SC suspends implementation of farm laws to let experts examine them

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 1/14/2021 1:05:10 AM

NEW DELHI, Jan 12: The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended implementation of three controversial farm laws until further orders and formed a 4-member panel of experts to submit a report to it after hearing apprehensions raised against them by the farmers protesting at Delhi borders for nearly 50 days braving rains and chilling cold and threatening to enter the capital with tractors on the Republic Day.
"As a consequence, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) System in existence before the enactment of the Farm Laws shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws," the Court said in its 11-page order, listing the matter after eight weeks.
The experts' panel was ordered to hold first sitting within ten days and submit its recommendations to the court within two months from the date of its first sitting.
"While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmers bodies to convince their members 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," the Court said in its concluding remarks.
Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, heading a 3-judge Bench, corrected senior advocate Harish Salve's remarks that the stay would be misconstrued by some as a "political victory" of sorts, saying "if there is a victory at all, it is the victory of fair play.
“The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act shall be stayed until further notice,” the CJI said at the end of an hour-long virtual court hearing.
These laws were in effect enforced through ordinances promulgated in June last year and Parliament put its stamp on them in September amid the Opposition uproar while the President signed them off on September 27.
The laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector to remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. The government has even projected the laws as an antidote to lowering demands during the pandemic.
However, protesting farmers consider the laws as a key to an exploitative regime that would ultimately lead to the loss of their lands and livelihood. "We will protect the farmers' land," the CJI addressed their fear. The farmers declared to boycott the panel set up by the court, saying all its members are pro-farm laws.
The four member committee that will scrutinize the three laws are Agricultural economists Ashok Gulati, and Pramod Kumar Joshi, Anil Ghanwat of ShetkariSanghatana and national president of BharatiyaKisan Union Bhupinder Singh Mann.
Heading a bench also comprising Justices A.S.Bopanna and V. Ramasubramania, Chief Justice Bobde said the committee will be the part of “judicial proceeding” and its report will be for the purposes of the court and not for use otherwise.
Making it clear that the suspension of the operation of the three farm laws would not be for an indefinite period, the court said it will not be an “empty” exercise and all those involved in the dispute including government and the agitating farmers will have to appear before it.
Taking note of the agitating farmers' lukewarm response to the court’s suggestion on Monday to set up a committee to examine the contentious laws, CJI Bobde said that they are not forming the committee to “appease” everyone’s views, but for the purposes of the court.
In an unequivocal message to the agitating farmers that they can’t veto the suggestion coming from the top court on setting up a committee to examine the laws, CJI Bobde said, “There is no power which can prevent us from forming a committee. We want to solve the problem. We want to understand the ground situation. This is not politics. You have to cooperate.”
The court saying that it will deal with the farm laws only after it gets report from the committee on which provisions of the farm laws should be deleted, if at all, seems to be a soothing balm to the government which has been resisting the farmers' demand for the repeal of the laws but is agreeable to making amendments.
The Court said stay of implementation of all the three farm laws for the present may assuage feelings of the farmers and encourage them to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith. It said the committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate the two sides may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers.
On the Attorney General opposing any interim stay since the farmers have not pointed out any single provision detrimental to them, the order said: "This court cannot be said to be completely powerless to grant stay of any executive action under a statutory enactment.
"Even very recently this Court passed an interim Order in Dr. JaishriLaxmanrao Patil Vs. The Chief Minister &Anr. (Civil Appeal No.3123 of 2020) directing that admissions to educational institutions for the Academic Year 2020-21 and appointments to public services and posts under the Government shall be made without reference to the reservation provided under the impugned legislation," the court said referring to the case of Maratha reservation in Maharashtra.
The Court recorded in its order the Solicitor General's statement that "there are inherent safeguards, in-built in the Farm Laws, for the protection of the land of the farmers and that it will be ensured that no farmer will lose his land."
The hearing also saw the court being told that Khalistani elements have allegedly infiltrated among the farmers and they were mobilizing funds
Attorney General K. K. Venugopal answered in affirmative to a poser from the court whether there is an infiltration by the Khalistani elements, a banned organisation, in the ongoing agitation.
On the court asking him to file an affidavit confirming it the AG said he would refer to the intelligence reports and file the affidavit.
The top court also issued a notice on the Delhi Police application to injunct the farmers from taking out a Kisan tractor-trolley march on the Republic Day. Police had expressed concern in an application filed on Monday that it cannot allow the law and order to break down on such a solemn occasion.



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