Supreme Court Suspends Implementation Of Three Farm Laws

“There’s going to be a committee to resolve the issue,” the Chief Justice of India said.

Farmers gather at a protest site on the Delhi-Haryana border crossing in Tikri. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)
Farmers gather at a protest site on the Delhi-Haryana border crossing in Tikri. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

The Supreme Court has decided to suspend implementation of the three agriculture laws in a bid to end the stalemate between the government and farmers who have been protesting for close to three months now in north Indian cold.

“There’s going to be a committee to resolve the issue,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said during the hearing. “We want to solve this problem. We want to know the ground situation. This is why we are forming the committee.”

The members of the committee include:

  • Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee;
  • Dr. Parmod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute;
  • Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman at the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices;
  • Anil Ghanwat, president, Shetkari Sanghatana

Gulati and Joshi have both expressed support for the farm laws in the opinion pieces they have authored for media. Bhupinder Singh Mann and Anil Ghanawat have reportedly been among delegations that met the agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar seeking the implementation of the farm laws along with a few amendments such as a written guarantee over the issue of Minimum Selling Price (MSP).

The court has asked the committee to conduct its first meeting within 10 days and to submit its report within two months of the first sitting. “The representatives of all the farmers’ bodies, whether they are holding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws shall participate in the deliberations of the committee and put forth their view points,” the top court order said.

The apex court has also made it clear that the minimum support price system in existence before the enactment of the farm laws shall be maintained until further orders.

Protesting Farmer leader Balbeer Singh Rajewal, however, said, “We will not appear before any committee; our agitation is against three farm laws.” “Members of the committee set up by the Supreme Court on farm laws are pro-government,” PTI quoted Rajewal as saying during a press conference.

The central government and farmer unions have had eight rounds of talks but failed to break the deadlock as protests at borders of Delhi continue. Protest sites outside the capital have turned into semi-permanent camps since the end of November. The protesting farmers even launched a tractor march on access roads to Delhi. A few petitions, including that by a lawyer and a Delhi resident, were filed citing inconvenience caused to the people living in those areas and the city. Yet, the apex court had refused to direct to stop the protests. Instead, it asked the police to ensure that the protests continue if the demonstrators wish but in a peaceful manner.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Tuesday said the farmers are being misled. “The misapprehension being spread is that land is being taken away. A farmer can enter into a contract only for the crop and not the land. Agriculture land is completely immune,” he said.

The Chief Justice during the hearing on Monday had expressed his disappointment over the central government’s way of handling the issue. Justice Bobde had also said that he was not aware of what consultations were carried out before the laws came into effect. The top court then said it may consider staying the implementation of the three laws in question. While the government had opposed the decision then, it did not push its request on Tuesday.

After Monday’s hearing, the central government had filed an affidavit in the court saying that the laws were passed as a result of two decades of deliberations. The central government also said that it has done its best to engage with the farmers to remove any misapprehensions or misgivings in their minds.

Tractor March - Republic Day Parade

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police has filed an application with the top court on Monday seeking an injunction against a proposed tractor march by farmers or any other kind of protest seeking to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations to be held on 26th.

The police told the court that according to information with security agencies a small group of protesting individuals/organisations intended to carry out a march that would disrupt the Republic Day celebration and potentially create a law and order problem. Attorney General KK Venugopal had also in Monday’s hearing referred to reports of a proposed march in reply to which Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, counsel for a farmers’ group, had denied any plans to disrupt the celebrations. Dave said the family of every farmer had atleast one member serving in the armed forces and they would not disrupt the parade.

The top court will now take up the case for hearing on Jan. 18, 2021.