SC refuses to entertain Delhi Police plea against tractor rally on Republic Day

"It's highly inappropriate for the court to act as the first authority to allow or disallow protesters. We can allow you to withdraw the application.

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to entertain the Centre’s plea filed through the Delhi Police seeking directions to stop a tractor rally by farmers agitating against farm laws on Republic Day.

“We have told that it is for the police to decide. We won’t pass the orders. We will allow you to withdraw this application. You are the authority. You decide,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told Attorney General KK Venugopal.

As the Bench made it clear that it was not inclined to entertain the plea, Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested that the matter can be kept pending and considered on January 25.

“For what?” asked the Bench.

“To see how the situation develops,” Mehta replied.

But the CJI, who had described it as a “law and order problem” on Monday, refused to change his views on the tractor rally proposed on January 26 and accordingly allowed the Delhi police to withdraw its application seeking directions to stop it. Earlier, Venugopal told the court that 5000 tractors were going to enter Delhi and it’s likely to create problems.

“No, no- This is not a matter for the court to decide. You have the powers under law,” said the CJI who had earlier said the Delhi Police were the first authority to deal with the issue.

“It’s highly inappropriate for the court to act as the first authority to allow or disallow protesters. We can allow you to withdraw the application. You are the Executive and you have the power to look into this. It’s an issue of law and order and of the police,” the top court noted.

Asserting that farmers were law abiding citizens, BKU Lokshakti counsel AP Singh raised the issue of appointment of four-member committee by the court, saying principles of natural justice were violated.

“We are not on this. We allow AG to withdraw his application,” the court said.

The Delhi Police had filed a plea seeking direction to stop farmers’ proposed tractor rally on Republic Day. “Right to protest is always subject to the countervailing public order and the public interest. The right to protest can never include maligning the nation globally,” Delhi Police had submitted.

Pointing out that such a rally could cause law and order problems and prove to be embarrassing for the nation, they had sought an injunction against the tractor rally.

However, noting that it’s intervention to resolve the deadlock over farmers’ protests against farm laws has been misunderstood, the Supreme Court had on Monday made it clear that it was for the Delhi Police to take a call if farmers’ tractor rally proposed on Republic Day should be allowed to enter the national capital.

“Our intervention has been misunderstood… Who will come in the city and who will be allowed will not be seen by us,” a Bench headed by CJI Bobde had said terming the proposed tractor rally a “law and order” issue.

“You are at liberty to invoke all powers under the law,” the CJI – who earlier maintained that farmers have a fundamental right to peacefully protest — had told the Attorney General.

The top court — which stayed the implementation of the three farm laws on January 12 – said, “We said this last time that entry to Delhi has to be seen by Delhi police. Invoke all your powers to see whether farmers can be allowed in the city.”

“Who can be allowed or not are matters of law and order will be dealt by police. We cannot be the first authority here. Does the Union of India need the Supreme Court to tell it what powers it has under the Police Act?” CJI had told Venugopal.

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