The Supreme Court on Monday said it would need to examine whether a party has the right to protest on an issue after it has moved a constitutional court seeking judicial remedy for the same. The top court will thus look into whether the right to protest is an absolute right.
The top court's observation came on a plea filed by the Kisan Mahapanchayat who sought permission to stage an indefinite Satyagraha at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, against the three contentious farm laws passed by the Centre last year.
The court also expressed its disappointment over the Sunday violence that erupted in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpura Kheri after eight people were killed during the farmers' protest.
"When such events happen nobody takes responsibility. No one takes responsibility when there is damage to assets and property," Justice AM Khanwilkar said. "And deaths also," Justice CT Ravikumar added.
Centre's counsel Attorney General KK Venugopal agreed with the observation made by the bench and said, "a lot of unfortunate incidents take place during these protests. These protests must be stopped."
"Once the matter is before the highest constitutional court, no one should be on roads. They must trust us," Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said.
Can you protest on an issue after you have come to court on the same?
The top court's decision to examine whether a party has the right to protest on an issue after it has moved a constitutional court seeking judicial remedy for the same, will essentially decide on whether one has an absolute right to protest.
"We have to decide the legal question on when you have approached courts, then how can you protest on the same issue," the bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar said.
The top court observed that once a party has challenged the farm laws in a constitutional court, then what is the point of protesting on the same. We have already stayed the farm laws, so why are you protesting, the bench asked.
The top court noted that Kisan Mahapanchayat has challenged the three farm laws before the Rajasthan high court. Similar challenges are pending before the Supreme Court as well.
"We will transfer your plea in Rajasthan High Court to here and hear the case. Once you challenge the executive action, then the matter is sub judice. Then how can you protest? Protest against whom?" the court noted.
Last week, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Kisan Mahapanchayat for seeking permission to protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi and observed that the almost-year-long farmers' protests at the border of the National Capital Region (NCR) have "strangulated the city".
"If you have faith in courts, pursue that for urgent hearing instead of protesting. You have strangulated the city and now you want to come inside the city and protest. This coaxing should stop. You have blocked highways and roads," the Court had said.
Farmers have been protesting the three farm laws – Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Act 2020, Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act & Amendment to Essential Commodities Act, on the grounds that they are illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court on January 12 earlier this year had stayed the implementation of the farm laws until further orders while constituting a four-member committee to look into the farmers' grievances and help mediate with the government. Farmers are protesting the farm laws seeking a repeal of the same.
The Supreme Court will hear this matter on October 21.