Farmers Protest: Punjab & Haryana HC Calls for Amicable Resolution, Issue Notices to Centre & States

Farmers Protest

Amidst the ongoing protest by farmers marching towards Delhi to demand a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP), the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday urged for an amicable settlement between the parties.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice GS Sandhawalia and Justice Lapita Banerji also directed the State governments to determine protest sites until then. The court also issued notices to the Centre and the governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi.

The division bench was hearing two PILs related to the protest. One challenges the Haryana government’s decision to seal its borders to prevent agitators from entering the State and moving to Delhi, while the other PIL opposes the protestors, alleging they have unlawfully blocked state and national highways.

During the hearing, the Court emphasized that protestors, as citizens of India, have the right to move freely within the country. However, it also asserted the State government’s duty to protect its citizens and ensure no inconvenience is caused to them. “There must be a balance in fundamental rights to speech and expression; none of the rights exist in isolation. Caution should be exercised, and the issue should be resolved amicably… All parties involved in the dispute should make efforts to sit down and solve the problem, and areas for protest should be identified by the states,” the bench observed.

The Central government counsel assured the Court that the Union government is open to negotiations regarding MSP. The matter is now scheduled for February 15, with state governments given time to file a status report.

The first petition, filed by Uday Pratap Singh, a Chandigarh-based lawyer, challenges the “obstructive actions” of the Central and State governments, including the border sealing between Haryana and Punjab and the suspension of mobile internet services and bulk SMS in several Haryana districts.

“Fundamental Rights allow the exercise of liberty without censorship. But the government has halted the farmers… According to Mazdoor Kisan Sanghthan v. UoI, Art 19(1)(a) and (1)(b) confer rights to assemble peacefully. Legitimate dissent is a distinguishing feature of democracy,” Singh submitted.

On the other hand, the second petition, filed by Arvind Seth, also a lawyer, seeks directions to ensure that all National and State Highways and railway tracks in Punjab and Haryana are not blocked by the farmers’ protest and immediate action be taken against the agitators as per the provisions of the National Highway Act, 1956.

“Thousands of vehicles are heading towards Delhi… Nobody should be allowed to block the national highways. Public inconvenience cannot be permitted. People going to hospitals are suffering… There are specified places designated by the government where people can protest, but they cannot inconvenience the public by protesting anywhere,” Seth contended.

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