Refusing to entertain plea seeking opening of roads connecting Delhi and Haryana, SC asked Sonipat residents to approach the Punjab and Haryana HC.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea filed by residents of Sonipat seeking opening of the roads connecting Delhi and Haryana at Singhu border, which have been blocked by farmers protesting against three agri laws and asked the petitioners to approach the High Court.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and Hima Kohli said that the petitioners has the freedom to approach the High Court and State administration is also amenable to the directions of the High Court to deal with maintaining a balance between freedom to protest and the freedom to access of basic amenities.
It allowed the petition to be withdrawn and granted liberty to them to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The top court said that the invitation to interfere is very tempting but there are High Courts, which can deal with the local issues.
“Suppose, tomorrow there is a border dispute between Karnataka and Kerala or some other states. There will be no end to this. This court shall not be the first recourse. High Courts are there to deal with local problems. We have a robust system in place,” the bench said.
At the outset, advocate Abhimanyu Bhandari, appearing for petitioners Jai Bhagwan and Jagbir Singh Chhikara, both residents of Sonipat, said that Singhu Border is like an "umbilical cord" for people of the city as it connects Delhi and Haryana but due to blockade this is hampering their right to movement.
He said that petitioners are not against peaceful protest by farmers and they have nothing to do with three farm laws against which they are protesting.
The bench said, “Why don’t you approach the High Court being resident of Sonipat? Why is this petition filed here for publicity? There is no need for us to intervene when High Courts are well versed with the local conditions and the problems you all are facing. We should trust our High Courts”.
Mr. Bhandari said that a coordinate bench of this court has recently passed an order with regard to the U.P. Gate protest in which the top court had asked the Centre to find a solution to the problem, so that no inconvenience is caused to the common people due to blockade of interstate roads.
“At least allow opening of one side of the highway so that people can move in case of any kind of emergency,” he said.
The plea filed through advocate Roohina Dua said that farmers at Singhu border are protesting against three farm bills — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
“Pertinently, on account of the said bills, thousands of farmers have been protesting since late November of 2020 at the Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh whereby they are demanding a rollback of the three laws”, the plea said.
The petition said that even though the protests have been largely peaceful, the three primary locations of farmer protests are Ghazipur Border, Singhu Border, and Tikri Border, have been blocked by the protesters, thereby preventing free flow of traffic for the common people, residents, patients and those in need of medical support.
“The highway at Singhu Border between Delhi and Sonipat in Haryana has been blocked by the protesters since November last year which has caused immense hardship to the people, residents, patients and those in need of medical support of Sonipat which is a district in close proximity to Delhi,” it said.
The plea said that due to COVID-19 the country has faced an unprecedented rise in the number of positive cases as well as the number of consequential deaths on account of the virus.
“This wave of the pandemic has not only increased the number of people affected by the virus exponentially, but has also created a situation where the essential basic medical facilities, including the availability of hospital beds and treatment medication are found to be lacking in a number of districts especially in Sonipat and other adjoining districts,” it said.
The petitioners further said that the areas around Delhi, especially districts such as Sonipat faced an unprecedented rise in cases during the second wave.
“Furthermore, since a majority portion of the district has a rural background, the ground reality of the COVID positive cases is much more than what is being reflected in the official government reporting,” the plea said.
The petitioners sought directions to the concerned authorities to open the Singhu Border of Delhi (Sonepat-Delhi) and direction to temporarily shift the protestors at an allotted place for the free flow of traffic.
Initially, the protests started from Punjab in November last year and later spread to Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and some other parts of the country.
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