The Supreme Court on Wednesday suggested the formation of a panel with the representatives of the farmers and the Centre to resolve the deadlock over the three new agricultural laws, Live Law reported.
“Government’s engagement with farmers won’t work out it seems,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde noted. He added that the Centre and the farmers should sit together and prepare a tentative list of committee members.
The Supreme Court said that the standoff over the new laws will have to be resolved urgently “otherwise this will soon become a national issue”.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian heard a petition filed by law student Rishabh Sharma to remove the protesting farmers from Delhi’s border points, according to the Hindustan Times
The plea contended that commuters were facing difficulties because of the road blockades and that the gatherings might lead to a rise in the coronavirus cases.
Advocate Dushyant Tiwari, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the verdict in the Shaheen Bagh protest case already made it clear that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely.
He referred to paragraph 19 of the judgement, in which the Supreme Court had stated that it had “no hesitation in concluding that such kind of occupation of public ways, whether at the site in question or anywhere else for protests is not acceptable and the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachment or obstructions”.
CJI Bobde, however, told the advocate that there can be no precedent in a law and order situation. “How many people had blocked the road there?” he asked. “Will the number of people not determine this? Who will take responsibility?”
Advocate Reepak Kansal, also appearing for the petitioner, responded, saying there was a need for a balance. “There is no free movement,” he added. “Ambulances cannot go. This a violation of Article 19(1)(a), (b) and (c).”
The CJI remarked that the petition seemed “ill-conceived”. “The only party before us who has blocked the road is you [the central government],” he added.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, urged the court to direct the leaders of farmer unions to sit with the government and discuss the new legislations clause by clause, “so that there can be a discussion or debate with an open mind”.
But the CJI told him that the negotiations initiated by the government were not working. He said that the talks could be successful only when both sides are represented by “people who are actually willing to negotiate”.
The CJI Bobde, therefore, asked Mehta to come up with the name of such an organisation that is willing to negotiate. He also asked the solicitor general to ensure that the authorities are also willing to reach an understanding.
The matter will be heard again on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for the last 21 days. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.
The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.
On December 9, the farmers had rejected the Centre’s written proposal on the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws, and intensified their protests. Both parties had also held several rounds of talks but failed to reach a consensus.