New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the implementation of the three controversial farm laws that triggered protests with farmers camping at Delhi’s borders for more than a month now.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde said, “We are going to suspend the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders.” As a consequence, the system of Minimum Support Price (MSP), which was in place before the enactment of the farm laws, shall be maintained until further orders, the court said.
As indicated earlier, the court said it is setting up a committee comprising experts to resolve the protracted dispute between the farmers and the Centre.
The bench also lauded the farmers for carrying out a peaceful protest and refrained from directing their eviction from the present site, observing “it may not stifle a peaceful protest.”
Brushing aside Centre’s opposition to stay the implementation of the law, the court remarked: “This court cannot be said to be completely powerless to grant stay of any executive action under a statutory enactment.”
The court also hoped its “extraordinary order” of stay of implementation of the laws will be perceived as an achievement, and encourage farmers to go back to their homes.
The bench also made it clear that the stay will be interim to facilitate the talks between the Centre and the protesting farmers.
The committee, comprising agriculturist economist Ashok Gulati, BKU president and chairman of Kisan Coordination Committee Bhupinder Singh Mann, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, Pramod Joshi, and Anil Ghanwat, president of Sethkari Sangathan as members, may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of farmers, the court said.
“We are also of the view that a stay of implementation of all the three farm laws for the present, may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith,” the court noted in its order.
The committee shall hold deliberations in Delhi at a place provided to it by the government along with secretarial assistance, the expenses of which shall be borne by the central government, said the court.
Farmer groups, whether opposing or supporting the laws, shall put forth their viewpoint before the court-appointed panel, which after hearing the government and other stakeholders will submit a report on its recommendations to the top court.
According to the court order, the first sitting of the panel will be within ten days from Tuesday and the proceedings of the committee should wrap up in two months thereafter. The matter will be heard again after eight weeks.
SC urged farmers to ‘get back to their livelihood’
The court did not order eviction of the farmers from the protest site, as was demanded by some petitioners before the court. But it urged the farmers 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”.
During the hearing, the bench rejected the submission made by advocate M.L. Sharma, one of the petitioners questioning the laws, that the farmers were unwilling to appear before the committee.
The court said, “Every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to go before the committee. The committee will not punish you or pass any orders. It will submit a report to us.”
None of the counsel appeared for farmers
The bench was surprised to learn that none of the three senior counsel appeared for the farmer unions Tuesday.
“Where is (Dushyant) Dave? Yesterday (Monday), he said he will get back today with the views of farmers unions. They have not logged in also,” the CJI remarked.
The court asserted it had the power to suspend the legislation, but the stay must not be for an empty purpose. “We will form a committee, which will submit a report to us,” the court said.
Notice was also issued on a central government application to injunct the tractor rally proposed for 26 January. “We will issue notice and have it on Monday (18 January),” the court ordered.
Farmers could be allowed to continue with protests
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, who alleged Khalistanis have infiltrated into the agitation, was told to file an affidavit on whether there is infiltration by a banned organisation. Venugopal agreed to place Intelligence Bureau reports in support of his submission.
“We want to solve the problem. We want to know the ground situation. That is why we are forming the committee,” the bench told the parties appearing in the case.
The bench further agreed with the submission that farmers should be allowed to continue with their protest at a prominent site and advised them to file an application before the appropriate authorities, seeking permission to carry on with their agitation at a place such as the Ramlila Maidan.