Supreme Court to pass order on farm laws today; farmers respect the court's comforting words but won’t participate in a committee

Published : Jan 12, 2021 10:31 IST

Protesting farmers at the Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in New Delhi on January 11.

Protesting farmers at the Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in New Delhi on January 11.

The Supreme Court will pass an order, including considering a stay on the farm laws, on January 12. In the course of a hearing a clutch of petitions relating to the farmers’ protest which had entered the 48th day, a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian on January 11 expressed annoyance and “extreme disappointment” at the Central government’s handling of the protest and reiterated the need to form a committee on the farm laws. Said Justice Bobde: “You tell us if you will put on hold the implementation of the laws otherwise we will do it. What is the problem of keeping it in abeyance?”

The court also wondered whether any consultative process had taken place as “most States were up in rebellion”. It expressed regret that the government had been unable to solve the problem and had made a law without consultation that resulted in a “strike”. The court, however, demurred from passing any remark on the protests.

Apprehensive that there might be a breach of law and order any day, the court said that it “did not want blood on its hands”. On December 17 itself, the court had suggested that the government put on hold the implementation of the farm laws and facilitate negotiations instead. It expressed annoyance that the government had not heeded to it. It had in December also said that the police should not use violent means during the protests. On January 11, in response to a query from the Solicitor General, it stated categorically that it would not pass an order that citizens should not protest.

Given “a long rope” to Centre, says Supreme Court

During the hearing, it urged that senior citizens and older people partaking in the protests should head back home. It said that its intention was to “see a negotiated solution” and that there was not a single petition that said that the laws were beneficial. To this, K.K. Venugopal, Attorney General, said that some 2,000 farmers had entered into contract farming after the ordinances were promulgated and would lose heavily if the law was stayed.

When he asked for more time and requested the court not to pass any orders in a hurry, the court said it did not need a “lecture on patience” and had given the Centre a “long rope”. The court remarked: “We don’t know whether you are part of the solution or part of the problem”, referring to the government. “We are not experts on the economy, you tell us whether government will put the laws on hold or we will do this,” it said. In fact, the court expressed concern about the suicides and the state of services like food, water and health services.

“Will not participate in any Court-appointed committee,” say farmers

In response to the developments in the Supreme Court, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), representing 400 odd farmer organisations, expressed great respect for the Supreme Court for its understanding of the problem and words of comfort for the farmers. However, the SKM said that while it welcomed the court’s suggestions, it would not participate in any committee, individually or collectively that may be appointed by the Supreme Court. It was clear, it said, based on the attitude and approach of the government in court that it was not willing to repeal the laws. The lawyers representing the farmers requested the Supreme Court for a hearing rather than a final order so that the farmer organisations could be consulted.

The SKM expressed its “deep disappointment” that no hearing had been fixed and that matters were listed for the pronouncement of orders only. “We express our gratitude but regret our inability to accede their suggestions. Since our struggle is for the welfare of hundreds of millions of farmers across the country, and it is in larger public interest, while the government falsely propagates that the agitation is confined only to farmers of Punjab. Thousands of farmers from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and some other States are assembled on the borders of Delhi while thousands more are protesting at various places of different states at this very moment.”

Abhay Chautala threatens to resign from Haryana Assembly

Meanwhile, in a letter to the Speaker of the Haryana Assembly, Abhay Chautala, the lone legislator from the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) stated that he would resign from the Assembly if the laws were not repealed by January 26. The INLD has been facing a crisis of relevance after it suffered a vertical split before the Assembly elections in October 2019. In the 90-member Assembly, the INLD has only one legislator. Abhay’s nephew Dushyant Chautala, who is the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana and whose Jannayak Janata Party is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government in Haryana, has been facing the brunt of the farmers’ ire in the State.

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