The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has made an urgent intervention in a matter where district authorities had sought large amounts in sureties and personal bonds from poor farmers, including women, as “security for keeping peace”.
The petitioner, former advisor to the UP government and an independent researcher and social activist pressed for an urgent hearing as the District Administration of Sitapur had passed an order against farmers. The division bench of Justices Rajeev Singh and Ramesh Sinha agreed to hear the instant petition taking into consideration the urgency of the matter.
The petitioner stated that several orders have been issued by Sub-Divisional Magistrates of the different areas of District Sitapur from January 19 onwards to farmers, including women, under section 111 of CrPC calling upon them to furnish personal bond of Rs.50 Thousands to 10 Lacs and two sureties in the like amount on apprehension that he/she would violate the law and order in the light of the ensuing farmers protest in the district.
Section 111 of CrPC gives the Executive Magistrate power to order a bond to be executed by a person as “security for keeping the peace”. Under section 107(1) CrPC, when an Executive Magistrate receives information that any person is likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity, and is of opinion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding, he may require such person to show cause why he should not be ordered to execute a bond with or without sureties for keeping the peace.
Counsel appearing for the petitioner, Veena Rajes, submitted that notices issued by the State authorities are not only baseless but also take away the fundamental rights of a person, given how farmers are not allowed to come out from their houses as the police have surrounded their houses. She also contended that the personal bond and sureties sought are in exorbitant amounts, and the same cannot be sought from poor farmers merely on the basis of local police reports without providing farmers an opportunity to be heard.
The court thus directed state authorities to submit under what circumstances such an exorbitant amount of personal bond and two sureties have been asked to furnish to them. The matter has been listed for hearing on February 2.
The orders seem to be in response to the tractor rally planned on Republic Day whereby farmers are driving their tractors towards Delhi’s borders in support. UP’s Ghazipur district had ordered a ban on sale of fuel for tractors but retracted the order after facing backlash. It is estimated that around 25,000 tractors will arrive from different districts of Uttar Pradesh at Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri borders. Apart from these, several districts have planned tractor rallies within the territorial limits to show solidarity to the tractor rallies around Delhi.
The farmers are protesting three controversial farm laws passed by the Parliament, and the agitation has only gained more traction with the passage of each day. The protests have intensified as talks with the government have not turned out to be fruitful, as the Centre refuses to relent to farmers’ demand of repeal of the laws.
The complete order may be read here.