The Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday said the plan by farmers to block the National Highway-1 in Kapurthala on Wednesday without the official approval “would not satisfy the test of being legal” and directed the state government to ensure prohibitory orders under Section 144 are strictly enforced in the area in case of any agitation.
The order from the division bench of Justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Amit Rawal was passed after the Arrive Safe Society, headed by the road safety activist Harman Singh Sidhu, approached the HC seeking directions for maintenance of law and order and security of residents and commuters in the area in view of the farmers’ protest.
The plea was mentioned in the morning and requested to be heard on the same day.
Punjab’s Advocate General Atul Nanda, who was present in the court, informed the HC that the farmers had threatened to block the Chaheru bridge in Kapurthala’s Phagwara area as part of their protest and that section 144 had already been imposed in Kapurthala and Jalandhar.
In case the farmer unions make an application to the district magistrate for an alternate site for protest, the same would be “considered sympathetically” as per law, Nanda told the court.
“… this court is of the opinion that any dharna/agitation scheduled for 15th November, 2017, blocking the National Highway No. 1 by [farmer unions] without prior approval of the district magistrate, Kapurthala, would not satisfy the test of being legal,” the division bench said in the order.
On the petitioner’s prayer for a ban on Internet in the area for the next two days, Nanda told the court the state would take an “informed decision”.
In its plea, Arrive Safe Society said it had learnt that “50,000” farmers “were planning to hold a protest on November 15 and would try to stop the Delhi-Lahore Bus service, besides having threatened to block the highway and the rail traffic in case their demands were not met.
At least five farmer unions have called for a protest to press for their demands on early procurement of sugarcane and increase of the statutory minimum price to Rs 350 for the crop.
The HC Tuesday issued notices to the Centre and state government for a response. The case will be again taken up for hearing on Wednesday morning.
This is the third instance of a judicial intervention in a law and order situation in the region this year. Earlier, the High Court had also acted on a plea seeking intervention on the farmers protest in Patiala in September and on the violence by Dera followers in Panchkula in August. The petitioner group also cited the previous High Court interventions while praying for similar directions on the maintenance of law and order in the two districts.