'Genuinely interested to solve problem': SC suspends implementation of farm laws until further notice, forms panel

The ruling came on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the three farm laws that were enacted last September. A detailed order is expected later today

FP Staff January 12, 2021 14:41:34 IST
'Genuinely interested to solve problem': SC suspends implementation of farm laws until further notice, forms panel

File image of Supreme Court. PTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the implementation of the three farm laws under further notice and decided to set up a committee to resolve the impasse over them between the Centre and farmers' unions protesting at Delhi borders. A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said those “genuinely” interested in finding a solution would appear before the committee.

The bench asked the farmer unions to cooperate and appear before the committee that will submit a report to the court. “We believe in the committee and we are going to constitute it,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told the attorney general. “This committee will be part of judicial proceedings.”

It also said that a committee will be set up, which will comprise of experts of agriculture and agri economics. The committee will play a significant role in resolving the impasse between the farmers and Centre.

The members of this panel, according to Bar and Bench, are:

  1. Bharatiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann
  2. International Policy Head Pramod Joshi
  3. Agricultural economist Ashok Gulati
  4. Maharashtra Shetkari Sanghatana member Anil Ghanwat

The ruling came on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the three farm laws. A detailed order is expected later today. During the hearing, the chief justice said the court will pass an interim order saying the no farmers' land can be sold for contract farming till the matter is resolved.

Before pronouncing the order, the bench commenced the hearing and urged the farmers' unions to cooperate and go before the committee to be appointed by it to resolve the dispute.

“We are concerned about only the validity of the laws and also about protecting the life and property of citizens affected by protests,” said Justice Bobde. “We are trying to solve the problem in accordance with the powers we have.”

When informed that farmers were not keen on appearing before any committee, Chief Justice Bobde said every person who is "genuinely interested" in solving the problem is expected to appear before the panel.

“The committee will not punish you or pass any orders,” he added. “It will submit a report to us. We are going to take the opinion of the organizations. We are forming the committee so that we have a clearer picture.”

It highlighted the difference between judiciary and politics and asked the farmers to cooperate with it. "This is not politics. There is a difference between politics and judiciary and you will have to cooperate", it said to farmer unions.

“We don’t want to hear an argument that farmers will not go to the committee. We are looking to solve the problem. If you want to agitate indefinitely, you can.” said CJI Bobde.

In response to advocate ML Sharma's statement that farmers were approached by many persons for discussion but not Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the CJI said the prime minister cannot be asked to meet the farmers as he is not a party to the case and the issue at hand.

The chief justice also reminded advocates that the court has the power to suspend the legislation and observed that no power can stop it from setting up a committee to evaluate the pros and cons of the farm laws. Bobde went on to say that after the committee gives finding which provisions to be deleted, it will deal with the farm laws. "We can't suspend the laws indefinitely. The suspension will have to run parallel to a process for resolution," he further noted.

“But the suspension of legislation must not be for an empty purpose,” he added. “We will form a committee which will submit a report to us,” he said.

The Centre also told the Supreme Court that the farmers' agitation had been infiltrated by separatists and “Khalistanis”. The court asked the government to file an affidavit to support its claims, by tomorrow, with confirmation that separatist outfits have hijacked the farmers’ movement, reports Bar and Bench.

On Monday, the Supreme Court had said it was extremely disappointed with the way talks were proceeding between the government and farmers and warned that it would put the contentious legislations on hold if the government refused to do so. It noted that the laws were passed without "enough consultation".

The court also proposed to set up a committee to resolve the standoff. Farmers’ groups, however, rejected the suggestion to appoint a panel.

In a counter-affidavit filed before the Supreme Court after the hearing, the Centre affirmed that the new legislations were not made hurriedly, but were the result of two decades of deliberations, reported PTI. The majority of farmers were “not only happy” with the laws, but also found them to be progressive and in their interest, the government claimed.

Separately, the Centre, through the Delhi Police, moved the Supreme Court seeking an injunction order against any proposed tractor, trolley or vehicle march or any other kind of protest by farmers during the Republic Day celebrations on 26 January. The affidavit said “disruption or obstruction” in the functions would not only be against law and order but would also be “a huge embarrassment for the nation”.

With inputs from PTI

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