Farmers’ protest: SC takes exception to aspersions forged on 4-member panel

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 20

The Supreme Court on Wednesday took strong exception to the casting of aspersions on a four-member committee appointed by it to talk to farmers agitating against farm laws even as it issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking reconstitution of the panel after the recusal of BKU leader BS Mann.

“If you don’t want to appear before the committee, we can’t compel you. But you can’t malign people like this and cast aspersions on them and the court. Why do you need to brand people like this? How can you play with people’s reputation like this? We have serious objections to they being called biased,” a Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde said.

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Senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing farmers’ unions told the Bench that the unions were not interested in making any representation to the court-appointed panel, saying they want the farm laws to be repealed.

The Bench, which issued notice to the Government applications filed by BKU Lokshakti and others for reconstitution of the panel, didn’t fix a date for further hearing.

While staying the three farm laws, the top court had appointed a four-member panel to talk to farmers to end the stalemate over three farm laws. But farmer leaders objected to the names of committee members, saying the panel members had already expressed their pro-farm laws views.

Beside Mann – who recused—the other three members of the committee were Pramod Kumar Joshi (Director, South Asia international Food Policy), Agricultural Economist Ashok Gulati and Shetkari Sanghatana leader Anil Ghanwat.

The Bench—which had earlier said its intervention had been misunderstood—said it wanted to provide a solution.

“We have serious objections that members of the committee are criticized and called names. I am very sorry to see what is appearing in newspapers,” the CJI said.

During the hearing, the CJI wondered how could it be said that the panel members were disqualified simply because they had previously expressed their opinion on the issue.

“How do you come to that conclusion? They are brilliant minds in the field of agriculture. They are experts. How can you malign them because they expressed some views in the past? Every judge and lawyer has expressed some views in past and they’re doing something different now. Don’t people change their opinions after hearing contradictory point of view? Men of integrity do that. We don’t understand this. The Supreme Court appoints a committee and their reputation is torn to shreds…” an anguished CJI said.

The committee has not been given powers to adjudicate and it was only meant to assist the court, clarified the top court which had on Tuesday said that prior expression of opinion can’t be a disqualification for someone to be a member of a panel.

Expressing its anxiety over the situation, the court told Bhushan that the farmers should maintain peace and asked the Attorney General that it should talk to farmers’ unions to ensure law and order.

The Bench told Dave not to aggravate the situation on the issue relating to its earlier order when he was not present for constituting the four-member committee.

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