Why are farmers continuing their protests even after challenging farm laws in court, the Supreme Court questioned sharply today after eight people, including four farmers, were killed in violent protests in an Uttar Pradesh district. The central government argued that there can be “no further farmer protests” as incidents like Lakhimpur Kheri could not be allowed.
Is the right to protest absolute? The Supreme Court said it would examine the question on October 21 and also go into whether farmers have the right to take to the streets when the issue at the core of their protest – the three new farm laws — is in court.
The Supreme Court was responding to a petition by a farmers’ group that wants to stage a protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The central government, while opposing it, referred to Sunday’s violence.
“The events that took place in Lakhimpur Kheri yesterday… Eight died. Protests cannot happen like this,” said Attorney General KK Venugopal, adding, “My lordship, please say that when laws are already being dealt with, then protests cannot go on. It leads to unfortunate incidents.”
The Supreme Court responded: “When such events happen nobody takes responsibility. Loss of lives and property. Nobody takes responsibility.”
The protesters were killed when violence broke out as a large group tried to stop a Union Minister’s visit to Lakhimpur Kheri for an event.
The farmers allege their colleagues were run over by a car in Union Minister Ajay Singh Mishra’s convoy, driven by his son Ashish. The police have filed a case of murder against Ashish Mishra.
A Rajasthan-based farmers’ group has approached the Supreme Court for permission to launch a “Satyagraha” with 200 farmers at Jantar Mantar. The court had earlier lashed out at protest groups for “strangulating the city” and had asked the petitioner to file an affidavit stating that they are not part of the groups blocking the highways.
The Supreme Court objected to petitioners filing a plea in the Rajasthan High Court against farm laws and also demanding permission to protest at Jantar Mantar.
“When you have already challenged the law you can’t be allowed to protest? You can’t come to court and then also protest outside? If the matter is already sub-judice protests cannot be allowed,” the court said.
“When the government has already said that it’s not implementing the laws yet and there is a stay on it from the Supreme Court, then why are you protesting?” – Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar asked