Kisan Mahapanchayat seeks reconstitution of SC panel; court issues notice
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice on a plea filed by the Kisan Mahapanchayat seeking the reconstitution of a court-appointed panel to discuss the contentious agricultural laws. The committee had been formed by the apex court on January 12 to listen to the grievances of protesting farmers. The court also refused to act against the farmers' proposed tractor rally on Republic Day.
An SC bench—comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran—issued a notice on Kisan Mahapanchayat's plea and asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to respond, Bar and Bench reported. The Kisan Mahapanchayat is a Rajasthan-based farmers' union represented by advocate Ajay Choudhary. The SC is hearing challenges to the validity of the farm laws and the ongoing protests.
The court had earlier ordered the formation of the four-member panel to hear all the parties and stakeholders and submit a report to the court about the same. Initially, the court had proposed the names of Bharatiya Kisan Union National President Bhupinder Singh Mann, Dr. Pramod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, and Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat.
The panel had faced criticism as all four members had reportedly expressed support to the farm laws. The panel's future remains unknown as Mann recused himself citing "prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farm unions and public in general."
On allegations of a biased panel, the CJI noted that the panel members do not have the power to adjudicate and were only asked to report to the court. "What's the point of bias in it?" he asked, adding, "If you don't want to appear before the committee, don't appear, but don't malign or brand anyone like this. Don't cast aspersions on the court."
For months, farmers have been protesting against the three farm laws passed in September. The protests intensified in November-end as thousands of farmers from several states reached Delhi, camping at the city's borders. Farmers fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of Minimum Support Prices, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by corporations.
Further, the Supreme Court also refused to act against the protesting farmers' proposed tractor rally on Republic Day (January 26), saying that it is a police matter. Upon the court's insistence, the Centre has withdrawn its plea seeking an injunction against the tractor rally. "It is for the police to decide," the CJI said, "You are the authority to take action."
Meanwhile, the tenth round of talks between the central government and representatives of protesting farmers on the laws will be held later on Wednesday. The talks were originally supposed to be held on Tuesday but were delayed. The Centre has said that although both sides want to resolve the stalemate, a resolution is being delayed due to the involvement of people of other ideologies.