Supreme Court hearing on pleas challenging farm laws, protests today — Key developments

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Updated: Jan 11, 2021 11:18 AM

So far, eight rounds of talks held between farmers and the Centre have failed to end the deadlock with both sides firm on their positions. While farmers want repeal of laws, the government says it is ready to give concessions but a rollback is not possible.

Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court will today take up a batch of pleas challenging the three farm laws at the centre of protests in various states, mainly Punjab and Haryana. The court will also hear the pleas questioning the ongoing protests near Delhi borders, blocking roads and highways for the general public. So far, eight rounds of talks held between farmers and the Centre have failed to end the deadlock with both sides firm on their positions. While farmers want repeal of laws, the government says it is ready to give concessions but a rollback is not possible.

During the last hearing, the Centre had informed the court that the discussions were going on with the unions over all the issues and there was a good chance that both sides may come to a conclusion in the near future. The top court had then assured the Centre of an adjournment provided it urged so saying that the settlement through talks was a possibility. However, nothing came out of the meeting on January 8, when farm unions and union ministers negotiating the matter met for the eighth time.

What SC said in first hearing on December 17

Last month, the top court had heard the matter and issued notice to the Centre, seeking its response on pleas against the three 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.

Hearing the pleas on the issue of protest, the SC said that the agitation should be allowed to continue “without impediment”. It ruled out any interference, saying the right to protest is a fundamental right. It, however, said that farmers’ right to protest should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies. The right to protest cannot mean blockade of the entire city, the top court had observed.

“This court will not interfere with the protest in question. The right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order. There can certainly be no impediment in the exercise of such rights as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to the life and properties of other citizens and is in accordance with law,” the bench said. The bench said that it was of the view that “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.”

What farm unions have to say on SC hearing

Ahead of the hearing in the Supreme Court, the farm unions said that the Centre should resolve the ‘political deadlock’ without the involvement of the top court. The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said the top court cannot have any role in resolving a political deadlock over the laws enacted by the Centre ‘under pressure from corporates’. The union further said that there is no role for the apex court and the matter should be left to political leadership. The farmer outfit also said that the Centre was using the SC as a ‘political shield’ and ‘shirking its political responsibility’ by not resolving the case. The union warned the Centre that the agitating farmers will soon close down all borders of the national capital if their demand for repeal of the laws is not met.

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