The Supreme Court told the Centre on Monday that the proposed tractor rally on the Republic Day by farmers protesting against the new farm laws is a “law and order” matter and 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, while hearing the Centre's application seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor or trolley march or any other kind of protest which seeks to disrupt the gathering and celebrations on January 26, said that police has all the authority to deal with the matter.
“Does the Supreme Court 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 L N Rao and Vineet Saran.
The apex court told Attorney General K K Venugopal that it will take up the matter for hearing on Wednesday, January 20.
“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, has said that any proposed march or protest which seeks to disrupt and disturb the Republic Day celebrations will cause an “embarrassment to the nation”.
During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the bench said who should be allowed to enter Delhi and who should not be allowed has to be dealt with by the police as the court is not the “first authority”.
The bench told Venugopal that the apex court is seized of the issue of farm laws and “we have not said anything on police powers”.
The apex court then asked, “Are farmers unions appearing today?”.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave said he was representing some farmer unions in the matter.
Advocate A P Singh, representing one of the farmers' body, told the bench about the affidavit filed by them requesting the top court to remove the remaining three members of the court-appointed committee to resolve the issue of farm laws and select people who can do the job "on the basis of mutual harmony".
“We will hear everyone on that day (next date of hearing),” the bench said, adding, “We will hear you in the same combination of bench”.
On January 12, the top court had stayed the implementation of the contentious new farm laws till further orders and constituted the four-member committee to make recommendations to resolve the impasse over them between the Centre and farmers' unions protesting at Delhi borders.
The members of the court-appointed committee were -- Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President of Bhartiya Kisan Union, All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Parmod Kumar Joshi, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sanghatana.
Later, Mann had recused himself from the court-appointed committee.
The top court had on January 12 said it would hear the pleas against the farm laws after eight weeks when the committee would give its suggestions to resolve the impasse after talking to the protesters and the government.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against 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 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 and "mandi" (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out a repeal of the laws.