SC refuses to hear firm's plea alleging “anarchists masquerading as protestors” occupying warehouse

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New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a plea by Punjab based company seeking a direction to the Centre and the state government to remove the “anarchists masquerading as protestors”, who have allegedly occupied its warehouses in the name of protests against the contentious farm laws.

The firm claimed that its warehouse is used to store goods of three companies-- Adani Wilmar Ltd, Capital Foods Pvt. Ltd. and Technova Imaging Systems Pvt. Ltd.--in temperature controlled environment and it has not been able to access its place of business since February 19.

A bench of Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, which asked the company to withdraw the plea and move Punjab and Haryana High Court for the relief and gave liberty to the firm to amend its petition and make the protesting organisation/group as parties.

The top court said that if the plea is filed within three days before the High Court, it should be considered at the earliest.

During the brief hearing, the bench asked advocate Siddharth Batra, appearing for firm SM Logistics & Warehousing Co. Pvt. Ltd, that how can a corporate entity seek an enforcement of fundamental right.

The bench said that persons, who are holding a post in the company or the protestors at the disputed site are not made parties in the plea.

Batra said that the protestors keep changing every now and then and initially one group started the protest and then another group came and now villagers from nearby villages are protesting at the site.

“We don’t know who these people are. They keep changing. These are unscrupulous people and not even real protestors sitting at protest. My client tried to talk to these groups but they refused to move and they are not allowing me access to my property,” he said.

The bench said that then how can it pass orders without hearing them (protestors) and asked Batra whether he has made any representation to the district administration.

To which the lawyer replied that they have made several representation but nothing has happened so far.

The bench said that the question is that how can you rely on Article 19 of the constitution as a company and you have to have some office bearers of the company as co-petitioner.

“It’s a law and it’s settled. You have to have someone else as co-petitioner. It may be an officer bearer or shareholder. Company is corporate entity and legal body by itself. You have to have someone else,” the bench said.

It said that from the petition filed by the company, it appears that it is aware who are the protestors like it is mentioned Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), so it will be better, if they are made parties.

“You can get the names and then add them. Without party it will be like passing orders from the thin air”, the bench said.

The counsel said that products of a particular company are stored with the company and people have grudge against that firm.

The bench said that it will be appropriate if the petition is amended and they approach the High Court as even the respondents are mostly officials based in Punjab.

The firm in its plea has said that 'this Court may consider setting an example by directing the Respondents (Centre and Punjab government) to come down heavily on anarchists masquerading as protestors, while at the same time upholding bonafide citizens' right to protest in accordance with Constitutional values'.

It said that it has filed Article 32 petition before the top court to point out the complete failure of authorities of Punjab government and to uphold the rule of law and protect the fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India under Article 14, 19 (1),(d)&(g) and Article 21.

“The authorities in the State of Punjab are acting like mute spectators to a huge problem being faced by the Petitioner in carrying on its business. The Petitioner is not able to do its business as its warehouse has been locked by the illegal protestors who have been protesting against the recently enacted farm laws”, the plea said.

It said that the protestors have put their own lock on the gates of the place of the business of the Petitioner and ingress and egress routes of the place of business have been blocked.

“Such an illegality perpetrated in the name of protest against the recently enacted farm laws cannot be continued even for a day and with every passing day, it is not just that the fundamental right guaranteed to the Petitioner is being violated but a huge loss is being caused to the Petitioner,” it said.

The company further said that Punjab officials have failed to evict, relocate or otherwise take action against a group of illegal protestors who have locked the gates of the warehouse and shut down its functioning completely, thereby contravening the fundamental rights of equal protection of the law, the freedom of movement, the freedom to carry on trade, occupation, or business and the right to livelihood.

On January 12, the top court had stayed the implementation of the three laws -- the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act -- against which several petitions have been filed challenging their constitutional validity.

It had constituted a four-member committee of which one member has recused, to resolve the impasse over the laws between the Centre and farmers' unions protesting at various places in the country and at Delhi borders. PTI MNL ABA MNL RKS RKS