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Friday, Dec 09, 2022

What hastened blockade end: HC midnight order to ensure NH 44 kept open for free movement of traffic

In a late-night hearing on Friday, the Punjab and Haryana High Court told the government that the situation “needs to be resolved amicably” and that use of force should be resorted to “as a last option”.

BKU (Charuni) chief Gurnam Singh addresses farm activists after blocking NH in Shahabad, September 23, 2022. (Express photo by Manoj Dhaka)

Hearing a petition against the farmers’ blockade on the Delhi-Ambala national highway, the Punjab and Haryana High Court late on Friday directed the Haryana government to ensure that National Highway 44 is kept open for free flow and movement of traffic.

The high court also said that the situation “needs to be resolved amicably” and that use of force should be resorted to “as a last option”. The hearing over the blockade of NH 44 by farmers in Haryana began around 11.30 pm before the bench of Justices Augustine George Masih and Alok Jain.

The petitioner, Randeep Tanwar, through counsel Padamkant Dwivedi, pointed out that NH 44 was being blocked using tractor trolleys and other vehicles, and tents were being erected in the middle of the road, resulting in traffic jams.

The petitioner told the high court that the blockade was by a group of farmers from the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), led by Gurnam Singh Chaduni.

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“Initially, a few members of the union started it but with the passage of time, the numbers started increasing with their strength now reaching 400 to 500 people. Around 80 tractors and other vehicles have also reached the site,” Dwivedi said.

After hearing the matter, the bench said, “The said impasse cannot be permitted to sustain and the district administration should have immediately taken steps… It has led to a situation where the national highway has been blocked and such illegal activities cannot be permitted.”
While issuing notice to the Haryana government returnable on September 26, the bench also issued directions to
“ensure that NH 44 is kept open for free flow and movement of traffic without any hindrance so that the public at large is not put to inconvenience”.

“The cause, which has led to such a situation, be sorted out so that there is no further deterioration in the law and order situation. This direction of ours needs to be given effect to forthwith. However, a word of caution needs to be added here that the matter preferably needs to be resolved amicably. Resort to use of force should be as a last option, and that too, unless the administration has no other way out,” the court said.

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The high court also held that since it is asserted in the writ petition that the said blockade has been enforced by BKU (Chaduni) through its president Gurnam Singh Chaduni, he needs to be impleaded as respondent in the writ petition.

“Let the chief secretary to the government of Haryana submit the steps taken and report in pursuance of the above directions as also the latest status report on the date fixed,” read the high court order.

Earlier, the petitioner had informed the high court that the national highway cannot be blocked by agitators and this is illegal, as has been held by various courts, including the Supreme Court. The petitioner further argued that by doing so, the farmers have put the general public in discomfort.

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“Lots of people are travelling and making use of the national highway and by blocking the same, it will not only affect the free movement of traffic but also lead to harassment to the public at large. The economy of the country too will be hit as transport vehicles carrying various goods and eatables have to stop, leading to damage to the goods,” the petitioner said.

First published on: 24-09-2022 at 12:48:03 pm
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