The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the implementation of the new farm laws until further orders and formed a committee to resolve the deadlock between the Centre and farmers’ union over the contentious legislations, reported Live Law.
“We are going to suspend the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders”, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said. “Secondly, there will be a committee to hold talks.”
The court said that All India Kisan Coordination Committee chief Bhupinder Singh Mann, Director for South Asia of International Food Policy Research Institute Pramod Joshi, agricultural economist Ashok Gulati and Maharashtra Shetkari Sangathna member Anil Ghanwat would be the members of the panel, according to Bar & Bench. “This committee will be a part of judicial proceedings,” the bench said.
The committee was directed to hold its first meeting within 10 days and submit a report to the Supreme Court in two months, according to Live Law.
The orders came as the court continued to hear a clutch of petitions against the farm laws as well as the ongoing farmer protest at Delhi borders. During the hearing, the chief justice said the court will pass an interim order saying the no farmers land can be sold for contract farming till the matter is resolved.
“We are concerned about only the validity of the laws and also about protecting the life and property of citizens affected by protests,” said Bobde. “We are trying to solve the problem in accordance with the powers we have.”
When informed that farmers were not keen on appearing before any committee, Bobde said every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to appear before the panel. “The committee will not punish you or pass any orders,” he added. “It will submit a report to us. We are going to take the opinion of the organizations. We are forming the committee so that we have a clearer picture.”
Justice Bobde added that the court was willing to suspend the law but not indefinitely, reported Bar and Bench. “We want you to submit before the committee.”
“We don’t want to hear an argument that farmers will not go to the committee. We are looking to solve the problem. If you want to agitate indefinitely, you can.”— Chief Justice of India SA Bobde
The chief justice reminded the advocates that the court has the power to suspend the legislation. “But the suspension of legislation must not be for an empty purpose,” he added. “We will form a committee which will submit a report to us.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court had said it was extremely disappointed with the way talks were proceeding between the government and farmers, and warned that it would put the contentious legislations on hold if the government refused to do so. It noted that the laws were passed without enough consultation.
Allegations of Khalistani elements
Meanwhile, the court asked the attorney general to file an affidavit by Wednesday after the Centre claimed that banned organisations have infiltrated the farmers’ protest. “If there is an infiltration by a banned organisation, and somebody is making an allegation here on record, you have to confirm it,” said Justice Bobde. “You file an affidavit by tomorrow.”
The allegations in the court were made by PS Narasimha, appearing for one of the intervenors supporting the farm laws. He said “these kind of protests can be dangerous”. Narasimha claimed that groups like “Sikhs for Justice” were involved in the protests.
The attorney general agreed to submit an affidavit along with records from the Intelligence Bureau. “We have said that Khalistanis have infiltrated into the protests,” he added.
More prominent protest site
Justice Bobde said the court’s order will mention that the farmers may apply for permission to the Delhi Police commissioner for protests at Ram Leela Maidan or other locations. This came after senior advocate Vikas Singh pointed out that the farmers need a more prominent place for their protest to gain visibility. “Otherwise, there will be no meaning for the protests,” he said while suggesting names of sites like the Ram Leela Maidan and the Boat Club area.
Advocate AP Singh, appearing for one of the farmer unions, meanwhile said he has conveyed to his clients the concerns of the court about the presence of senior citizens. “They agreed to go back,” he told the chief justice.
On Monday, Justice Bobde had asked advocate HS Phoolka to persuade old people and women at the protest sites to go back home. “I want to take a risk,” he had said. “I want you to tell them that the Chief Justice of India wants them [old people and women] to go back. Try persuade them.”
Centre’s stand so far
In a counter-affidavit filed before the Supreme Court after the hearing, the Centre affirmed that the new legislations were not made hurriedly, but were the result of two decades of deliberations. The majority of farmers were “not only happy” with the legislations, but also found them to be progressive and in their interest, the government claimed.
Separately, the central government, through the Delhi Police, moved the Supreme Court seeking an injunction order against any proposed tractor, trolley or vehicle march or any other kind of protest by farmers during the Republic Day celebrations on January 26. The affidavit said “disruption or obstruction” in the functions would not only be against law and order, but would also be “a huge embarrassment for the nation”.
The Supreme Court issued a notice to stop the proposed tractor rally by farmers on Republic Day.