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SC Open To Staying Farm Laws' Implementation; Suggests Forming A Panel To Talk To Farmers

Making crucial observations on the farmers protest, the SC on Monday pulled up the Centre over handling of the issue and suggested the formation of a committee

farmers protest

Making crucial observations on the farmer's protest, the Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Centre over handling of the issue and even went on to observe it was considering staying the implementation of the farm laws to enable negotiations. Hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Centre's Farm Laws and issues related to farmers' protest, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde suggested the formation of a committee to end the deadlock between farmers and Centre as they are unable to arrive at a solution even after 8 rounds of talks.

Stating that the Apex Court would not stifle with anyone's right to protest, CJI Bobde also refused to pass an order of injunction to restrain the farmers' Tractor rally on Republic Day, asking the Solicitor General to file an application for the same. The Chief Justice of India said that the hearing will continue on Tuesday and the Apex Court will pass a part of the order later on Monday. 

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What happened in the hearing?

CJI SA Bobde expressed his disappointment with Centre over the handling of the farmers' issue and asked why staying of the farm laws is not being considered. He also said that Centre has made the laws "without enough consultation" which has now led to a deadlock, adding that if Centre is unable to convince the farmers, the Court will have to mull staying the implementation. 

CJI Bobde said, "We are sorry to say that you, as the Union of India, are not able to solve the problem. You have made a law without enough consultation resulting in a strike. So you have to resolve the strike." SG Tushar Mehta opposed the staying of the farm laws by pointing out that judiciary cannot stay orders until any of these three are found - namely, the law is passed without legislative competence, the law violates fundamental rights, the law violates other provisions of the Constitution." The CJI responded that the top court is aware of rules and cited the Maratha bench judgment which stayed the implementation of Maratha reservation.

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The CJI said, "Staying the implementation of laws and staying the law are different. We can always stay executive action under law. Who will be responsible if any violence or breaking of laws happens? We don't want anybody's injury or blood on our hands." The most serious concern occupying the court is the possible loss of life and property. This is the most important component of our view," he added. He also asked the Advocates to convey to the farmers that the top court wants children and elderly people to leave the protest site in view of the cold weather. "Passions are running high. But you must tell them to go back. There is cold. There is COVID. It is not necessary that they (old people and women) should be there at protests," CJI said. He 'took a risk' and asked HS Phoolka to convey to the farmers that the CJI wants them to go back home. 

On the formation of a committee, the Court asked for names of people who can be included, and SG sought a day's time, while Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave suggested the name of former CJI RM Lodha as a member of the committee. However, the Attorney General said that the committee will not be of any use if the farmers' group demand repealing of the laws and emphasized on the clause-by-clause discussion. The CJI responded by saying, "We trust senior advocates like Prashant Bhushan, Dave, Phoolka, Gonsalves etc will tell the farmers about the real purpose of the committee. We are not creating an alternative forum." On Senior advocate's Harish Salve's intervention that an order to call off the farmers' protest can be passed if a committee is formed and his concerns about violence at Haryana CM Khattar's event, CJI said, "We should not be understood as saying we are protecting any lawbreaker. We are not encouraging preventing of laws. In fact, we propose to pass the order to prevent violence and breaking of laws."

READ | Delhi top cops meet protesting farmers ahead of SC hearing on Centre's farm laws

Previous hearing by the Supreme Court

In the previous hearing, CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde asked if necessary precautions were taken at the protest site leading to a 'Nizamuddin Markaz-like event' amid the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Farmers have refused to challenge the laws in court, telling the Centre their 'ghar waapsi' will happen only after 'law waapsi'. However, on Saturday, a farmers' body, Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA), moved the top court in support of the three laws and sought impleadment in the matter. On December 17 hearing, the SC had refused to stay the farmers protest stating that the agitation should be allowed to continue “without impediment” and this court will not “interfere” with it as the right to protest is a fundamental right.

Inconclusive talks with Centre

On Friday, the 8th round of talks between Centre and farmers' unions concluded in two and a half hours without achieving any tangible outcome similar to the previous deliberation. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and MoS Commerce Som Parkash represented the Centre during the talks. While the farmers maintained that they will not move from the protest sites till the three agrarian laws are repealed, the Union government refused to concede to this demand. In the previous deliberations, the Union government had agreed not to penalise farmers for stubble burning and to continue the present mechanism of giving subsided electricity for agricultural use. 

Farmers unions have announced that they will hold a tractor parade -  'tractor Kisan Parade' - in Delhi on Republic Day if their demands are not met. From what started as a scheduled protest in the national capital on November 26 and 27, 2020, thousands of farmers are still protesting at the borders of Delhi against The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The next round of talks between the farmers and Centre is scheduled on January 15.

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