Lawyers urge CJI to take cognizance of MHA's direction of Internet shutdown at Delhi borders

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New Delhi, Feb 3 (PTI) A group of 140 lawyers has urged Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde to suspend the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on internet shutdown and ensure that farmers' rights are protected.

The letter has also urged the CJI to set up a Commission of Enquiry to probe into alleged police inaction in controlling the violence and its role in allegedly facilitating the mob attack on protesting farmers on January 29.

Farmers are protesting at Delhi borders seeking repeal of three controversial farm laws.

The lawyers have suggested to the CJI that the apex judiciary should direct the MHA to “restrain from imposing further Internet shutdowns at the protest sites and adjoining areas.” The MHA had announced suspension of internet services at the three border points of Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur and their adjoining areas from 11 pm on January 29 effective till 11 pm on January 31. Later it extended the suspension till 11 pm on February 2.

“There has been no further extension of internet suspension at these sites as of now,” a Home Ministry official said on Wednesday.

The lawyers, in the letter, have said that the Commission of Enquiry should also probe and suggest action against local “hoodlums” who had allegedly engaged in the manhandling of protestors, and journalists at the Singhu protest venue. “Strict action against the journalists and the news channels who are spreading provocative content and fake rumors about the farmers and their protest,” the letter said.

The suspension of internet order issued by the MHA is a “gross misuse of power by the Central government and is causing disruption to the protestors and individuals in exercising their fundamental conferred under Article 19 (1) (a) which had been upheld by the Supreme Court in…,” said the letter written by lawyers Sitwat Nabi and Abhisht Hela, which purportedly contained signatures of 140 advocates.

“The 'state-of-the-art' political scenario of the year 2021 is witnessing a paradigm shift wherein there has been incessant vilification and ostracization of the farmers protesting against the three Farm Laws for over 6 months. Aggravating the issue further, many mainstream media channels are determined to change their names from 'Farmers' or “'Ann-daatas' to 'Terrorists' or 'Khalistanis',” it said.

The farmers are protesting at three Delhi borders for almost two months seeking repeal of three laws. They are: the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.

On January 12, the apex court had already stayed the implementation of the contentious new farm laws till further orders and had constituted a committee to make recommendations to resolve the impasse over them between the Centre and farmers' unions protesting at Delhi borders. PTI SJK RKS RKS