Farmers' Protests: SC tells Centre 'your negotiations haven't worked', suggests forming committee to resolve stand-off

The apex court bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde, and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian also directed the petitioners to make the protesting farmer unions parties to the pleas and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday

FP Staff December 16, 2020 16:41:57 IST
Farmers' Protests: SC tells Centre 'your negotiations haven't worked', suggests forming committee to resolve stand-off

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

The Supreme Court is considering forming a committee comprising members of the farmers' associations, the Government of India and other stakeholders after Centre-led negotiations failed to break the deadlock over the farm laws, according to several media reports.

The apex court bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, hearing a clutch of petitions seeking the removal of farmers camping at several roads near Delhi borders in protest against the three new agriculture laws, told the Centre: "Your negotiations with protesting farmers have not worked apparently till now. It is bound to fail."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre replied, "We are willing to talk to farmers."

As per a report in The Times of India, the apex court further told the Centre that urgent resolution measures are required as the farmers at the Delhi border do not appear to be in a mood to talk and that the protest "will soon become a national issue" if the dispute isn't settled immediately.

Meanwhile, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta told the SC bench that the government will not do anything against the interest of farmers. As per a report in Live Law, Mehta urged the Supreme Court to "direct farmers organisations to sit with the government clause by clause [sic] so that there can be a debate or discussion with an open mind".

CJI Bobde then told Mehta that the talks will be successful only when both sides are represented by people willing to negotiate, as per Live Law.

"The government was and is ready for negotiations," Mehta said, as per a report in NDTV, but "the difficulty is the farmers' 'yes or no' approach. Different ministers talked to them, but they turned their chairs back and did not talk."

When the apex court asked the solicitor general to give names of the farmer organisations blocking the roads on Delhi borders, Mehta replied that he can give the names of those with whom the government is holding discussions, PTI reported.

"There are members of Bharatiya Kisan Union and other organisations talking to the government," Mehta said, as per PTI.

"It appears now some other interests have taken over the farmers protests," added Mehta as per NDTV.

"Your negotiation will again fail as they won't agree," CJI Bobde told Mehta, as per a report in Bar And Bench.

"Give us names of organisations who can be before us [sic]," he added.

In a hearing conducted via video conferencing, the Supreme Court bench also directed the petitioners to make protesting farmer unions parties to the pleas and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday, PTI reported.

Multiple pleas have been filed in the SC seeking a direction to authorities to immediately remove the farmers, saying commuters are facing hardships due to the road blockades and the gatherings might lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Taking note of submissions, the top court told the advocates appearing for different parties as to what it tentatively proposes to do. We will form a committee to resolve the dispute. We will have members of the government, members from farmer organisations in it. This may soon become a national issue. We will have members from farmer organisations from rest of India also. You propose list of names of committee members said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The apex court issued notices to the Centre and others on a batch of petitions seeking removal of farmers camping at borders of Delhi and amicable solution of the dispute.

The bench asked petitioners, including law student Rishabh Sharma, lawyer Reepak Kansal, who have sought removal of protestors and advocate GS Mani, who has sought amicable settlement of dispute and opening of blockades, to array farmers unions as party in the matter.

We will issue notice and it will be returnable tomorrow as courts are closing after Friday, the bench said.

The bench asked Mehta to submit the names of protesting farmers union and asked the petitioners to array them as parties. At the outset, advocate Om Prakash Parihar, appearing for petitioner Rishabh Sharma, said that the roads are blocked at Delhi borders by the protesting farmers which is causing inconvenience to the public.

He referred to the 7 October order of the top court, delivered on a petition filed by advocate Amit Sahni against the blockade of a road in the Shaheen Bagh area here by those protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which said public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely.

The bench said there cannot be any precedent in a matter of law and order situation and cannot pass orders without hearing all the parties. Petitioner GS Mani told the bench that he has land in Tamil Nadu and do farming whenever he goes to his native place and referred to the issue of farmers' suicide. Mani said that he wants the issue to be resolved amicably through talks and a peaceful solution to this problem.

The bench told Mehta that most of these petitions before it appears to be ill-conceived and that "we don't see any legal issue being raised before us in these petitions except that freedom of movement in the territory of India is blocked, which is caused by the people who are not before us."

It said that the only person before the court is the person who has blocked the roads and it's the government authorities. The bench said, "Who has prevented these farmers from coming to Delhi? To which Mehta replied said that it is the police that has done so.

"You are the only party before us," the bench told the Solicitor-General.

Several rounds of formal talks have taken place between the Centre and the representatives of thousands of protesting farmers since November last week, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, but the deadlock has continued with the unions sticking to their main demand for a repeal of the three contentious laws and repeatedly rejecting the government's offer to make certain changes in the legislations and give written assurances or clarifications on a few issues such as the minimum support price (MSP) and the "mandi" (wholesale market) system. .

With inputs from PTI

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