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Farmers' protest should be allowed at this stage: SC

Farmers protest should be allowed at this stage: SC

Protesting farmers cook roti bread at a blocked highway along Delhi borders during their on-going agitation against the central government's recent agricultural reforms ( File photo)

New Delhi: India's Supreme Court on Thursday said it would not interfere with the farmers' protest, because protest is a fundamental right.

Alongside, the court emphasized forming a committee of independent and impartial persons to resolve the standoff between the Centre and farmers unions.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: "We clarify that this Court will not interfere with the protest in question. Indeed, the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order."

The top court observed so after learning from the Centre about roads being blocked by the police to stop the protesters/ farmers entering Delhi.

The top court noted that there can certainly be no impediment in the exercise of such rights as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to the life and properties of other citizens and is in accordance with law.

"We are of the view at this stage that the farmers' protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police," it said.

Farmers have been protesting for weeks along Delhi borders, demanding Centre to repeal the three laws -- the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 -- enacted by the Parliament recently.

To resolve the stalemate, the top court stressed forming a committee of independent and impartial persons, including experts in the field of agriculture.

"This may not be possible without hearing all the necessary parties. Till the parties come before us, it would be advisable to obtain suggestions about the constitution of the said Committee from all the parties which may be submitted by them on the date of next hearing in the matter," it said.

Meanwhile, the bench also said the petitions challenging the laws would be decided in due course.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for a petitioner seeking removal of farmers from the borders, contended that no fundamental right is absolute and it would be necessary for the court to determine the contours of the right of free speech and expression involved in the farmers' protest and the extent to which this right can be exercised consistently with the rights of other citizens.

The top court ordered listing these matters after the ensuing winter vacation with liberty to the parties to move the vacation bench, if necessary.

"In the meantime, the petitioners are given liberty to serve the unserved respondents/ impleaded farmers. The pendency of these matters will not prevent the parties from resolving the issue amicably," it said.

IANS report with edits

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