Farmers Protest: Punjab & Haryana HC Refuses Urgent Hearing on Plea to Prevent ‘Use of Modified Vehicles’

Farmers Protest

The Punjab & Haryana High Court on Wednesday declined an urgent hearing of a plea seeking directions to prevent farmers from advancing with modified vehicles, tractors, and trolleys.

Additional Solicitor General Satya Pal Jain, representing the Central Government, and Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan, representing the Haryana government, mentioned the matter before the bench of Acting Chief Justice G.S. Sandhawalia and Justice Lapita Banerji to hear the application today. The protesters plan to enter Delhi today.

It is to be mentioned that the main matter of the Farmers’ protest is scheduled for February 29, 2024.

Yesterday, ACJ G.S. Sandhawalia orally instructed the Punjab Government to ensure that protestors are not gathered in large numbers.

“They have the right to protest, but it is subject to reasonable restrictions,” the judge stated.

During the hearing, ACJ Sandhawalia also objected to farmers traveling in tractors and trolleys for protest.

“According to the Motor Vehicle Act, you cannot use tractors and trolleys on the highway…you are traveling on your tractors and trolleys from Amritsar to Delhi…everyone knows about their rights, but there are also constitutional duties,” the ACJ stated.

However, no directions were given by the Court on traveling with tractors or trolleys on highways for protest, in the order which was later released today. The Governments of Punjab and Haryana filed their affidavits in the last hearing. A status report was also filed by the Union following the Court’s previous directions.

The Special Director General of Police, Punjab, submitted in the affidavit that the Haryana Police has set up strong barricading at the Shambhu Border, and the present situation is peaceful. Whereas, the Additional Chief Secretary of Haryana submitted that the protesting sites have been designated by each district, and the protestors can apply for peaceful agitation in their respective districts. It further submitted that “the State will take all possible steps against the violators of law to ensure that the protestors do not block important roads and places in Haryana.”

The Court directed the Centre to file the status report on affidavit with the latest development and what transpired in the meetings with farmers by the next date of hearing. During the previous hearing, the Court had called for an amicable settlement between the parties. The Central government had also made a statement in the court that it is open to negotiations on the issue. Accordingly, a meeting was scheduled last week.

The petitioner, Uday Pratap Singh, a Chandigarh-based lawyer, has challenged the “obstructive actions” of the government, including sealing the border between Haryana and Punjab and suspending mobile internet services and bulk SMS in several districts of Haryana.

In the previous hearing, Singh alleged that the Haryana government has resorted to violent means and is using weapons like rubber pellets, tear gas cannons on peaceful protesters. The Haryana government, on the other hand, submitted that the protest is unauthorized, organized without seeking any permission from the authorities. It submitted that six districts in the State, i.e., Yamunanagar, Charkhi Dadri, Kurukshetra, Jhajjar, Panchkula, and Karnal have already earmarked areas for holding peaceful agitation, and other districts are also directed to identify.

The Punjab government also submitted that the situation is tense but under control, and all arrangements have been made, including medical facilities. It added that they have no objection to the protest as long as it is peaceful. “They have the right to protest peacefully,” the ACJ then remarked. Previously also, the Court had observed that “the right of free passage of the public at large is to be balanced with the right of freedom of speech and expression and that none of them existing in isolation can be put forth so that the general public is not put to any inconvenience.”

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte