The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended implementation of the new farm laws until further orders and said it will form a committee to hold talks with all stakeholders, after hearing petitions challenging the agriculture reforms.
The top court asserted that it has the power to suspend the contentious legislation to solve the problem and no power can prevent it from making a committee to resolve the impasse on new farm laws.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, has named four members for the committee while asking all parties in the case to also recommend names for the panel. The four members recommended by the apex court are agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, international policy head Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, Shivkeri Sangathna’s Anil Dhanvat, and BKU’s president Bhupinder Singh Maan.
However, it is unclear presently whether the panel will also have more members and who will head it. The four names suggested by the bench may be problematic as all of them have publicly supported the farm laws and their presence on a panel meant to end the ongoing conflict may not cut any ice with the agitating farmers. A clearer picture on the full composition of the committee and its terms of reference will emerge only after the SC officially issues its order later today.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a conglomerate of farmer unions representing those against the farm laws, has already made it clear that though it appreciates the concern of the SC, it will not participate in any committee hearings and will only speak to the government. The SKM is adamant that the three farm laws be repealed in full.
The top court is inclined to pass an order that all protestors be moved to one common site. Senior advocate Vikas Singh recommended either Ramlila Maidan or Boat Club for this purpose. The court has also decided to serve notices to all farm unions on a Delhi police application that wants a ban on proposed tractor rally by farmers on January 26.
Advocate AP Singh, appearing for one of the farm unions said that his clients have agreed that no elders, women or children will participate in the protests. Chief Justice Bobde said he will take this assurance on record for all protesting unions.
Senior advocates Colin Gonsalves, Dushyant Dave and advocates Prashant Bhushan, HS Phoolka who represent the bulk of farmer unions haven’t joined the hearing yet. The Chief Justice and lawyers in favour of the farm laws are repeatedly wondering why Dave, Gonsalves, Phoolka and Bhushan aren’t joining the hearing as the four had assured the court yesterday that they will discuss yesterday’s proceedings with their clients and revert to the court.
The top court sought the cooperation of farmers’ unions, and said that “those who genuinely want resolution, will go to the committee”.
“This is not politics. There is a difference between politics and judiciary and you will have to cooperate”, the court asserted to farmer unions.
A note released by the umbrella body SKM late last night clarified that protesting farmers will not participate in any committee proceedings as proposed by the top court. “While all organisations welcome the suggestions of the honourable Supreme Court to stay the implementation of the farm laws, they are collectively and individually not willing to participate in any proceedings before a committee,” it said.
The government also told the apex court that Khalistanis have infiltrated farmer protests. The Attorney General said that he will file an affidavit, with IB reports, detailing the involvement of Khalistanis and other banned outfits in farmer protests.
The top court heard a clutch of pleas opposing the contentious agriculture reforms yesterday. A bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, said during the hearing that orders on issues concerning the farm laws and farmers’ protest will be delivered in parts.
The matter pertaining to the farm laws was listed for January 12, 2021, as per information uploaded on the website after the hearing, as negotiations between the Centre and farmer leaders remain at a standstill.
The bench, which also comprised of justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, expressed disapproval over the manner by which the three recent farm laws were passed by Parliament.
“We don’t know whether you are part of the solution or part of the problem”, the Supreme Court said to the Centre during the proceedings on Monday.
It also indicated amply that it may go to the extent of staying the implementation of the contentious farm laws and refused to grant extra time to the Centre to explore the possibility of amicable solution saying it has already granted the government a “long rope”. It reiterated the possibility of setting up a committee to resolve the issue.
“A stay is not a solution. We are here to get these laws scrapped completely… the government has in a way already agreed to scrap the laws when it said it is willing to incorporate as many amendments as farmers want,” he said.
“We appeal to the Supreme Court to terminate these laws as these are not valid constitutionally,” Mansa said, adding the protest will continue till the “the laws are not repealed or the BJP government completes its tenure”.
The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on January 7 headed nowhere as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws while the farmer leaders said they are ready to fight till death and their “ghar waapsi will happen only after law waapsi”.