The Punjab and Haryana High Court has intervened in the ongoing farmers’ protest, calling for an amicable settlement between the protesting farmers and the government. Amidst escalating tensions as farmers march towards Delhi demanding a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP), the court emphasized the need for a balanced approach to uphold both fundamental rights and public order.
A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice GS Sandhawalia and Justice Lapita Banerji issued notices to the Centre and the governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi, seeking their response to two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) related to the protest.
One PIL challenges the Haryana government’s decision to seal its borders to prevent agitators from entering the state and moving towards Delhi. The other PIL opposes the protestors’ actions of blocking state and national highways without authorization.
During the hearing, the court acknowledged the protestors’ right to move freely within the country as citizens of India. However, it also emphasized the state government’s duty to ensure the safety and convenience of its citizens. The bench highlighted the need to strike a balance between the fundamental right to speech and expression and public order.
The court urged all parties involved to make efforts to resolve the issue amicably and suggested that designated protest areas be identified by the states. Central government counsel assured the court of the Union government’s willingness to negotiate regarding MSP.
The matter Is scheduled for further hearing on Thursday, February 15, with states given time to file status reports.
The first petition, filed by Chandigarh-based lawyer Uday Pratap Singh, 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 districts of Haryana. Singh argued that fundamental rights allow the exercise of liberty without censorship and cited precedent cases to support the right to peaceful assembly.
The second petition, filed by lawyer Arvind Seth, seeks directions to ensure that all national and state highways and railway tracks in Punjab and Haryana are not blocked by the protests. Seth argued against inconveniencing the public and emphasized the importance of maintaining public order and access to essential services.
In summary, the High Court’s intervention underscores the need for dialogue and compromise to resolve the farmers’ protest while upholding the rights and interests of all parties involved. The court’s emphasis on an amicable solution reflects the complexities of balancing fundamental rights with public order concerns in a democratic society.