Tractor rally violence: Pleas in SC seek inquiry panel, claim conspiracy against farmers

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New Delhi, Jan 27 (PTI) Two pleas were filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday over the tractor rally violence on the Republic Day with one seeking setting up of a commission, headed by a retired apex court judge, to inquire into the incident while the other urged it to direct the media not to declare farmers as 'terrorist' without any evidence.

The tractor parade on Tuesday that was to highlight the demands of farmer unions to repeal three new agri laws dissolved into anarchy on the streets of the national capital as thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with the police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort.

Petitioner-advocate Vishal Tiwari, besides seeking setting up of an inquiry commission, has sought direction to concerned authority to lodge FIRs against individuals or organisations responsible for the violence and causing dishonour of the National Flag on January 26.

Tiwari has said that a three-member inquiry commission under the chairmanship of a former top court judge and comprising of two retired high court judges should be set up for collecting and recording evidence and submit a report to the apex court in a time bound manner.

It said that farmers’ protest against the three new agri laws is going on for over two months but it took a “violent turn” during the tractor parade.

The other plea, filed by advocate M L Sharma, has claimed that there was a “planned conspiracy” to sabotage the protest by farmers’ and they were allegedly declared as “terrorist” without any evidence.

Sharma sought directions to the Centre and the media to prohibit propagation of “false allegations and actions declaring” farmers as terrorist without any evidence.

Tiwari's plea further said: “Unfortunately, the tractor march took a violent turn leaving injuries and destruction of public property. This incident also effected the daily life of the public. The internet services were interrupted as government ordered the operators to suspend the same. In the present time, the internet services are very essential to carry out the work in different professions especially in advocacy as the courts and our Supreme Court of India is functioning online.” Clash between the farmers and police on the Republic Day has caught the attention of the entire world, it said.

“The matter is serious because when the protest was going on peacefully for last two months then suddenly, how it turned into violent movement and led violence on January 26. The question for consideration in national security and public interest arises that who is responsible for creating the disturbance and how and who turned the peaceful farmer protest into violent movement or how and who created the circumstances which let the protest turn violent,” the plea filed by Tiwari said.

“The blames are from both sides and the matter is to be inquired by an independent agency i.e by setting up an inquiry commission under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court Judge,” it said.

It said there may be some conspiracy by some “notorious forces or organizations” to cause disturbance and damage the peaceful protest and create clash between police and protesting farmers.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and other judges of the apex court urging that no adverse orders be passed in the listed cases in the event of lawyers being unable to join virtual hearings due to connectivity issues and technical glitches owing to disconnection of internet in several areas of Delhi for security reasons.

On January 20, the Centre had withdrawn its application, filed through Delhi Police, seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor march on January 26 after the apex court had said that issue of tractor rally by farmers protesting against the new farms laws was in “executive domain”.

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

The members of the court-appointed committee were -- Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President of Bhartiya Kisan Union, All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Parmod Kumar Joshi, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sanghatana.

Later, Mann had recused himself from the committee. The top court had on January 12 said it would hear the pleas against the farm laws after eight weeks when the committee would give its suggestions to resolve the impasse after talking to the protesters and the government.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws -- 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. PTI ABA SJK SA