said in its response filed through advocate AP Singh.

The union further submitted in their response that the Court should “remove all three members from the committee” and appoint persons who can “think about the interest of farmers with impartiality, trust and goodwill.”

It suggested that the Court should appoint independent, impartial persons such as former Supreme Court judge. But by asking for a membership place for its own president in the committee, the organization tainted their own stance of asking for independent and impartial members in the committee. .

The application is likely to come before a bench of CJI SA Bobde, and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran.

As requested by the Court, the Centre will also file an affidavit about the presence of pro-Khalistani persons/influence in the Farmers’ protests.

An application filed by the Indian Kisan Union claimed that the organization “Sikhs for Justice”, which is banned for anti-India secessionist activities – is financing the agitation. The Indian government through Attorney General KK Venugopal supported the claim and agreed to file an affidavit based on inputs received from Intelligence Bureau.

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