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Protest is a fundamental right but roads can’t be blocked: Supreme Court

Chief justice SA Bobde said, “We make it clear that we recognise the fundamental right to protest against a law. There is no question of balancing or curtailing it. But it should not damage anyone’s life or property,”

SNS Web | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that the farmers who are protesting at the Delhi borders can protest and recognised it as a fundamental right but said that the roads can’t be blocked.

The Supreme Court was hearing a series of petitions on the issue and said it would refer the matter to a vacation bench. The court suggested that the government put the implementation of the laws on hold till the court takes a final decision on the issue. The centre argued that the if the law is put on hold the farmers will not come forward for negotiations.

Chief justice SA Bobde said, “We make it clear that we recognise the fundamental right to protest against a law. There is no question of balancing or curtailing it. But it should not damage anyone’s life or property,”

He further added, “Protests can continue without violence and the police will not do anything.”

Justice Bobde on Wednesday had suggested that a solution be found urgently through negotiation and proposed the formation of a committee, with representatives from both the government and farmer unions, to end the deadlock over the three farm laws.

Senior advocate Harish Salve who was appearing for one of the petitioners said, “No right is absolute. From right to protest to right to movement. The content of right to free speech, it includes the right to no but it cannot extend to right to privacy. Right to protest does not extend to deny others to exercise their rights,”

He added, “Fundamental right to protest cannot extend to holding a city to ransom.”

The court said, “Protest’s purpose must be fulfilled by non-violent means. Protests must be about issues. Aggrieved parties must be allowed to articulate and the party that caused the problem must be allowed to answer,”

Attorney General KK Venugopal, who was representing the government told the court that the farmers cannot just demand that the laws be repealed and insisted on a clause by clause discussion, the top court said, “We observed yesterday that the Centre is not successful in negotiations. We do not think that the farmers will accept your conclusions. Let the committee decide.”

Formers Union Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram who was representing the Delhi government said, “If you make so many amendments, the original law is untraceable. The farmers say this law is not acceptable. So bring a new law and let parliament discuss.”

The apex court is hearing a bunch of petitions both for and against the farm laws passed by the Central government in September and said that it would take a call on the not take a call on the validity of the law.

Chief justice Bobde said, “We are on the ongoing protests and fundamental rights of citizens to move free… the validity of laws will have to wait. You can reserve these arguments for a later date,” he said to P Chidambaram.

The apex court told the representatives of the Bharatiya Kisan Union who were present in court that the blocking of roads have left Delhi people in a lurch.

The court said, “We are with the plight of farmers and sympathetic to their cause. But you have to alter the way it is going. You have to convince and bring out the solution,”

The court added, “We are saying it to you. You have a right to protest. We are not going to interfere. You carry on protests. Your protest has a purpose, and that must be fulfilled by talking to someone. You simply cannot sit on protest for years.”.