Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde on Thursday (January 7) voiced concern about the ongoing farmers’ protest in Delhi, saying it could turn into a “problem similar to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation” in March last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Same problem will arise from the farmers’ protest… Don’t know if they are protected from COVID-19… You must tell us what is happening,” CJI Bobde, heading a three-judge bench, told Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who represented the Union government.
Mehta told the court that he will find out what the status is.
The apex court was hearing a petition filed by a Jammu-based lawyer, who sought a CBI investigation into circumstances leading to the swelling of migrant workers in Delhi and the Tablighi Jamaat congregation — both in violation of social distancing norms.
The three-judge bench issued a notice to the Centre and the Delhi government and asked Solicitor General Mehta to file a detailed report on guidelines being followed to prevent COVID-19, especially with regards to gathering of people.
The petition accused the Centre, the Delhi government and the police of failing to protect the spread of the virus.
The advisory, the petition said, “clearly states that religious leaders are to regulate mass gatherings and ensure no overcrowding. At least a metre’s distance between people, non-essential travel should be avoided”.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting in Delhi since late November in support of their demand to repeal the three contentious farm laws, which they feel are anti-farmer and pro-corporate. Since the agitating farmers have been living in congregations along road side, often in close contact, the Supreme Court expressed concern about the possible spread of COVID infection. Over 60 farmers have died during the protest so far, but none by coronavirus.