New Delhi, January 11: The Supreme Court on Monday said it is “extremely disappointed” with the way negotiations are being held between the Centre and the farmers over the three farm laws, which have triggered protests by thousands of agriculturists at Delhi’s borders.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, is hearing a batch of petitions, including those filed by DMK lawmaker Tiruchi Siva and RJD’s Manoj K Jha, against the constitutional validity of three farm laws, along with the plea to remove protesting farmers.
“What is going on? States are rebelling against your laws,” the bench told the Centre. “We are extremely disappointed at the way the government is handling the talks. What consultative process was followed by you before passing the laws? All are up in rebellion against the laws,” it added.
The top court also asked the Centre to make a statement on putting the laws on hold that can give way to the court forming a committee of independent experts to go through the laws threadbare, the Hindustan Times reported.
“Our intention is to see if we can bring about an amicable resolution of the problem. Why don’t you (Centre) put your laws on hold? If there is some sense of responsibility now, you can say we will not implement our laws. We will have a committee of distinguished officers… Withhold the implementation of laws till there is a discussion by the proposed committee,” it said.
It also pointed out that there is not a single petition before it, which says the laws are beneficial.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the Centre’s second senior-most law officer, said a majority of farmers in the country have said they find them beneficial. To which the bench said, “If the vast majority thinks this law is beneficial, let them say to the committee”.
The Supreme Court said it feels someday some intended or unintended incident may happen that can breach the peace. “We don’t want blood on our hands. There should be no bloodshed or violence,” it said. It said that if the three laws are put on hold, the negotiations will be much better.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who is representing the farmers, informed the Supreme Court that farmers will not take out their proposed tractor march in Delhi on Republic Day.
As Attorney General KK Venugopal, who is representing the government, brought up the issue of protesting farmers vandalising the venue of a pro-farm laws’ rally in Haryana’s Karnal on Sunday. The rally was to be addressed by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The ruckus led to Khattar cancelling it.
“Yesterday, there was an unsavoury incident of violence at a protest site near Karnal. Now they (farmers) want to march their tractors to Rajpath on January 26,” Venugopal said. “We don’t intend to protect the lawbreakers,” the top court bench responded, asking Dave why will farmers march with their tractors to Rajpath in the national capital.
“We (farmer unions) will not do that,” Dave replied. “The farmers have their family members in the security forces. They will not do that. I will not make a statement. There are 400 unions at the protest site. There are 150,000 farmers there.”
The farmers’ unions had announced a series of programmes earlier this month to build pressure on the government to repeal the laws after multiple rounds of talks with the Centre did not yield any result.
One of the steps announced by them was the said tractor march, which, they said, would see thousands of tractors enter Delhi on January 26 on Republic Day and “march” in the national capital parallel to the official celebrations. As a “trailer,” a tractor march was organised on January 7 on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway.
Harish Salve, appearing for a PIL petitioner seeking protest to end, said if the laws are to be put in abeyance then there must be an assurance of peace from farmers. “They should not turn around and say now this round is won, now we seek repeal,” he said, adding that both the parties should go to the committee with an open mind or else the stalemate will continue.
The top court also urged farmers to convince women, children and old people at protest sites as they are vulnerable due to Covid-19 and extreme weather. “Who is willing to take responsibility for any loss of lives? ” it asked.
It did not pass any order yet on the farmers’ protests but has said it will pass an order on the petitions related to farmer protests. A decision by the court is awaited later in the day.
Farmers have been protesting at different borders of the national capital since November 26 last year against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.