HC orders opening of Shambhu border within 7 days

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Chandigarh, Jul 10 (PTI) The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday ordered the Haryana government to remove within a week the barricading set up at the Shambhu border near Ambala where farmers have been camping since February 13 when their 'Delhi Chalo' march was stopped.

The Haryana government had set up barricades at the Ambala-New Delhi national highway in February when Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) (Non-Political) and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) had announced to move towards Delhi in support of various demands, including a legal guarantee to minimum support price (MSP) for crops.

The directions came on a bunch of petitions filed on farmer-related issues and against blockade.

The directions were given by the division bench of justices G S Sandhawalia and Vikas Bahl.

Meanwhile, the farmers have called a meeting on July 16 to discuss the matter.

Speaking to media after the hearing, Haryana Additional Advocate General Deepak Sabherwal said the court has directed the Haryana government to remove barricading within seven days.

The court also said if any law and order situation arises, then it can take preventive action according to law.

He further said similar directions have been given to the Punjab government for maintaining law and order, while stating that any barricading at the Punjab side should also be removed.

The orders are to open the highway, he said.

The SKM (Non-Political) and KMM are spearheading the 'Delhi Chalo' march by farmers to press the government to accept their demands which include that the Centre should give a legal guarantee of MSP for crops.

The farmers have been staying put at the Shambhu and Khanauri border points between Punjab and Haryana since February 13 when their march was stopped by the security forces.

Shubhkaran, a native of Bathinda, was killed and many police personnel were injured in clashes at Khanauri border point on the Punjab-Haryana border on February 21.

The incident took place when some protesting farmers were trying to head towards the barricades and were stopped by the security personnel from crossing the state border and marching to Delhi.

Sabharwal said, "We (Haryana) had said the barricading had been put up since February 10, which was to maintain law and order. The farmers are sitting on Punjab's side. Their number at present is about 400-500." Replying to a question by reporters outside the high court, Sabharwal said designated places have been earmarked both by Haryana and Punjab and everyone has a right to hold peaceful protest at a designated place, but the highways cannot be blocked.

"So, we had put up before the court that the Punjab government should shift them (protesting farmers) to a designated place," he said.

On another issue, Sabharwal said Jhajjar Police Commissioner Satish Balan has been nominated as the SIT head to investigate Shubhkaran Singh's case.

Meanwhile, reacting to the court order, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said they have called a meeting of both the forums -- ”SKM (Non Political) and KMM -- on July 16 to discuss the future course of action.

"We had earlier made it clear that we had not blocked the road. The barricades had been done by the Centre and Haryana government," he maintained.

Farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said, "We have been saying that the Haryana government had blocked the highway." "Holding peaceful protests is everyone's democratic right. Under this, we had a programme to head to Delhi when we were stopped as the Haryana government put up barricades," he said.

Among the petitions, one of them was filed in February by a Haryana-based petitioner Uday Pratap Singh against the sealing of borders.

The petitioner had sought directions from the court to stay all obstructive actions by the governments of the Haryana and the Centre against the farmers' protest.

"Our prayer was that the farmers should be given an non-obstructive path to move to Delhi for holding a peaceful protest as it is their fundamental right.

"During the course of the case, we had argued before the court that the Shambhu border has been closed for several weeks and whether the Haryana government wants to keep it permanently closed," Uday told reporters on Wednesday.

During the previous hearing, the court had asked the governments of Punjab and Haryana the time till when the highway blockade would continue as it was causing inconvenience to the commuters. PTI CHS SUN KSS KSS