The court order added that representatives of all the farmers’ bodies “shall participate in the deliberations of the committee”. (Representative Image)(ANI Photo )
The court order added that representatives of all the farmers’ bodies “shall participate in the deliberations of the committee”. (Representative Image)(ANI Photo )

SC stays farm laws, sets up committee to hear all sides

It observed that all those interested in solving the problem should go to the four-member panel that will look into problem areas and report within two months.
PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 02:01 AM IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday took the unprecedented step of staying the three contentious farm laws that have brought tens of thousands of protesting farmers to Delhi’s doorstep, and formed a four-member committee to discuss the legislation with both farmers and the government and make recommendations to the court, though the move left protesting farm unions unimpressed.

The unions insisted that the protest would continue, and pointed out that all members of the court-appointed committee, Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi (agricultural economist, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute), Ashok Gulati (agriculture economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices), Bhupinder Singh Mann (national president, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee), and Anil Ghanwat (president, Shetkari Sanghatana), have previously indicated their support for the laws.

The court’s decision, which buys the government time — the committee is to hold its first sitting within 10 days, and the court will next hear the case after eight weeks — comes after eight rounds of talks with farmers failed to resolve the deadlock. The court also agreed to hear the government’s application seeking an injunction against a proposed tractor march that could disrupt celebrations of the Republic Day on January 26. The Centre, in an application filed through Delhi Police, said any such march would cause “embarrassment to the nation”. The unions said they would go ahead with the next round of talks with the government on January 15.

While putting the laws on hold amid massive protests at Delhi’s borders, the court held that suspension of the legislation “may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith”.

The court also directed that the minimum support price (MSP) system, in existence before the enactment of the new laws, shall be maintained until further orders. “In addition, the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the farm laws,” ordered the bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde.

At the same time, the court also urged the farmers to consider calling off their protests in view of the “extraordinary order” issued to suspend the laws.T he bench, which also included justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, expressed hope that the stay order will be perceived by the farmers as an “achievement” and will prompt them “to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others”.

It observed that all those interested in solving the problem should go to the four-member panel that will look into problem areas and report within two months. While the farm unions have said they will continue to push for a complete repeal of the laws, several opposition politicians saw the court’s order as a victory for them, though some others pointed out that the farmers are unlikely to get justice from the committee.

“I welcome the decision of the Supreme Court to stay the #FarmLaws in the cases filed by various parties including DMK. This is a victory for farmers protesting across India. I once again urge the Union Govt to commit to repealing the farm laws in the next Parliament Session,” Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader MK Stalin said on Twitter.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “All four members (of the panel) are known to have taken a public stand in favour of the laws.They have said that the farmers are being misled. How can such a committee do justice to the farmers?”

The court order added that representatives of all the farmers’ bodies “shall participate in the deliberations of the committee”. In the 11-page order, it said the panel was constituted to listen to the grievances of farmers and the views of the government and to make recommendations to be considered by the bench.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the court took note that senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who appeared on behalf of the farmers’ unions a day ago and had sought time to convey the willingness of the union leaders to join the deliberations before the committee, was absent. The CJI, however, remarked that his absence should not deter the bench from passing an order to constitute a committee, which, he said, was only for the purposes of assisting the court and would be a part of the judicial proceedings.

“We want to solve this problem.That is why we want to form this committee. Members of the bar must show some loyalty to the judicial process.This is not politics. There is a difference between politics and a judicial process. You cannot come here and tell us all negative things. Members of the bar must cooperate,” said the bench as advocates ML Sharma and AP Singh contended that farmers did not want to go before any committee.

It added: “No power can stop us from setting up a committee to evaluate the pros and cons of the farm laws and it will be part of the judicial process.”

Attorney general KK Venugopal, representing the government, supported the court’s view to have a committee for resolution of disputes.On his part, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for a Delhi resident, told the bench that the order should be worded in a manner that it should not sound like a victory to any one side.

“It will be a victory of fair play. But we are also making it clear that suspension of the laws will not be indefinitely and it will not be an empty formality. There cannot be empty suspension of the legislations without any purpose. Everyone interested in solving the problem should go to the committee. The committee will not punish you but will only listen to you and will give us a report. Everyone will have to cooperate,” emphasised the CJI.

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