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SC insists on staying farm laws, Centre says don't rush
New Delhi, January 11, 2021
Toughening its stand, a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde on Monday said it had made up its mind to stay the implementation of the three new Central farm laws, which have led to the protest by thousands of farmers at various points on Delhi's orders.
"We do not believe the Centre is handling the situation correctly. We do not believe your negotiations are effective. We are attempting to make the atmosphere conducive by keeping the implementation of the laws in abeyance," the Chief Justice told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre.
The Attorney General (AG) insisted that the top court should not pass any order in a hurry.
The CJI replied: "You should not lecture us on patience."
Four senior lawyers -- Dushyant Dave, Prashant Bhushan, H. S. Phoolka and Colin Gonsalves -- represented eight farmer unions before the top court.
The Chief Justice told these lawyers to ask the protesting old men, women and children to go back home.
After learning that they are not inclined to go back, the Chief Justice told the lawyers of the farmers, "I am taking a risk and making a personal request. Please convey this message." The top court has indicated that it may give a part of the order on Monday, as it insisted that the Centre must stay the implementation of these farm laws.
For the purpose of constituting a committee to examine the farm laws, the Chief Justice sought the name of former Chief Justices, who could probably be on the committee which would determine what provisions are good for farmers and what is going to hurt the interest of the farmers. Dave suggested the name of Justice R. M. Lodha. The Chief Justice said he had spoken with Justice P. S. Sathasivam, but he had declined as he is not good in Hindi.
Meanwhile, the protests by the farmers seeking the repeal of the new laws entered the 47th day today.
Under the banner of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the farmer organisations spearheading the protests have chalked out a strategy to intensify the movement, as part of which they have announced plans to organise a "Farmers' Parade" on January 26, Republic Day, in New Delhi and across the country.
Farmer leader and General Secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, Hannan Mollah, however, said that the "Farmers' Parade" would not cause any hindrance in the Republic Day celebrations.
He told IANS that, after the Republic Day parade ends in Delhi the farmers would hold the Farmers' Parade, driving their tractors.
Asked about the hearing on the petitions by the Supreme Court related to the roads blocked due to the farmer protests, Mollah said, "We have not blocked the routes. The Centre has stopped the routes with the help of barricades." The lawyers of the eight people who have been issued notices in the petition related to blocking of roads would go to the court, he added.
On the question of refusal to go to the Supreme Court during the last round of talks with the central government on the issue of three farm laws, Mollah said the farmer organisations have already said that their complaint is to the government which the people of the country have chosen. Therefore, it is the government's job to hear the plea of the public and the court should not intervene in the matter. He said while the court intervenes in the legal matters this is a matter related to the central government's policy in which the apex court must not intervene.
Apart from pleas admitted before the SC related to blocking roads due to farmer agitation, leaders of some political parties have also filed petitions challenging the new farm laws. A farmer organisation in its petition has said the agricultural reforms are in the interest of farmers.
After eight rounds of negotiations with the Centre, the next round of talks with the farmer organisations is to be held on January 15. The farmer organisations have earlier devised a strategy to intensify the protest through various programmes on Lohri (January 13) and Makar Sankranti (January 14).
Asked about the farmers' strategy if the next round of talks also fails, Mollah said, "Our agitation is quite peaceful and will continue in a peaceful manner going forward. Farmers will stage a protest at district headquarters from January 20 across 719 districts of the country as well as from January 22 to January 25 at the Governor's House. Then on January 26, a 'farmers' parade' will be held."
He said the farmers' parade would also be peaceful and entry to the national capital would be in a peaceful manner.
The farmer unions are demanding the repeal of the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 implemented by the central government, as well as a legal guarantee for procurement of crops at the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
The other two demands of farmer unions have already been accepted by the central government concerning the provision of heavy fines and jail sentences in the ordinance related to stubble burning and electricity grants for irrigation.