The Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that “Khalistanis have infiltrated the protests” by farmers, prompting the Chief Justice of India to seek an affidavit by Wednesday to support the claim.
Attorney-general K.K. Venugopal, representing the Centre, told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde that a rally should not be permitted as it would mean allowing entry of over 1 lakh people into Delhi. He offered to place inputs from the Intelligence Bureau to justify apprehensions of a possible breach of law and order during the Republic Day celebrations.
Senior advocate P.S. Narasimha, appearing for a farmer union supporting the new laws, submitted that a proposed tractor rally and such other protests can be “dangerous” as, according to him, certain groups like “Sikhs for Justice” were out to create trouble.
The Chief Justice then turned towards the attorney-general for his views.
“We have said that Khalistanis have infiltrated the protests. As far as Karnataka, Kerala, etc, are concerned, there is huge support for these (new farm) laws…. There is no question of a huge group of 1 lakh people entering the city on Republic Day. We can’t say where all they will go,” Venugopal said.
The bench, which includes Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Subramanian, prima facie felt that it was for the police to take necessary action to prevent any breach of law and order. But the bench asked the government to file its contention in an affidavit so that necessary orders could be passed on the plea on January 18 when the matter would be taken up.
“It is within your police powers to control that and check if they are armed. We will not interfere with this. If there is an infiltration by a banned organisation and somebody is making an allegation here on record, you have to confirm it. You file an affidavit by tomorrow,” the Chief Justice said.
Venugopal said he would file an affidavit with the IB records.
During the arguments, the bench and senior advocate Harish Salve, who is appearing for the Haryana government and a Delhi-based petitioner, questioned the absence of senior advocates Dushyant Dave, Colin Gonzalves, H.S. Phoolka and Prashant Bhushan.
The advocates, who are appearing for various farmers’ groups opposing the laws, were on Monday asked by the court to convince the protesters to return home.
Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma alleged that some of the lawyers appearing for a couple of pro-law groups were being sponsored by the ruling BJP.
Sharma: “I want to present some real facts. Some farmers spoke with me and said ‘we don’t want to go to any committee’. The lawyers who purportedly appear for them in the court are working at the instance of the BJP. Farmers are scared their land will be snatched.”
Chief Justice: “We will protect farmers. While we are hearing this matter, we can pass an interim order that no land of farmers will be sold to anyone under the farm laws till we finally decide.”
Sharma: “Got a few calls from farmers in the morning. They aren’t willing to appear in the Supreme Court. They only want withdrawal of laws. They are peacefully protesting, claiming the Prime Minister didn’t meet them. They fear land will be sold and no one will protect them. Contract farming is the jugglery of a mastermind. If a corporate house asks farmers to pay damages for crops, they will have to sell land.”
Chief Justice: “We can’t direct the Prime Minister to meet them. We will pass orders that no farmers’ land will have to be sold.”
P. Wilson, appearing for Thiruchi Siva, MP: “The laws were passed without discussions in the House.”
Chief Justice: “Yesterday the AG submitted that the south is supporting the laws.”
Wilson: “That is not correct…. Today Vijayawada is burning with protests.”