The Supreme Court questions the central government whether it would pause the three controversial laws at the core of massive farmer protests near Delhi, and also suggests a committee for negotiations. "Tell us whether you will put the laws on hold or else we will do it. What's the prestige issue here," the court said, saying it was disappointed by the government's handling of the crisis. The court's sharp remarks came during a hearing on petitions challenging the farm laws and the farmer agitation at the Delhi borders. "Each one of us will responsible if anything goes wrong. We don't want any injuries or blood on our hands," Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said in a series of stern comments to the government. As the centre asked for more time, referring to ongoing negotiations, Justice Bobde said: "We don't see you are dealing with this issue effectively. We are taking a decision today. Who is going to be responsible for the bloodshed, if any?"
A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde on Monday toughened its stand on the farm laws and said the court has made up its mind to stay the implementation of the three farm laws, which have led to the protest by thousands of farmers at various Delhi borders.
“We do not believe the Centre is handling the situation correctly. We do not believe your negotiations are effective. We are attempting to make the atmosphere conducive by keeping the implementation of the laws in abeyance,” the Chief Justice told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre.
The Attorney General (AG) insisted that the top court should not pass any order in a hurry.
The CJI replied: “You should not lecture us on patience.”
Four senior lawyers — Dushyant Dave, Prashant Bhushan, HS Phoolka and Colin Gonsalves — represented eight farmer unions before the top court.
The Chief Justice told these lawyers to ask the protesting old men, women and children to go back home.
After learning that they are not inclined to go back, the Chief Justice told the lawyers of the farmers, “I am taking a risk and making a personal request. Please convey this message.” The top court has indicated that it may give a part of the order on Monday, as it insisted that the Centre must stay the implementation of these farm laws.
For the purpose of constituting a committee to examine the farm laws, the Chief Justice sought the name of former Chief Justices, who could probably be on the committee which would determine what provisions are good for farmers and what is going to hurt the interest of the farmers. Dave suggested the name of Justice R.M. Lodha. The Chief Justice said he had spoken with Justice P.S. Sathasivam, but he declined as he is not good in Hindi.
Here are five of CJI’s other critical observations during the hearing.
1.”We don’t know whether you are part of the solution or the problem. There is not a single petition filed here which says the laws are beneficial,” the Chief Justice said as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta attempted to make some submissions insisting on the implementation of the farm laws.
2. “All of us have a heavy responsibility to ensure things don’t go wrong. We don’t want blood of any one on our hands,” the Chief Justice said, underscoring that any stray incident in the peaceful protest can lead it to the opposite direction, which may lead to loss of life and property.
3. “Sorry to say, we are because you, as the Union of India, did not take responsibility. You were not able to solve the problem… You should have been able to solve the strike, but you did not,” the CJI said as the Attorney General, reacting to his statement: ” We will stay implementation if the Centre doesn’t do it”, said the court may be on the brink of a drastic decision.
4. “Right to protest is intact. Right to protest should be exercised like Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha. Do it peacefully,” the Chief Justice said, while declining to entertain Centre’s arguments on the course of evolution of farm laws in the previous governments, on the grounds that they cannot blame the previous governments.
5. “… we are disappointed in the way you’re handling this situation. States are up in rebellion against you,” CJI Bobde told the government, stressing that the ongoing farmers’ protest is a delicate matter.
Congress said that the Supreme Court should stay the operations of the three farm laws and hear the Constitutionality of these laws as it has an impact on 65 per cent of the country’s population.
Congress Lok Sabha member and former Union Minister Manish Tewari said, “The Supreme Court should stay the operation of these farm laws and hear the constitutionality of these laws on a daily basis.”
He said that the Supreme Court should do this because this impacts 65 per cent of the population of the country.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill also took to Twitter and wrote, “Supreme Court observations and hearing today has completely exposed BJP government “3M: Mismanaging, Mishandling and Maligning” blunders on farmers issue and has sent a strong signal to government that they do not have licence to bulldoze over farmers rights and consultative process preceding legislation.”
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, who is also a Rajya Sabha member, said, “The country witnessed how the farm laws were brought in through an ordinance. How it was bulldozed in the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha members were barely given time and how farmers have were given empty promises and called vile names. As the protest continues, heartening that Supreme Court has taken note.”
Earlier in the day, while hearing the petition, Chief Justice said, “We will stay implementation if the Centre doesn’t do it.”
The Supreme Court said it wants to make it clear that it is not stifling protest and the protest could carry on. But the question is whether protest should be held at the same site or should be shifted to accommodate free movement of citizens, the top court said.
Meanwhile, the farmer agitation on the borders of the national capital entered the 47th day on Monday as the farmers have taken to the streets protesting against the three central farm laws.
Under the banner of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the farmer organisations, which have been spearheading the protests have chalked out a strategy to intensify the movement in which they have announced to carry out a ‘Farmers’ Parade’ on January 26 in New Delhi and across the country.
Farmer leader and General Secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, Hannan Mollah, however, said that the ‘Farmers’ Parade’ would not cause any hindrance in the Republic Day celebrations observed in the country. He said when the Republic Day celebration in New Delhi ends, the farmers would carry out a ‘Farmers Parade’ driving their tractors across the country.
Asked about the hearing on the petitions by the Supreme Court related to the roads blocked due to the farmer protests, Mollah said, “We have not blocked the routes. The Centre has stopped the routes with the help of barricades.” The lawyers of the eight people who have been issued notices in the petition related to blocking of roads would go to the court, he added.
On the question of refusal to go to the Supreme Court during the last round of talks with the central government on the issue of three farm laws, Mollah said the farmer organisations have already said that their complaint is to the government which the people of the country have chosen. Therefore, it is the government’s job to hear the plea of the public and the court should not intervene in the matter. He said while the court intervenes in the legal matters but this is a matter related to the central government’s policy in which the apex court must not intervene.
Apart from pleas admitted before the SC related to blocking roads due to farmer agitation, leaders of some political parties have also filed petitions challenging the new farm laws. A farmer organisation in its petition has said the agricultural reforms are in the interest of farmers.
After eight rounds of negotiations with the Centre, the next round of talks with the farmer organisations is to be held on January 15. The farmer organisations have earlier devised a strategy to intensify the protest through various programmes on Lohri (January 13) and Makar Sankranti (January 14).
Asked if the next round of talks also fails, what will be the farmer union leaders’ strategy moving forward? Mollah said, “Our agitation is quite peaceful and will continue in a peaceful manner going forward. Farmers will stage a protest at district headquarters from January 20 across 719 districts of the country as well as from January 22 to January 25 at the Governor House. Then on January 26, a ‘farmers’ parade’ will be held.”
He said the farmers’ parade would also be peaceful and entry to the national capital would be in a peaceful manner.
The farmer unions are demanding the repeal of the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 implemented by the central government, as well as a legal guarantee for procurement of crops at the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
The other two demands of farmer unions have already been accepted by the central government concerning the provision of heavy fines and jail sentences in the ordinance related to stubble burning and electricity grants for irrigation. (IANS)