Republic Day Tractor Rally violence: Supreme Court to hear pleas today


Sushree Mohanty

The Supreme Court, today, will hear a batch of pleas pertaining to tractor rally violence in the National Capital on the Republic Day, including the one which has sought setting up of a commission headed by a retired apex court judge to inquire into the incident.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian will take up the petitions.

On January 26, the tractor rally which was primarily meant to highlight the demands of farmer unions to repeal three new agriculture laws turned into anarchy on the streets of the national capital as thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with the police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed in several parts of the national capital during farmers’ tractor parade as a section of farmers protesting against the farm laws stormed into the city way before the pre-decided time, prompting security personnel to resort to lathi-charge and tear gas.

One of the pleas filed by Advocate Vishal Tiwari has demanded setting up of a three-member inquiry commission under the chairmanship of a former Supreme Court judge and comprising of two retired High Court judges for collecting and recording evidence and submit a report on the January 26 violence to the top court in a time-bound manner.

He has also sought a direction to the concerned authority to lodge FIRs against individuals or organisations responsible for the violence and causing dishonour of the National Flag on Republic Day.

Another plea has been filed by Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma who has sought for directions to the concerned authority as well as the media not to announce Farmers as “terrorist” without any proof. 

Sharma has asserted in his request that there was a planned conspiracy to sabotage the protest by farmers’ and they were allegedly declared as a terrorist without any evidence.

The petition sought directions to prohibit propagation of false allegations and actions declaring farmers as a terrorist without any evidence.

In his petition, Advocate Vishal Tiwari has said that farmers’ protest against the three new agricultural  laws is going on for over two months but it took a violent turn during the tractor parade.

“Unfortunately, the tractor march took a violent turn leaving injuries and destruction of public property. This incident also affected the daily life of the public. The internet services were interrupted as the government ordered the operators to suspend the same. In the present time, the internet services are very essential to carry out the work in different professions especially in advocacy as the courts and our Supreme Court of India is functioning online,” Tiwari has said in his plea.

It said that conflict between the farmers and police on the Republic Day has grabbed the eye of the whole world. 

The matter is serious on the grounds that when the protest was going on smoothly for the past two months then suddenly, how it turned into a violent movement and led violence on January 26.

The question for consideration in national security and public interest arises: who is responsible for creating the disturbance and how and who turned the peaceful farmer protest into violent movement or how and who created the circumstances which let the protest turn violent, it said.

The plea alleged that there might be some conspiracy by some notorious powers or associations to cause aggravation and damage the peaceful protest and create conflict between the police and protesting farmers.

On January 20, the Centre had withdrawn its application, filed through Delhi Police, seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor march on January 26 after the apex court had said that issue of tractor rally by farmers protesting against the new farms laws was in “executive domain”.

On January 12, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the contentious new farm bills 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.

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.

However, Mann had rescued himself from the committee.

The top court had on January 12 said it would hear the supplications against the farm laws after two months when the committee would give its suggestions to resolve the impasse after talking to the protesters and the government.

Besides the petitions filed by Tiwari and Sharma, the court would also hear some other pleas related to the incident. So far, nearly five pleas have been filed in the top court seeking action against people who were involved in the violence.

One of the petitioners has sought directions to the NIA to initiate a court-monitored investigation into the Republic Day mayhem.

“The protestors cannot be allowed to put the government and people at ransom and undertake violence in the name of protest. The freedom of expression and protest cannot be absolute and must consider the rights of others,” said the plea.

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.

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