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Farmers have right to protest but can’t block roads indefinitely: SC

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the farmers’ group, submitted before a Bench that road blockade would end, if permission is granted to continue the protest either at Ramlila Maidan or Jantar Mantar.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Thursday reiterated that farmer groups have the right to protest even with respect to matter which are sub-judice before courts but such protests cannot block public roads indefinitely.

The top court has sought response from Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions, and other farmer unions on a petition filed by a woman resident of Noida seeking direction to ensure that the road between Noida to Delhi is kept clear for smooth traffic movement.

“Ultimately some solution has to be found. We are not against right to protest even when legal challenge is pending. (But) roads cannot be blocked like this,” a Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh said.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the farmers’ group, submitted before a Bench that road blockade would end, if permission is granted to continue the protest either at Ramlila Maidan or Jantar Mantar.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on his part, cited Republic Day violence and emphasized this happened despite farmer unions, had given an undertaking that there will be no violence during tractor rally scheduled on 26 January.

Dave claimed that 26 January violence was engineered, and added that the road management can be done better by the police.

The Bench told the farmers group counsel that they may have a right to agitate in any manner but roads should not be blocked like this. “People have right to go on roads, it cannot be blocked,” noted the bench.

The bench asked SKM and other farmer unions to file their response in four weeks in the matter, and scheduled the matter for further hearing on 7 December.

Another bench headed by justice A.M. Khanwilkar, had questioned the rationale behind farmer groups continuing their protest, wherein national highways have been blocked, in the backdrop of stay on three contentious farm laws. The bench headed by justice Khanwilkar had said it will examine whether those protesting against farm laws have a right to do so even after challenging the contentious legislations in the top court.

(With agency inputs)