SC ‘intends’ to stay farm laws; slams Govt on impasse

Krishnadas Rajagopal New Delhi | Updated on January 11, 2021

A view of the Supreme Court (file photo)   -  Reuters

Orders to come today; to form panel to resolve stand-off

The Supreme Court on Monday said it intends to stay the implementation of the controversial agricultural laws while proposing to form an independent committee chaired by a former Chief Justice of India to “amicably resolve” the stand-off between the protesting farmers and the government.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde, underlined its “disappointment” at the Centre’s handling of the farmers’ protest, including the string of failed talks, States “up in rebellion”, suicides among protesters and the sight of aged farmers, women and children suffering in the biting cold amid the pandemic even as the Republic Day looms.

“We don’t want to make any stray observations against you... But we are extremely disappointed in the way you’re handling this situation. You (the Centre) made a law without enough consultation, resulting in a strike. Many States are up in rebellion against you... The whole thing has been going on for months... You say you are negotiating, talking... What negotiating? What talking? What is going on,” Chief Justice Bobde asked Attorney-General KK Venugopal and Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, both appearing for the Centre.

The court said it will pass orders on Tuesday. At one point when Venugopal questioned the court’s “hurry” to pass the order of stay, Bobde retorted, saying “Mr. Attorney, we are giving a very long rope to you. Don’t give us a lecture on patience...”

During the hearing, the Chief Justice urged senior citizens, women and children at the protest to return home.

“Tell them the Chief Justice of India wants them to go home... Whether you have faith in us or not, we are the Supreme Court and we will do our job,” Bobde said.

Are the farmers’ protests justified?

The court questioned the government’s “insistence” on the implementation of the laws.

“We don’t know whether you (the government) are part of the solution or the problem. There is not a single petition filed here which says the laws are beneficial... If the laws are put on hold, negotiations before the committee will be much better,” the Chief Justice said. The court, however, made it clear that it will not at this stage go into the question of the constitutionality of the laws.

Venugopal said the court would be taking a “drastic decision” if it stayed the central laws. He said none of the farm leaders, during the discussions, had shown a single provision that was unconstitutional. “Mr. Attorney, sorry to say, we may be taking a decision because you, the Union of India, did not take responsibility. You were not able to solve the problem... You should have been able to solve the strike, but you did not,” Bobde replied.

Republic Day parade

Dismissing arguments that “majority” in the country thought the farm laws were harmless,the Chief Justice said the thoughts of the majority would not help resolve the farmers’ strike.

To the farmers, the CJI clarified that an order of stay on the implementation of the laws would not mean they have to call off their protests, pack up and go home.

However, he asked if the farmers would “move a little” from their present protest sites to convenience citizens once the talks with the committee got going.





Published on January 11, 2021

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