Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said on Tuesday that a person cannot be disqualified from being a member of a committee just because they have earlier expressed an opinion on the subject that is under consideration by the panel, Bar and Bench reported. He was indirectly referring to the four-member committee created by the Supreme Court to resolve the deadlock between protesting farmers and the Centre on three contentious agricultural laws.

“There is some confusion regarding the law,” Bobde said during a hearing of a case related to inadequacies and inefficiencies in criminal trial. “One person may have an opinion before being part of the committee but his opinion can change. There is no way that such a person cannot be part of the committee.”

The remarks were made in the backdrop of Bharatiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann recusing himself from a panel constituted by the Supreme Court to hold talks with farmers protesting against the farm laws. Mann had pulled out of the panel after farmers had alleged that he was in favour of the farm laws. He had said that he would always stand with the farmers and Punjab. The Supreme Court had on January 12 suspended the implementation of the new farm laws until further orders and formed a committee to resolve the deadlock between the Centre and farmers’ unions over the contentious legislations.

On January 17, the Bharatiya Kisan Union Lokshakti, one of the farmers’ groups protesting the new agricultural laws, had also requested the Supreme Court to disband the committee appointed by it to resolve the deadlock, noting that it comprised of experts who had openly favoured the contentious legislations.

Besides Mann, the members of the panel are agricultural economists Ashok Gulati, Pramod Kumar Joshi and Shetkari Sanghatana member Anil Ghanwat.

After Mann recused himself from the panel, the farmers’ group said there existed “a burden on the other three members to stand down as well”. It then requested the Supreme Court to remove the three members of the committee, and instead appoint those “who can make a report on the basis of mutual harmony, who can think fully about the interest of the farmers of India with impartiality, trust, goodwill, and appoint neutral and impartial personality of the country, not related to any political party”.

Meanwhile, Ghanwat said on Tuesday that the panel members will keep their personal views aside while preparing the report to be submitted to Supreme Court, reported The Indian Express. The committee will seek views of the farmers and stakeholders, besides central and state governments, Ghanwat said.

Farm law protests

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of Delhi for nearly two months now, protesting for the repeal of the three laws passed in September. The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path to the corporatisation of the agricultural sector.

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. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.

Talks between the government and farmers’ unions have remained inconclusive despite nine rounds of discussions, as protesting leaders stayed firm on their demand for repealing the new agricultural laws. The next round of talks over the drawn-out dispute will take place on Wednesday.