Centre 'Not Effective' in Handling Farmers' Protests, Should Stay Laws: Supreme Court

The CJI-led bench expressed displeasure that the Centre had not decided whether it would stay the laws while seeking a resolution with the farmers.

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde on Monday sharply asked the Central government whether it would be putting the contentious new farm laws on hold until an agreement could be reached with the protesting farmers. The situation at the protests was only getting worse, the CJI said.

At the end of the day’s hearing, the court said it will pass an order either today or tomorrow.

“Tell us whether you will put the laws on hold or else we will do it. What’s the ego here?” CJI Bobde asked the Centre’s counsel. “Each one of us we will responsible if anything goes wrong. We don’t want any injuries or blood on our hands.”

A bench led by CJI Bobde is hearing a batch of pleas seeking the removal of protesting farmers from Delhi borders. Another three petitions also listed before the CJI-led bench have challenged the three new farm laws.

“We are extremely disappointed at the way government is handling all this (farmers protests). We don’t know what consultative process you followed before the laws. Many states are up in rebellion,” the bench told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal at the start of Monday’s hearing, according to LiveLaw. “Last time you said negotiations are going on. What negotiations are going on? We are disappointed.”

“Our intention is clear. We want an amicable solution for the problem. That is why we asked you last time, why don’t you keep the laws on hold. But you are keeping asking on time,” the CJI continued. “If you have some sense of responsibility, and if you say you will withhold the implementation of laws, we will form committee to decide. We don’t see why there should be an insistence that the laws must be implemented at any cost.”

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta asked the bench if he could intervene. “We don’t know if you are part of the problem or solution,” the bench responded. Mehta insisted he was part of the solution, and said some farmers’ organisations had lauded the laws as “progressive”.

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“Let those farmer unions who say it is progressive say that before the committee. But you have to tell us whether you stay the Farm Acts or we do it? Keep it in abeyance. What is the issue? We are not in favour of easily staying a law, but we want to say don’t implement law,” CJI Bobde responded, according to Bar and Bench.

Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for a group of farmers from Madhya Pradesh, said he “welcomes the decision to keep the laws on hold”.

The court said while it would not say the protest must stop, if the laws were stayed, farmers could consider moving their protest off the highways. “We are not against protests. Don’t understand that the court is stifling protests. But we ask. If after the laws are stayed, will you move the site of protests to accommodate people’s concerns,” CJI Bobde said.

“We are proposing to set up a committee. We also propose to stay the implementation of the laws. If anyone wants to argue, argue,” he continued.

The court also said it looked like the Centre was unable to solve the problem. “We are sorry to say that you, as the Union of India, are not able to solve the problem. You have made a law without enough consultation resulting in a strike. So you have to resolve the strike,” CJI Bobde said.

Colin Gonsalves told the court that he, Dushyant Dave and H.S. Phoolka will meet the farmers’ unions today with the court’s views and ask for their suggestions. The bench asked Phoolka to try and convince women and the elderly to leave the protest site. “Mr Phoolka you persuade them to go back. At some time, we might say in the order that old people and women need not be there in the protests,” CJI Bobde said. “I want to take a risk. I want you to tell them that the Chief Justice of India wants them (old people and women) to go back. Try persuade them.”

Also read: Farmers’ Protest: The Haryana Municipal Poll Verdict Sends a Clear Message to the BJP

The attorney general argued against staying the laws, saying there was no reason to do so. “These laws came into force in June 2020 by way of an Ordinance. After that, more than 2000 farmers entered into contract for selling products in mandis. If the Court stops the implementation, they will lose heavily,” the AG said.

On the previous date of hearing too, the court had asked the Centre to consider staying the laws and forming an expert committee to try and resolve the deadlock.