The farmers protesting on the outskirts of Delhi against the centre's new agricultural laws must be removed because they are blocking emergency medical services needed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, a petition in the Supreme Court claimed on Friday.
Filed by a Delhi resident Rishab Sharma, a law student, the plea has asked for the immediate removal or shifting of the protesting farmers, saying even though the police offered them a ground in Burari on the city's northern fringe, demonstrations are still being held at the borders.
The petition quotes the Supreme Court's judgment on the protests against the centre's controversial citizenship law which in October said public places cannot be occupied by protesters and there must be a specific place for sit-in demonstrations.
"The life of lakhs of people protesting at Delhi Borders is at immediate threat since the virus is very contagious and if by chance this coronavirus disease takes the shape of community spread, it will cause a havoc in the country," it said.
Farmers faced a brutal police crackdown in Haryana last week before being allowed to hold a peaceful protest in Delhi against the new laws that they say will leave them at the mercy of large corporations and override safeguards against being cheated.
Union ministers have been holding talks with farmers' leaders to try and break the deadlock over laws passed earlier this year seeking to deregulate the agriculture sector that has ignited the country's biggest farm protests in years.
Tens of thousands of growers have camped out at the entrance to Delhi in protest against the laws seeking to rid the sector of antiquated procurement procedures and to allow farmers to sell to institutional buyers and big international retailers.
The farmers, who form a powerful political constituency, fear the laws passed in September could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
Farm groups say the government is trying to end a decades-old policy of providing them with an assured minimum price for producing staples, such as wheat and rice.