Farm laws: The onus is on the SC

With elections due early next year in two states whose farmers are part of the protests, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, it is unlikely that a political solution to the crisis will be found before mid-2022, if then. The SC would do well to resume hearing petitions challenging the legality of the farm laws — it is among the important cases, including the challenges to the abrogation of Article 370 and on electoral bonds pending before it — and, for starters, perhaps convert its observations on blocked roads into an order.
Farmers block both carriageways during the 12-hour “Bharat Bandh”, Ghazipur border, New Delhi, March 26, 2021 (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times) PREMIUM
Farmers block both carriageways during the 12-hour “Bharat Bandh”, Ghazipur border, New Delhi, March 26, 2021 (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)
Updated on Oct 03, 2021 03:05 PM IST
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By HT Editorial

The Supreme Court (SC) has again been scathing in its criticism of protests that block roads. Its most recent observations have come in the context of the farm protests. Last week, one bench observed that the protests were “strangulating” the Capital. Indeed, since last November, many of the arterial roads leading into Delhi have been blocked by protesters, and also by barricades put up by the police to prevent them from reaching the Capital. Entire “protest cities” have come up on the sites, inconveniencing local residents and commuters who now have to take diversions.

Such observations by the court are not new. There have been similar observations in the past, in other cases dealing with other issues, but apart from noting that such protests that block roads aren’t on and that it is the responsibility of governments (the Union and the states) to prevent roads from being blocked interminably by protests, the country’s apex court has done nothing. While this may be in keeping with the division of responsibilities between the executive and the judiciary, the SC has never let this come in the way of its (sometimes justifiable) interventions in matters of State in the past. An order by it may well be all that is needed to clear the roads.

Irrespective of the merits of the larger issue, it has been evident for some time that the farm protests have reached an impasse. The farmers have not budged from their maximalist position seeking a complete repeal of the three laws passed last September, and their movement has now acquired distinctly political overtones. The government, after having offered to stay the laws for 18 months while the two sides talk, is now content to play a waiting game. And the SC, which in January stayed the implementation of the laws and asked for a report from expert committee (which was submitted in March), has not heard the case since. It’s a status quo that appears to suit everyone.

With elections due early next year in two states whose farmers are part of the protests, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, it is unlikely that a political solution to the crisis will be found before mid-2022, if then. That puts the onus of resolving the issue on the SC which would do well to resume hearing petitions challenging the legality of the farm laws — it is among the important cases, including the challenges to the abrogation of Article 370 and on electoral bonds pending before it — and, for starters, perhaps convert its observations on blocked roads into an order.

With elections due early next year in two states whose farmers are part of the protests, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, it is unlikely that a political solution to the crisis will be found before mid-2022, if then. That puts the onus of resolving the issue on the SC which would do well to resume hearing petitions challenging the legality of the farm laws — it is among the important cases, including the challenges to the abrogation of Article 370 and on electoral bonds pending before it — and, for starters, perhaps convert its observations on blocked roads into an order.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021