Farmers’ stir: SC says will stay the laws; govt, legal experts differ

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January 12, 2021 3:45 AM

Legal experts pointed out that generally the courts do not interfere with the government’s policy decisions, but they added that the court would have to intervene as the deadlock has been continuing for over a month-and-a-half now.

The order in this regard will be passed on Tuesday.The farmers’ organisations are not enthusiastic about a court-mediated resolution to the issue and have expressed their readiness for further negotiations with the government.

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Centre for its ‘failure’ to resolve the 50-day-long farmers’ protest against the three new farm laws and said it may have to stay the implementation of the contentious laws to create a better atmosphere for discussions.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde also said it would constitute a committee headed by a former chief justice to resolve the impasse over the farm laws.
The order in this regard will be passed on Tuesday.

While the government and a section of legal experts demurred over the court’s stance, the agitating farmers said they “welcomed the court’s observations reprimanding the government”, but said they would “still wait for the formal order before jumping into any conclusion”.

The apex court said: “Tell us whether you (government) will put the laws on hold or else we will do it….there is some sense of responsibility in showing that you will not implement the laws…then we can form a committee to look into this. Till then you can continue to put the law on hold”.

Legal experts pointed out that generally the courts do not interfere with the government’s policy decisions, but they added that the court would have to intervene as the deadlock has been continuing for over a month-and-a-half now.

Refusing to grant extra time to the Centre to explore the possibility of amicable solution since it has already been granted ‘a long rope’, the CJI said: “We don’t see why there is an insistence on implementation of the law…We are not experts on economy and you (Centre) tell us whether you are going to hold on these laws or we will do this (stay/expert committee)”.

While opposing the CJI’s suggestion, attorney general KK Venugopal said that the decision to stay the laws will be drastic. “These laws cannot be stayed unless they have been enacted without legislative competence, violates fundamental rights or any other provisions of the Indian Constitution,“ the AG said, adding that parties have indicated that discussions will be continued till January 15.

When the AG insisted that laws cannot be stayed, the bench referred to the apex court’s order last year staying the implementation of 2018 Maharashtra law granting reservation to Marathas in education and jobs. It asked Venugopal to give a list of earlier judgments dealing with the issue of stay on implementation of law. The bench said that till date it has not been told anything by the Centre on the proposal given by the top court to keep the implementation of these laws at abeyance for some time. “We are still thinking it is equally important that we stay the implementation of law without staying the laws,” the bench said.

To this, Venugopal said, “This amounts to same thing”.

The bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, observed, “We are doing this because you have failed to solve the problem. The Union of India has to take the responsibility. The laws have resulted in a strike and now you have to solve the strike”. The bench also said, “Of course, usually we are against stay of any laws”.

Meanwhile, the national executive of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait) met at the protest site to discuss the SC’s stance and other issues. According to the union, it would meet again after the court pronounces the order. “It is worth complimenting that the voice of farmers is echoed in the apex court’s observations. However, we all have to wait for the formal order before jumping into any conclusion,” said Rampal Jat, president of Kisan Mahapanchayat, another farmer union.

The apex court, which was hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the new farm laws as well as the ones raising issues related to the ongoing agitation at Delhi borders, said it is not talking about the repeal of these farm laws at the moment. “This is a very delicate situation,” the bench said, adding, “There is not a single petition before us which says that these farm laws are beneficial”.

The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on January 7 headed nowhere as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws, while the farmers’ leaders said they are ready to fight till death and their ‘ghar waapsi’ will happen only after ‘law waapsi’.

The farmers’ organisations are not enthusiastic about a court-mediated resolution to the issue and have expressed their readiness for further negotiations with the government.

Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said it time and gain that there are many farmer organisations that support the laws and the government will also have to listen to them. During the last Friday’s meeting, for the first time Tomar is learnt to have categorically told the farmer leaders that “the laws cannot and will not be repealed”. The government was open to considering suggestions from the farmers for a resolution, other than repeal of the laws, the minister had said.

The apex court had earlier issued notice and sought the Centre’s response on a batch of pleas against the three contentious farm laws — the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

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