Farmers protest: Supreme Court directs Kisan Mahapanchayat to file affidavit on not being part of farmers on borders

The Supreme Court on Friday asked Kisan Mahapanchayat, a body of farmers and agriculturists, to file an affidavit, stating that they are not part of the group protesting on borders that have blocked the highways.

The Division Bench of Justice A.M. Khanvilkar and Justice C.T. Ravikumar passed the order on a plea, seeking directions to the authorities to stage a peaceful and non-violent Satyagraha at Jantar Mantar , New Delhi .

The petition further prayed to provide space to at least 200 farmers / protestors of the Petitioner Mahapanchayat at Jantar Mantar for organizing Satyagraha and direction to the Respondents to not to stop the Petitioners member farmers / protestors from proceeding towards Jantar Mantar to carry out indefinite Satyagraha.

The petition is filed by ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’, a body of farmers and agriculturists through advocate Ajay Choudhary.

During the hearing the Court asked the Petitioner that ‘ What is the point of Satyagraha? If you approach the court, you’ll have to trust the court. Why don’t you approach the HC?

“Once you have made up your mind. Approach the court, what is the need of protest? Once you have faith in the court, trust the court. On one hand you’ve strangulated the entire city & now you want to come here”, the Court said.

The Bench went on to observe that “You have a right to protest. But you cannot destroy property. This business should stop. You are also heckling the security person. This business has to stop.”

Adv Chaudhary: The highways have been blocked by the police. We have been detained.

Court: Mr, there is no purpose of protest once you approach the court. There is no purpose to approach the court when you want to protest. The highways have been blocked.

Through this the Adv Chaudhary replied that Petitioners are not part of the protest.

On this the Court asked the Petitioner to state on record that they are not a part of the protest.

Adv Chaudhary assured the Top Court that Petitioner will file an affidavit for the same.

Therefore the Bench posted the matter on October 5 and directed the Petitioner to serve the copy to the Central Agency & Office of AG.

According to the Petition , the action of the Respondents in detaining the Petitioners member Satyagarhis for the whole day when they are peacefully and in orderly fashion as per Covid Norms proceeding for the designated place to hold Satyagrah as per Standing Order of Delhi Police is violative of Articles 14 , 19 & 21 of the Constitution of India .

The action of the Respondents is also discriminatory and arbitrary as permission to protest has been granted to another farmer body while denying the petitioner to organize staggered Satyagrah , which is most non – violent, peaceful and truthful form of protest perfected and practiced by Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, alleged the Petition.

The Petition states that on 18.03.2021 Petitioner made a representation to the Prime Minister of India reflecting about the issues about the agriculturalists and their hardships in case of corporatization of the agricultural farms etc. Later on 09.04.2021 , the Petitioner made a request to the Commissioner of Police , Delhi seeking permission for holding a protest at Jantar Mantar on grievances that the farmers have regarding the agricultural laws enacted by the Union Parliament . On 08.04.2021 after meeting the ACP Dinesh Kumar , the undertaking in the prescribed format was submitted . However , the request of the Petitioner was rejected on F 09.04.2021 .

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The Petition further states that on 11.04.2021 the Petitioner again submitted the request through mail as well as in person. However , the Delhi Disaster Management Authority , Delhi Government issued notification under Disaster Management Act , 2005 imposing restrictions on public movement owing to which the applications remained suspended till May 2021 . Due to the prevailing conditions in the country and some of core members also being afflicted with the CoronaVirus , the petitioner stalled their program of organizing Satyagrah for the time being till the situation improves. Later on 12.06.2021 the Petitioner again applied for permissions with requisite undertakings for Satyagrah at designated place of Jantar Mantar as the covid pandemic situation improved and the Central as well as the State Governments relaxed the norms about people gathering and congregations.

It was specifically stated that they would sit for Satyagrah in limited numbers in strict compliance of Protocol declared by the Government. The Petitioner was given an audience to present their request in person on 28.06.20201, in which the Petitioner explained their plan of peaceful Satyagrah. However , their request was again rejected on 30.06.2021 assigning the flimsy excuse of Cavid Pandemic , while the restrictions have been lifted on all activities subject to following Covid Norms .

On 30.06.2021 the Deputy Commissioner of Police , New Delhi District by his letter of 30.06.2021 rejected request of holding indefinite Satyagraha at Jantar Mantar on the premise of guidelines issued by Delhi Disaster Management Authority dated 26.06.2021 prohibiting activities including political gathering upto 05.07.2021 . On 02.07.2021 The DDMA eased the restrictions further and limited public gatherings were allowed the Petitioner informed in advance to the Delhi Police through about their program of holding the Satyagrah at Jantar Mantar , in which limited persons would participate in full compliance of the Covid Protocols from 05.07.2021 . On this the petitioner was apprised that they would not be able to give any written permission, however, there would also not be any restrictions in holding of Satyagrah protest by the farmers. It was also mentioned that the number of Satyagrahis be limited to a maximum of 15 persons in a day and to be held in the time period of 10.00 AM to 4.00 PM .

It is mentioned in the Petition that pursuant to such understanding the members of the Petitioner farmers union started their journey from Jaipur , Rajasthan and reached Delhi on 04.07.2021 . However , the Petitioner was informed through a Whatsapp Message on behalf of Delhi Police at 4.52 PM that their request had been rejected . However , as planned and duly informed to the Delhi Police about their program of Satyagrah , the Petitioner members 15 in number sat on Satyagrah from 12 Noon to 5 PM on 05.07.2021 and also submitted a representation to the Prime Minister’s Office. However , on 06.07.2021 when the petitioner’s Satyagrahi farmers were going to Jantar Mantar , they were stopped at Patel Chowk Metro Station and taken to Parliament Street Police Station , where they were detained up to 7 PM .

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The Petitioner again requested the Respondents 13.07.2021 to permit them to organize a peaceful Satyagrah to raise their grievance against the Government and demand rectification of their grievances . The requests of the Petitioner were denied on the one hand but were allowed to another farmer’s body Samyukt Kisan Morcha to organize staggered protest to the strength of 200 farmers on 21.07.2021 , which smacks arbitrariness and discrimination by the Respondent Authorities , the Petition alleged.

“The Right of citizens to protest and gather peacefully without arms is a fundamental aspect of India’s democracy . While it is also the obligation of the government to protect civilians from violent protests, certain essential principles need to be kept in mind. The Right to protest is one of the core principles on which democracy survives and thrives”, the Petition reads.

The farmers are protesting against the passage of three laws — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
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