Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 11
Pulling up the government for the poor handling of the farmers’ agitation against farm laws, the Supreme Court on Monday said it intended to stay the implementation of the contentious laws and set up a committee to find an amicable solution to the problem.
“We are extremely disappointed with the way the government is handling the issue. Last four times you said the negotiations were on. What negotiations are you talking about? If you have some sense of responsibility, and if you say you will withhold the implementation of laws, we will form a committee to decide,” a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told Attorney General KK Venugopal.
Dhindsa, 2 cong MPs walk out of panel meet
Three MPs , Partap Singh Bajwa and Chhaya Verma (both Cong) and Akali rebel SS Dhindsa walked out of a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture on Monday, seeking to discuss farm laws.
The court’s comments came after Venugopal said farmers’ organisations had rejected various offers made by the government.
“People are committing suicide. People are calling names. People are suffering in the cold and the pandemic,” noted the Bench, which also included Justice AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Abhay’s ‘conditional’ resignation letter
Senior INLD leader and MLA Abhay Chautala has sent a ‘conditional’ resignation letter to the Speaker, saying it should be considered a resignation if the Centre fails to repeal the three new farm laws by January 26.
“We don’t see why there should be an insistence that the laws must be implemented at any cost…Our intention is clear. We want an amicable solution to the problem. That is why we asked you last time why don’t you keep the laws on hold. But you keep asking for time,” it said. The Bench posted the matter for passing a formal order on Tuesday.
During hearing on the petitions challenging the validity of the three farm laws and those seeking removal of agitating farmers from Delhi roads, the top court described the situation as “very delicate”.
It said, “We are doing this because you have failed to solve the problem. The Union of India has to take the responsibility. The laws have resulted in a strike and now you have to solve the strike.”
“It will not help you to say that this was started by the last government…. We have given you a very long rope. Don’t lecture us on patience. We will decide when to pass the order,” it told the government. It also commented that the law was brought in without much consultation.
Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta vehemently opposed the court’s proposal to stay the implementation of the farm laws, saying farmers from other parts of the country supported the laws. Venugopal said, “A law cannot be stayed by the SC unless the Lordships find that it violates the fundamental rights or constitutional schemes. Law has to be without the power to legislate, only then it can be stayed. No petitioners have raised any such issues.”
“We have an apprehension that someone will do something… which will lead to breach of peace. Each one of us will be responsible if something goes wrong. We don’t want anybody’s blood on our hands,” the Bench said.
The courts made it clear that it couldn’t restrain peaceful protest, saying it was for the police to deal with the situation, not the court. “We want to ensure there is no violence or bloodbath. If somebody breaks the law, you take action….”
“We should not be understood that we are protecting any law breaker. We propose to pass this order to prevent loss of life and property,” the Bench noted. The farmers’ unions were represented by senior advocates Dushyant Dave, HS Phoolka and Colin Gonsalves. Dave said he needed to take instructions as there were a number of farmers’ bodies involved in the agitation.
The Bench asked Phoolka to persuade women and old farmers to leave the stir due to the cold and Covid.
CJI asks elderly farmers to return
The CJI expressed concern over elderly farmers, women and children protesting in the severe cold. “Let me take a risk and say Chief Justice of India wants them (protesting farmers) to go back.”
AG opposes stay suggestion, chided
The SC questioned AG Venugopal’s vehement opposition to its suggestion. “We are not experts on economy. You tell us whether you are going to hold these laws or we will,” the CJI said
No extra time
The SC refused to grant extra time to the Centre, saying it had already granted the govt a ‘long rope’.