The Supreme Court on Monday said that it was up to the Delhi Police to decide on the entry of protesting farmers into the Capital on Republic day, Live Law reported. The court was hearing the Centre’s petition seeking an injunction against the farmers’ proposed tractor rally on that day.

“The question of entry into Delhi is a law and order situation that is to be determined by the police,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said during the hearing.

The chief justice added that the Supreme Court was not the first authority in the matter. “Does the Supreme Court say as to what are the powers of police and how they will exercise them,” the court asked, reported PTI. “We are not going to tell you what to do.”

The bench noted that it was for the police to take a call on matters of law and order. “We have told the AG [attorney general] and SG [solicitor general] before that whether who should allow and who should not be allowed, and the number of people who can enter are all matters of law and order to be dealt with by the police,” Justice Bobde said.

Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court that entry of 5,000 people into Delhi would be illegal. “You are at liberty to invoke all powers under the law,” Justice Bobde said in response. The court will next hear the case on Wednesday.

In its application filed through the Delhi Police, the government cited the historical and constitutional significance of Republic Day, and said the farmers’ march was aimed to “disturb and disrupt” the celebrations. “Any disruption or obstruction in the said functions would not only be against the law and order, public order, public interest but would also be a huge embarrassment for the nation,” it read.

On January 12, a three-judge bench headed by Bobde had issued a notice on the Centre’s application to the farmer unions.

The farmers said their 50-km parade will be held in the Outer Ring Road, the road encircling the city. On Sunday, Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav had said that farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws will take out a tractor parade in Delhi during the Republic Day celebrations on January 26. Yadav added that there would be no disruption to the official Republic Day parade. “The parade will be very peaceful,” he had said. “The farmers will put up the national flag on their tractors.”

The protestors had on January 7 organised a tractor rally near Delhi, which they said was a rehearsal for Republic Day. Thousands of farmers started journeys on their tractors from protest sites, bordering Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, and Rewasan in Haryana, to the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways.

On SC-appointed panel

During the hearing on Monday, advocate AP Singh, representing one of the farmers’ group, told the Supreme Court about an affidavit seeking the removal of the remaining three members of the panel appointed by the court to resolve the deadlock over the new laws.

The bench told Singh the matter would be taken up next time, reported PTI. “We will hear everyone on that day [next date of hearing], the bench said. “We will hear you in the same combination of bench.”

The affidavit in question was filed by the Bharatiya Kisan Union Lokshakti on Saturday. The farmers’ groups noted that the court-appointed panel comprised only of those experts who have openly favoured the contentious legislations. The outfit said the decision to appoint a partisan panel violated “the principle of natural justice”, and demanded the court select a new committee of experts who can do the job “on the basis of mutual harmony”.

The Supreme Court on January 12 had suspended the implementation of the market-oriented laws until a committee of experts, appointed by the court, could consult with government officials and protesting farmers to find an end to the deadlock.

Agricultural economists Ashok Gulati, Pramod Kumar Joshi, Shetkari Sanghatana member Anil Ghanwat along with Bhartiya Kisan Union National President Bhupinder Singh Mann were named in the court-appointed panel. Mann later recused himself from the committee saying that he would always stand with the farmers and Punjab.

The farmers’ protest

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping out on the outskirts of Delhi for over 50 days, demanding the repeal of the three agricultural laws passed in September. The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agricultural.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.

Talks between the government and farmers’ unions yet again remained inconclusive last week, as protesting leaders stayed firm on their demand for repealing the laws. This was the ninth round of discussions over the drawn-out dispute, which again failed in ending the stalemate. The next meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.