The Supreme Court Monday told the Centre that the proposed tractor rally by farmers on the Republic Day (January 26) is a matter of law and order and that Delhi Police is the first authority to decide who should be allowed to enter the national capital. A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde then deferred hearing till January 20 on an application filed by the Centre seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor rally by farmers on the Republic Day.
The court said that police has all the authority to deal with the matter. "Does the Supreme Court will say as to what are the powers of police and how they will exercise them? We are not going to tell you what to do," said the bench, also comprising Justices LN Rao and Vineet Saran.
"The question of entering into Delhi is a law and order matter and will be determined by the police," the bench said, adding, "Mr Attorney General, we are adjourning the matter and you have all the authority to deal with this matter".
The Centre, in an application filed through Delhi Police, had told the apex court that it has come to the knowledge of security agencies that a small group of protesting individuals or organisations have planned to carry out a tractor march on Republic Day. It said that any proposed march or protest which seeks to disrupt and disturb the Republic Day celebrations will cause an “embarrassment to the nation”. It said the right to protest can never include "maligning the nation globally". The government has urged the apex court to restrain anyone from conducting any protest march.
"It is submitted that the proposed march is slated to disturb and disrupt the august celebrations of nation on Republic Day and would be bound to create a massive law and order situation," the application said. It further said "it is submitted that the said proposed march/protest seeks to disrupt and disturb such celebrations which is bound to create a serious law and order situation and will cause an embarrassment to the nation."
Last week, the court had stayed the implementation of the farm laws till further orders and constituted a four-member committee to make recommendations to resolve the impasse over them between the Centre and farmers' unions protesting at Delhi borders. Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann, however, recused himself from the committee last week. Apart from Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat, agriculture economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Kumar Joshi are the other panel members.
Meanwhile, farmer unions protesting against the agri laws said that they will go ahead with their proposed tractor parade in Delhi on Republic Day. Union leader Yogendra Yadav said, "We will carry out a tractor parade on the Outer Ring Road in Delhi on Republic Day. The parade will be very peaceful. There will be no disruption of the Republic Day parade. The farmers will put up the national flag on their tractors."
The tenth round of talks between the government and the protesting farmer unions is scheduled on January 19. On the same day, the Supreme Court-appointed committee to resolve the impasse will hold its first meeting. The previous nine rounds of formal talks between the Centre and 41 farmer unions have failed to yield any concrete results to end the long-running protest at Delhi's borders as the latter have stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three acts.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now demanding repeal of the three laws - the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.
Enacted in September 2020, the central government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers' income, but the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and "mandi" (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations. The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and ruled out a repeal of the laws.