The Supreme Court on January 18 said that the Centre and the Delhi Police should take a call on whether or not protesting farmers could hold tractor or vehicle marches on Republic Day in the national capital. The government could not ask the court to decide on issues concerning law and order.
“Entry into Delhi is a law and order issue. Who should be allowed entry and on what conditions are all determined by the police. We cannot be the authority to decide it,” Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Chief Justice Bobde said there was still time for the Union of India and the Delhi Police to “invoke all its powers”.
Mr. Venugopal said people were camping outside the city. There was a threat of illegal entry on January 26. The government was looking to the court to “strengthen its hands”.
The government wanted the court to pass an injunction order to restrain farmers from holding rallies to “disrupt” Republic Day celebrations in Delhi. The government said the right to express dissent against the farm laws did not include a right to “malign the nation globally”.
“Why do you want us to tell you how to use your powers. We are not the first authority in law and order issues. Authorities prohibit and then the court acts. It is not that the court prohibits and the authorities carry out,” Chief Justice Bobde said.
The CJI pointed to how the court had intervened in just “one matter” in farmers’ protest case, and how it was misunderstood. The court had, on January 12, stayed the implementation of the farm laws and formed an expert committee to negotiate between farmers and the government.
Mr. Mehta said there was also an issue of constitutional dignity at stake in this case.
“Where is the constitutional issue in this case,” the CJI enquired.
The Solicitor General urged the court to list the case on January 20, to which the Bench agreed.
Access to Ramlila Maidan sought
Advocate A.P. Singh, appearing for a farmers’ union, said protesters should be given access to the Ramlila Maidan to continue with their peaceful demonstrations.
“It has come to the knowledge of the security agencies through various sources that a small group of protesting individuals/organisations have planned to carry out a tractor/trolley/vehicle march on Republic Day. The proposed march is slated to disturb and disrupt the august celebrations of the nation on Republic Day and would be bound to create a massive law and order situation,” the government application had said.
It said such a protest would cause an “embarrassment to the nation”.
On January 12, Mr. Venugopal had said there was no question of a huge group of people entering the city on Republic Day.
The court had also noted Mr. Venugopal’s “support” of a “specific averment” by Indian Kisan Union that an organisation, Sikhs for Justice, banned for anti-India secessionist movement, is financing the agitation.
Mr. Venugopal had orally remarked in the hearing that there were reports that “Khalistanis” had infiltrated the protests.