Government rules out putting farm laws on hold

By: |
December 18, 2020 8:00 AM

Expressing the Centre’s inability to heed the Supreme Court’s (SC) suggestion to “assure that no executive action under the new laws” will be initiated, attorney general KK Venugopal said no farmer will then come for registration.

After adjusting for some expenditure towards pending dues to some eligible farmers, the total expenditure under the scheme in the current year will likely be around Rs 60,000 crore, a source said.After adjusting for some expenditure towards pending dues to some eligible farmers, the total expenditure under the scheme in the current year will likely be around Rs 60,000 crore, a source said.

The Centre on Thursday ruled out the possibility of putting on hold the new farm laws until a proposed committee of independent experts is constituted to facilitate talks with protesting farmers.

Expressing the Centre’s inability to heed the Supreme Court’s (SC) suggestion to “assure that no executive action under the new laws” will be initiated, attorney general KK Venugopal said no farmer will then come for registration. Nevertheless, he said he would seek the Centre’s instructions on the matter. But Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that any such suggestion will be “tough” to implement.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, endorsed farmers’ right to peaceful protest but made it clear that rights of other citizens should not be interfered with in this process. Farmer leaders, who had initial inhibitions about any court-facilitated dialogue with the government, stick to their demand that the apex court only examine the constitutional validity of the new farm laws. However, on Thursday, they decided to await the SC’s order on the formation of the independent panel of experts to firm up further course of action.

“We want the SC to decide the constitutionality of 3 laws rather than getting into the dialogue process. However it is welcome that court has upheld our right to peaceful protest,” said Darshan Pal, president of Punjab Krantikari Kisan Union.

Meanwhile, the centre vowed to expose the “white lies” spread by vested interest. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar has prepared an 8-page letter, to be distributed to farmers through BJP workers, to explain the merits of the laws and reiterated that it would improve farmers’ income.

Explaing the reason for the failure of talks between the government and the protesters so far, the AG submitted to the SC that the farmer leaders were “adamant on the Centre repealing, and not amending, the laws.”

Acknowledging the right of farmers to hold non-violent protests, the CJI observed: “There is no question of balancing or curtailing it. But it should not damage anyone’s life or property. You (farmers) have to only alter the way the protest is going.”

“We clarify that this court will not interfere with the protest in question…. We are of the view at this stage that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police,” the order stated.

In a six-page order on Thursday, the SC said: “In order to bring about an effective solution to the present stalemate between the protesters and the Government of India, we consider it appropriate in the interests of justice to constitute a Committee comprising of independent and impartial persons including experts in the field of Agriculture for the purpose.” “This may not be possible without hearing all the necessary parties. Till the parties come before us, it would be advisable to obtain suggestions about the constitution of the said Committee from all the parties which may be submitted by them on the date of next hearing in the matter,” the order said.

The top court had on Wednesday asked petitioners to make protesting farmers a party to the case and serve them appropriate notices so that they can also present their stand.

On Thursday, the CJI said that the parties in the case could seek hearing before the Supreme Court’s vacation bench next week, as the farmer unions were not present at the hearing. Senior lawyer and former finance minister P Chidambaram, appearing for the Punjab government, welcomed the decision to set up a committee also said that contrary to the impression given by many, it was the Centre that had sealed the borders, and not farmers. Farmers want to enter Delhi and protest, he said. “If you make so many amendments, the original law is untraceable. The farmers say this law is not acceptable. So bring a new law and let parliament discuss,” former finance minister argued.

The apex court was hearing a batch of petitions related to the protests by farmers. Some 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 corona virus cases. Others want “conciliation” between the government and farmers and scrapping of new laws.

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