You stay farm laws or we will: SC slams Centre
Hearing a bunch of pleas linked to the ongoing farmers' protest, the Supreme Court on Monday said it was disappointed with how the government handled the matter. A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde went as far as saying that it would be compelled to stay the implementation of three farm laws if the government doesn't do the same. Here are more details.
Farmers have been protesting for months, demanding rollback of laws
At the center of this issue are three laws, which were passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre in mid-September. While the government said the laws will open newer opportunities for farmers, the latter believed they would be left at mercy of big corporate players due to these changes. They demanded a rollback of laws and to force the Centre, camped at Delhi's borders.
So far, farmers and Centre have spoken eight times
To dispel the farmers' concerns, the Centre has invited them for talks. So far, eight rounds of discussions have happened, but the deadlock has persisted. Meanwhile, petitions both against the laws and the agitation have been filed. Earlier, the SC had expressed interest in forming a committee to resolve the matter. Last week it lamented that the situation on the ground remained unchanged.
'What negotiations are going on?'
Today, CJI Bobde sought an update from Attorney General KK Venugopal on the dialogue between both the parties. "Last time you said negotiations are going on. What negotiations are going on?" he asked. When Venugopal responded that the changes were introduced on the basis of recommendations of an expert committee and that the previous government also wanted to minimize middlemen's involvement, the bench fumed.
SC said Centre can't keep mentioning previous government
"It will not help you to say that this was started by the last government. We are discussing constitutionality. You are saying negotiations are going on. But what negotiations?" repeated the bench.
Centre's lawyer told SC, 'You cannot stay laws'
The top court reiterated that it needs an amicable solution and for that, the implementation has to be delayed. On SC's suggestion that it could intervene, Venugopal asserted it was not an ideal thing to do. He underlined that courts can't interfere "unless it finds that the law is passed without legislative competence and the law violates fundamental rights."
Bench said union of India failed to solve the problem
In response, SC said, "We are sorry to say that you, as the Union of India, are not able to solve the problem. We are aware of those judgments. We are also aware of the Maratha bench judgment which stayed the implementation of Maratha reservation."
SC opined that the situation was getting worse
At one point, SC said the matter was getting worse, with people dying by suicide and left to suffer in the cold. CJI Bobde also wondered why the elderly and women "are kept in the protests." "We are proposing to set up a committee. We also propose to stay the implementation of the laws. If anyone wants to argue, argue," the court said.
Implementation of laws can be stayed until committee submits report
When advocate AP Singh, for intervenor, expressed faith in government, the bench remarked, "Whether you have trust in the government is immaterial. We are the Supreme Court and we will do what we have to." CJI Bobde suggested staying the laws' implementation until a committee submits a report. The findings of the committee will also dictate the SC's decision on the laws, he explained.
SC also said it won't stop citizens from protesting
During the hearing, eminent lawyer Harish Salve suggested that should the court stay the implementation, the farmers must call off the agitation. However, this idea was quickly junked by the top court. "Mr. Salve, everything cannot be achieved with one order. Farmers will go before the committee. The court will not pass an order that citizens should not protest," CJI Bobde said.
We will be responsible if something goes wrong: SC
In fact, SC also indicated that the protest can continue even after the implementation is stayed. "But decide whether you want to carry on the protest at the same site or move to another," it added. Saying that the court is worried about an untoward incident, CJI Bobde underlined, "Each one of us will be responsible if something goes wrong. We don't want anybody's blood on our hands."