Repeal of farm laws to impact multiple proceedings in Supreme Court
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave who represented the farm unions in the top court said, “Once the laws are repealed, the Supreme Court will pass orders declaring the petitions to be infructuous”
The decision by the union government to repeal the three farm laws could bring the curtains down on multiple proceedings in the Supreme Court, dealing not just with the constitutional validity of the laws, but on petitions filed by citizens demanding the right of way, and one by a farm union seeking permission to hold a peaceful protest in New Delhi.
There is one set of cases pending before the Supreme Court where the three laws are under challenge. Another set of petitions supports the three laws. In the third set of cases, multiple individuals have approached the top court seeking to resolve traffic hassles and over citizens’ right to movement that has been affected due to the farmers’ protest.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave who represented the farm unions in the top court said, “Once the laws are repealed, the Supreme Court will pass orders declaring the petitions to be infructuous.”
He expressed happiness over the decision taken by the government, saying, “It is because the farmers stood so strongly against the laws, the government was forced to bend backwards. The determination shown by our farmers will strengthen our democracy.”
The decision to repeal the farm laws has not gone down well among certain sections of the farming community. Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana, also a member of an SC-appointed committee examining the farm laws, called the move “unfortunate”, saying it is not in favour of either farmers or the country.
“The old laws had exploited the farmers by imposing a lot of restrictions on them by pulling down prices of agricultural produce using weapons such as export ban and stock limit. Agitating farmers were misled by their leaders that the minimum support price will go and their land will be taken away by companies. The government did not do its job properly to convince the farmers about the reality,” Ghanwat said.
He said the government’s rollback decision was “political” and aimed at winning state elections in the coming months.
In September 2020, after Parliament passed the three farm laws – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act - farmers began their stir demanding a rollback of all three legislations that were seen as anti-farmer.
Around the same time, farmer organisations started consulting lawyers, seeking to find ways to challenge the three laws.
Chhattisgarh Kisan Congress vice-president Rakesh Vaishnav and five other farm leaders were among the first few to approach the Supreme Court around September-end last year to question the laws.
Political parties trooped in to support the farmers as MP Manoj Jha from Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress MP TN Prathapan and DMK MP Tiruchi Siva filed separate petitions over the laws. The petitions were taken up in October 2020 on which notices were issued.
Later, several farm unions such as Bhartiya Kisan Party, Madhya Pradesh farmer leader DP Dhakad, National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturist Sangam state president P Ayyakannu and lawyer ML Sharma also joined in.
A significant turn in the proceedings happened on January 12 when the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the laws and formed a committee of experts to consider the grievances of the protesting farmers and recommend amendments to the laws.
This committee comprising Pramod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist and director for South Asia at International Food Policy Research Institute, Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and ex-chairman at Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Ghanwat submitted its report in a sealed cover in March. The Supreme Court is yet to consider the report as the matter has since not come up for hearing.
In March this year, a Noida-based resident approached the Supreme Court citing that the farmers’ protest made commuting between New Delhi and NCR townships a nightmare.
The Supreme Court took up the issue with the Centre and the governments of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to work out a plan to resolve the issue. The SC said that farmers had the right to protest but they can’t be blocking roads.
In October, another bench of the top court took a diametrically opposite view when it said that farmers cannot be allowed to protest when they have decided to approach the court.
The Supreme Court was dealing with a petition filed by Kisan Mahapanchayat demanding permission to hold “satyagraha” in the Capital to urge the Centre to roll back the three farm laws.
Incidentally, the farmers’ body was also a party to other proceedings challenging the farm laws. The Supreme Court sought assistance of the attorney general on whether the farmers were justified in continuing to protest having also approached a constitutional court for redress of their grievances.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who represents farmer unions in proceedings before the Supreme Court, said in a tweet, “The prime minister’s announcement to repeal the three farm laws is a tribute to the resolute determination and struggle of our farmers who sat on the borders of Delhi for one year suffering enormous hardship. The government caved in only after realising its electoral impact.”