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Farmers’ protest: SC Bar Association urges CJI to take suo motu action; Chandrachud takes note of traffic issues

President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Adish Aggarwala penned a letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud on Tuesday urging him to take suo motu action against the farmers who were attempting to forcibly enter Delhi, causing disruption and inconvenience to the public.

Farmers at Shambhu border for their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march. (PTI)

Additionally, he appealed to CJI Chandrachud to instruct the courts not to issue any unfavourable rulings due to the absence of lawyers in court proceedings.

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Acknowledging the farmers’ protest on Tuesday, CJI took note of the traffic jam in NCR and said would accommodate the lawyers. “If any lawyer is facing any travel difficulty [due to Farmers’ Protest], we will adjust.”

Aggarwala said in the letter, “I am compelled to write this letter to bring to your kind notice that despite the best efforts of the Government of India to protect the interest of the farmers, some farmers are enroute to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab and are gearing up for a large-scale protest in the national capital on February 13.”

The farmers’ demands include — a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP), adoption of the Swaminathan Commission’s suggestions, pensions for both farmers and farm labourers, forgiveness of farm debts, resolution of police cases, justice for the victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act 2013, withdrawal from the World Trade Organization, compensation for families of farmers who perished during the previous protests, among others.

The letter also spoke about the initial farmers’ protests that took place in 2021-2022. It said, “Earlier, in 2021 and 2022, three Delhi borders with the neighbouring states remained blocked for several months due to a similar protest, causing hardship to the general public. It is also a matter of record that many persons died while trying to come to Delhi for better medical treatment but could not reach Delhi hospitals in time due to road blockades.”

“In light of today’s farmers’ protest, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh Police have heightened security at the Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri borders, setting up nails and road barricades to deter vehicles transporting protesters from entering Delhi. Additionally, cranes and earthmovers are being employed to place large containers on the roads to obstruct their free passage into the Union Capital,” the letter added.

Aggarwala’s letter added, “It is suspected that this protest is politically motivated ahead of the forthcoming Parliament election.”

Even if the farmers’ demands are valid, they should not inconvenience the general public. This is an appropriate moment for the Honorable Supreme Court to take action on its own initiative and ensure that these farmers do not disrupt public peace or cause significant inconvenience, the letter stated.

It said, “Their right to protest should not be allowed to impede the common citizens’ right to lead their lives without any problem.”

Last night, three Union Ministers convened a meeting with the farmers in Chandigarh, during which they indicated that consensus had been achieved on the majority of issues. Additionally, they proposed a formula to address remaining concerns through the establishment of a Committee, as mentioned in the letter.

“We are still hopeful that farmer bodies will hold talks. We will try to resolve these issues in the coming days,” a statement by the government said.

The SCBA further letter stated that the farmers’ leaders, by rejecting the Government of India’s offer made during the recent talks, have chosen to proceed to Delhi with the intention of causing inconvenience to the people of several states, including Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh. If they are insistent on protesting, the letter suggests they do so in their respective hometowns.

Aggarwala added, that given the current situation, the lawyers — not just those practising in the Supreme Court, but also those in the Delhi High Court, various Commissions, Tribunals, and District Courts — will encounter significant hurdles in attending court proceedings.

He said, “I request Your Lordship to issue requisite instructions to all concerned not to pass any “adverse orders due to non-appearance in any matter” listed before the above-mentioned courts till there are obstacles in free movement of the public on Delhi borders due to farmers’ agitation.”

Aggarwala concluded, “I further request Your Lordship to take suo motu action against the erring farmers for forcibly trying to enter Delhi in a bid to create nuisance and disturb the daily life of citizens.”

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