Friday, 21 January, 2022
HomeJudiciarySupreme Court asks govt to consider putting farm laws on hold 'to...

Supreme Court asks govt to consider putting farm laws on hold ‘to enable negotiations’

A bench led by CJI Bobde refused to order eviction of farmers from the Delhi borders, where they have been camping since last week of November, without hearing them.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday asked the central government to consider putting the three contentious farm laws on hold till negotiations with protesting farmers were on and while the court was hearing petitions related to the protests.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, submitted that it was not possible to hold implementation of the laws. While Mehta said it cannot be done, Venugopal agreed to come back with a government’s response on the proposition.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde also refused to order eviction of farmers from the Delhi borders, where they have been camping since the last weekend of November, without hearing them.

The court maintained that farmers have the right to protest, but without causing inconvenience to other people. “A protest is constitutional as long as it does not cause violence or destroy life. It can continue while the committee we propose can hold deliberations. We are likely to propose names like P. Sainath for the committee,” the CJI remarked.

The court had Wednesday indicated that it will set up a committee to help end the impasse between protesting farmers and the central government over the farm laws.

The top court said it does not want “farmers to accept government’s conclusions” and the committee constituted by it shall “decide the way ahead”. No order was, however, issued by the court on the constitution of the committee, as it refused to give any direction in the absence of farmers. Farmer unions were not present at the hearing Thursday.

The bench was hearing petitions demanding eviction of farmers from the protest sites, claiming the agitation was blocking crucial entry points to Delhi and could choke the capital city.


Also read: Need continued talks, long-term solutions — what experts say on farmers protest


Centre will respond to court query on holding laws

During the hearing, CJI Bobde also asked Venugopal to assure that the laws will not be implemented in the interim. “We think you assure the court that you will not implement this law immediately till we hear the matter,” he said.

The attorney general, however, said such a move could stall negotiations. To this, the CJI said a statement to this effect by the Centre could only enable discussions with protesting farmers and resolve the standoff.

Venugopal then asked for time to discuss the matter with government officials and come back during the vacation, when the CJI indicated that a bench would be constituted to hear the matter even during the winter break. Friday is the last working day for the top court before it breaks for a 15-day winter recess that ends on 3 January.

Solicitor General Mehta, meanwhile, said it was impossible not to give effect to the laws. But the CJI said, “The AG (attorney general) said he will discuss and come back to court. Why are you pre-empting him? We are not asking you to stay the law, we are simply suggesting to keep it in abeyance to enable negotiations.”

The Centre later accepted the court’s proposal to appoint a committee to facilitate talks with farmers. The Punjab government, led by senior advocate P. Chidambaram, also supported the court’s move to form a committee to resolve the dispute.

‘Can’t stop farmers from protesting’

The court also said it recognised the fundamental rights of farmers to protest against the laws.

“There is no question of balancing it, in the sense of curtailing it but it should not damage other’s lives,” the CJI told senior advocate Harish Salve, who on behalf of a Delhi resident, argued that the protests have led to price hike of essential commodities in the capital.

Salve contended that the protesting farmers had put his client’s right to move freely at risk and asked the court to lay down the contours of an agitation of this nature. He also said the Centre must seek a written assurance from the farmer leaders to make sure there was no damage to public or private property.

Often, he said, governments are asked to pay for the damage. “A taxpayer’s money is used to compensate those who suffer during these protests. The leaders of such protests must be made responsible,” Salve argued.

The bench, however, disagreed with Salve’s assertion that the protests had choked Delhi and said the police too needed to be equally bound not to use violent means against agitators.

“A protest has a goal and that cannot be achieved by sitting in protest. It can only be achieved if they sit and talk to each other. We are thinking in terms of an impartial and independent committee before whom both sides can give their inputs while the protests can continue. The committee may give its opinion, which all parties should follow,” the CJI said.

The bench then directed the petitioners to serve notice to the farmers’ unions, and gave liberty to all parties involved in the case to approach the court during the vacations.


Also read: Farmers’ protest shows Modi’s politics is caught between India’s two middle classes


 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. BJP – hate n divisive politics
    Congress – mafia politics
    SC – selective impartiality

    Democracy is messy but good.

  2. What utter gibberish are the SC justices mouthing off in the name of law? There is no logic law or common sense in their utterances. These learned men and women must learn to stick to interpreting the law instead of pushing the government into negotiating with terrorists.

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