Deadlock over farmers’ stir: SC to form panel, as ‘with govt, it won’t work out’

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December 17, 2020 7:15 AM

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, while seeking response from the Centre, various state governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, and the farmer bodies said that the protest will soon become a “national issue”.

The apex court will hear the matter again on Thursday.The apex court will hear the matter again on Thursday.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday suggested the setting up of a committee to resolve the deadlock between the government and the farmers protesting at the borders of the national capital for the last three weeks, over the three new agriculture marketing Acts, passed by Parliament in September.

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, while seeking response from the Centre, various state governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, and the farmer bodies said that the protest will soon become a “national issue”.

Suggesting that a solution be found urgently through negotiations, the CJI said that “tentatively we will form a committee to look into the issue as this will soon become a national issue and with the government it won’t work out it seems”. He also added that the committee will have representatives from both the government and farmers’ bodies that are protesting.

The apex court will hear the matter again on Thursday.

During the hearing the CJI observed that negotiations with the farmers will fail if the government does not approach the issue with an “open mind”. “Farmers perceive the laws are against them and your negotiation is bound to fail again unless you do so with an open mind,” the CJI said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of repeal of the Acts and maintained that new laws are in the interest of farmers and alleged that the opposition parties are misleading the farmers. “We are ready to resolve their issues. Our honest intentions and efforts will defeat those who are spreading lies and deceiving the farmers,” Modi said at a meeting in Gujarat. However, he added that his government was ready for a dialogue with the farmers. He urged his party functionaries and cadre to reach out to farmers to counter the impression created against the farm laws.

Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar has been meeting almost on a daily basis small group of farmers from different states, who are not part of the current agitation, to convey a message that there are also cultivators who support the three laws.

“Your negotiations with protesting farmers have not worked apparently till now,” the SC bench told the Centre who was being represented by solicitor general Tushar Mehta.

Mehta told the judges that the government will not do anything against the interest of farmers and was keen to sit across the table and discuss the new farm laws “clause by clause”. He said that the government was and had always been ready to talk to the farmers, but “the difficulty is the farmers’ ‘yes or no’ approach. Different ministers talked to them, but they turned their chairs back and did not talk.”

When the CJI asked the SG about who were the people protesting, Mehta said that the Bharatiya Kisan Union was leading the protests although it appeared that some new “interests” had taken over the protests. “Why farmers associations were not made party to the case and without hearing them, how orders can be passed?” the CJI asked and told the SG to provide the names of the associations to the petitioners.

The apex court was hearing three petitions related to the protests by farmers. Two petitions have sought directions to the government to remove protesters to clear the roads as the commuters were facing hardships due to the road blockades and the gatherings might increase the coronavirus cases. A third plea wants “conciliation” between the government and farmers and scrapping of new laws.

“Most of these petitions appear to be ill-conceived. We don’t see any legal issue except freedom of movement that is admittedly caused by people who are not party before us,” the CJI said.

Five rounds of meetings have taken place between the government, including Union home minister Amit Shah, and the representatives of thousands of protesting farmers. Farmers are demanding that the laws be scrapped altogether as they apprehend that these will leave them open to exploitation by private buyers and will limit the government’s procurement of crops.

As the government has asked farmer unions to reply to its proposals for possible amendments in the Acts, the farmer leaders have asked the Centre to call a meeting on this issue of repeal of the laws. Farmer leaders have asked at least one person from each agricultural household to come to Delhi to join the protest.

“The SC can and must decide on the constitutionality of the three farm acts. But it is not for the judiciary to decide on the feasibility and desirability of these laws. That’s between the farmers and their elected leaders. The SC-monitored negotiation would be a wrong path,” said Yogendra Yadav, working committee member of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.

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