The Uttar Pradesh government has said it has dropped proceedings against 162 farmers from Sitapur who were issued notices of personal bonds and sureties for ‘exorbitant’ amounts up to ₹10 lakh each allegedly to prevent them from participating in the ongoing farm protests.
The government on Tuesday informed the Allahabad High Court that it had dropped the action against the farmers as “there is no further apprehension to breach of peace or disturbance of public tranquility”.
The government counsel, however, could not justify to the court the reason for issuing notice to the farmers owning tractors for filing the personal bonds.
A Division Bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Rajeev Singh, while hearing a petition filed against the notices, hoped the district magistrate of Sitapur and sub-ordinate SDMs would be “cautious” in passing orders of such nature. “...Their orders, act and conduct should not be such which reflects arbitrariness and against the principles of natural justice,” the court stated.
V.K. Shahi, additional advocate general U.P. informed the court that notices were issued to 162 persons for executing the bond of ₹10 lakh and two sureties of the like amount. Out of the 162 persons, 43 had appeared in the matter. On the basis of fresh challani report the proceeding against all the persons had been dropped, he told the court.
The government counsel assured the court he would instruct the District Magistrate Sitapur to be “careful in future” while any such proceedings are initiated so that no unnecessary harassment is caused to any person and further to instruct the SDMs working under him.
The Allahabad High Court had on January 25 sought a response from the district administration in Sitapur district on the “exorbitant” amount of personal bonds and sureties asked of tractor-owning farmers allegedly to prevent them from participating in the ongoing farm protests.
In her petition challenging the notices, Lucknow-based social activist Arundhati Dhuru had stated that SDMs in various districts of U.P. including Sitapur had issued notices to thousands of farmers under Section 111 of the CrPC. The farmers were informed that police suspected that they may get involved in the ongoing farmers protest and commit breach of peace.
Referring to Sitapur, Ms. Dhuru said that several orders were passed on December 19 by Sub-Divisional Magistrates of the different areas of the district, issuing notices to farmers, including women, calling them to furnish personal bonds of ₹50,000 to ₹10 lakh and two sureties in the like amount on apprehension that he or she would violate the law and order in the light of the ensuing farmers protest in the district.
In her petition, Ms. Dhuru said the bond notices sent to farmers would be executed for a term of six months. This curbed their right to move freely and caused them financial hardship, while also violating their right to protest peacefully, the petition said.
The petitioner's counsel submitted that notices issued by the State authorities were not only baseless but also took away the fundamental rights of a person, as farmers were not allowed to come out of their houses.
The counsel also argued that the exorbitant amount cannot be sought from poor farmers and that too merely on the basis of the report of the local police personnel without providing any opportunity of hearing to such farmers.