It sidestepped a Delhi Police plea to stop the tractor rally on Republic Day, insisting that it would be “highly irregular for the court to take a call in the first instance on whether to allow or disallow a rally or a procession”, a matter in the executive domain.
This is a law and order issue, a policing issue, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said, while asking the Delhi Police to withdraw its plea. The court brushed off apprehensions expressed by Attorney General KK Venugopal that there would be breach of peace if 5,000 tractors entered the city on Republic Day.
The CJI’s bench appealed to all to maintain peace in Delhi on Republic Day. It did not accede to the AG’s prayer to keep the application pending till January 25, to assess the situation on the ground.
The CJI was equally vocal on what it expected from the protesting farmers too. “Change your attitude to the panel. Saying that you are not appearing before the committee will not help. We want a peaceful resolution of the dispute. Counsel the farmers to bring about peace,” Bobde told advocate Prashant Bhushan, who along with senior advocates Dushyant Dave, Colin Gonsalves and HS Phoolka, represent eight farmer unions in the SC. Bhushan said that farmers would not present their views before the committee. They were afraid that if they went home the democratic pressure on the government to repeal the laws would be off. The court may eventually uphold these laws, he said.
The CJI was quick to dispel Bhushan’s fears. “In a democracy, there are other ways than repeal. Courts can set aside a law. The court is seized of the issue. It has stayed these laws. The law is not in force at the moment. If we uphold the farm laws you can start the agitation again,” the CJI said. Bhushan, however, said that the farmers wanted to peacefully celebrate Republic Day on Outer Ring Road. “There will be no attempt to disrupt peace.”
SC also issued notices on a fresh plea to reconstitute the panel by appointing four other members to the committee it had appointed to listen to all parties to the dispute. The Kisan Mahapanchayat at Rajasthan border had filed an application alleging that all four members were pro-farm laws. The bench had very harsh words for those who called the members biased. “This panel has not been conferred adjudicatory powers.
It will only listen to all and make a report to the court,” the CJI told Mahapanchayat lawyer Ajay Choudhary. “It is unfair to tarnish their reputations. The court appointed them, and you tear their reputation into shreds? You people unthinkingly tarnish reputations. Mann had called for amendments to the law. So he becomes pro-farm law? You cannot brand people like this. If a person expresses his opinion is he disqualified to become a member? Can’t people express their opinion? Or change it, if they are better informed? The committee was asked to listen to all and give us a report. Where is the question of bias? These are some of the most brilliant minds in agriculture,” Bode said, scotching speculation that the court had any interest in appointing them specifically to man the panel. The bench did not specify the deadline for responding to the notice.