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Farmers have right to protest but can't block roads "indefinitely": SC on protests at Delhi borders

While the farmers' unions alleged that the police were responsible for the blockade at the Delhi borders as it suits them to allow a feeling in the minds of the citizens that farmers are blocking the road, the Centre claimed there was an oblique purpose behind the protests.

October 21, 2021 / 09:16 PM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

The Supreme Court on Thursday said farmers have the right to protest and was not against this even when a legal challenge against the three farm laws is pending but they cannot block roads "indefinitely", an observation that came amid a blame game between the Centre and the farmer unions.

While the farmers' unions alleged that the police were responsible for the blockade at the Delhi borders as it suits them to allow a feeling in the minds of the citizens that farmers are blocking the road, the Centre claimed there was an oblique purpose behind the protests. During the hearing, a bench headed by Justice S K Kaul said it was not against the right to protest even when a legal challenge is pending but ultimately some solution has to be found.

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"Farmers have the right to protest but they cannot keep roads blocked indefinitely. You may have a right to agitate in any manner but roads should not be blocked like this. People have the right to go on roads but it cannot be blocked," the bench also comprising Justice M M Sundresh said. The top court asked the farmer unions to respond within three weeks on the issue and posted the matter for further hearing on December 7.

The bench noted that only four respondents have appeared before it in pursuance of its earlier direction. The apex court said the issue is limited here, "So far as the road is concerned, can the road be blocked?

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"We are only concerned with the issue that the roads are not blocked. Law is laid down (Shaheen Bagh protests case). You have a right to agitate but you cannot block roads. People also have right on the roads." Outside the court, the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), whose supporters and office-bearers led by Rakesh Tikait are camping at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border since November 2020, said the barriers at the protest site have been put by the Delhi police and not farmers.

Tikait, the national spokesperson of the BKU, said protesters at Ghazipur have cleared the path on a service lane leading to the national capital but Delhi Police's barricades were still present there. The protesters have removed their tents but barricades have been put by the government and the Delhi police which are still there. The road is otherwise open. If you see, there are only barricading which have been put by the police, Tikait told reporters.
PTI
first published: Oct 21, 2021 09:16 pm

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