Roadblock as farmers refuse to accept committee

Farmers’ unions have said that SC-appointed committee is not a solution as it has been widely reported that members of the committee favour the farm laws, reports Asian Lite News

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of the three controversial farm laws and formed a four-member committee to take over negotiations with the farmers on the impact of these laws.

On Monday, the top court had indicated that it may appoint a retired Chief Justice on the committee and asked the parties involved in the matter to suggest few names. Chief Justice S.A. Bobde disclosed that he had asked former Chief Justice P. Sathasivam but he was reluctant since he doesn’t understand Hindi. Former Chief Justice R.M. Lodha’s name was also suggested during the hearing.

However, on Tuesday, the Chief Justice named four agriculturists to the panel: Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist; Bhupinder Singh Mann, President, Bhartiya Kisan Uniom-Mann; Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sangathan; and Pramod Kumar Joshi, International Food Policy Research Institute.

None of these members were part of the hearing on farm laws in the apex court, especially in the past two days, when a bench headed by the Chief Justice made several critical observations against the government on these laws. The bench also cited that government had failed to develop a consensus before passing the laws.

The top court noted that the negotiations between the farmers’ bodies and the government have not yielded any result so far, therefore a committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and the government may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers.

But there seems to be a roadblock. It has been widely reported that members of the committee favour the farm laws. Against this backdrop, the farmers’ unions have said that this committee is not a solution.

For instance, Gulati, for instance, has put his weight behind the farm laws and compared them to the 1991 economic reforms. Mann, who heads his own faction of BKU, who has also come out in the support of farm laws. In December, he had met Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and expressed his support for the new farm laws.

Ghanwat, who heads the Maharashtra based Shetkari Sanghatana, has spoken against the demand for repealing the farm laws. He had also told the media that the APMC and MSP systems will continue, therefore there is no reason for agitation. Joshi had written an article in a leading financial daily, where he had said it is unfortunate that farmers are changing the goalposts before every negotiation.

The Supreme Court has tasked the committee to hear the government as well as the representatives of the farmers’ bodies, and other stakeholders, and submit a report to the court containing its recommendations. “This shall be done within two months from the date of its first sitting. The first sitting shall be held within ten days from today,” said the top court in its order.

‘Not far-sighted’

In legal experts’ opinion, the move to form the expert panel to resolve the impasse is not “far-sighted”.

The committee after hearing the government as well as the representatives of the farmers’ bodies, and other stakeholders, will submit a report to the Supreme Court containing its recommendations.

Speaking to IANS, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi asked what would happen after hearing the aggrieved farmers, the committee suggested amending the laws.

“Would it have legislative powers? The Supreme Court should not have intervened and stayed the implementation of the farm laws. The procedure to constitute a committee is faulty,” he said.

Noting that none of the main lawyers of the farmer unions had argued that the laws are unconstitutional, Dwivedi said that instead of forming the committee, the top court should have heard the issue on the constitutional aspect. “It is shocking,” said Dwivedi on top court decision to set up the committee.

Congress questions impartiality

The Congress questioned the impartiality of the members of a Supreme Court-appointed panel.

Congress said the panel selected by the Supreme Court have “openly expressed views against the withdrawal of these farm laws. It will be tough for farmers to repose faith in the committee, wherein a majority of members have views different from theirs on the issue,” Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill remarked.

Youth Cong protests outside Minister’s residence against farm laws

Shergill also demanded the resignation of Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar for what he called “total incompetence, irrational and irresponsible behaviour of the BJP-led central government”, due to which the higher judiciary had to step in.

Khalistan infiltration?

Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal told the Supreme Court that the Khalistan supporters have infiltrated the farmers protest against the three farm laws.

The bench told the AG that if there is infiltration by a banned organisation, then the government has to confirm it and asked him to file an affidavit by Wednesday. AG replied, “Yes, I will file an affidavit and the IB reports.”

The bench made the remarks after senior advocate P S Narasimha, representing the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association supporting the farm laws, submitted groups like “Sikhs for Justice” are involved in the protests against the laws. “This kind of protest can be very dangerous”, said Narasimha. The Chief Justice queried the AG, “Will you confirm this?” The AG replied “We have said that Khalistanis have infiltrated into the protests.” He added the government cannot allow one lakh people protesting against the farm laws to come into the national capital. “One group may go to the Parliament…the other group may come to the Supreme Court”, said the AG.

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