Supreme Court disappointed with govt's handling of farmer protests, says hold farm laws or we will

Supreme Court disappointed with govt's handling of farmer protests, says hold farm laws or we will

During the hearing of a clutch of pleas challenging the new farm laws, the Supreme Court directed the central government to hold the farm laws or else "we will do it" while noting that the situation has become worse. The Supreme Court said it was "disappointed" with the way the negotiation process with the protesting farmers over the farm laws was handled by the central government.

Demanding to know the conditions the farmers have been protesting in against the farm laws for over a month and amid a pandemic, CJI Bobde said, "We don't know what negotiations are going on? We want to set up the expert committee. We want the government to hold the laws in abeyance...if the Centre does not want to stay the implementation of farm laws, we will put a stay on it."

"Hold the laws in abeyance, why is it a prestige issue?" asked the Supreme Court.

The court said, "It's [the farmers' protest] getting worse and worse. People are committing suicide, sitting in this cold...Who is taking care of food and water? Is there any social distancing? We don't know why these farmers are keeping old people and women on the ground? Why should old people be out in the cold? Each one of us will be responsible if something goes wrong. We don't want anybody's blood on our hands."

"You [the Centre] withhold the implementation of these [farm] laws because the only thing we see from the replies and from the media is that they [the farmers] have a problem with these laws. We don't know whether you [central government] are part of the solution or part of the problem," the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court said the intention was to bring about an amicable resolution to the issue. "That's why we asked you if you can put your laws on hold. You're seeking time for more negotiations. If you [Centre] show some sense of responsibility by saying we will not implement these laws for now, we will ask them [farmers] to negotiate seriously and form a committee."

"We are proposing to pass an order to facilitate the solution to farm laws problem through a Committee to be appointed by us," the Supreme Court said and asked the Center and the farmer unions to suggest names of former CJIs who can head the expert committee.

On arguments of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government, that several farmers' associations and a "vast majority" have extended their support to the farm laws, the Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, said no-one pleaded before the bench saying the farm laws were beneficial. "Let that vast majority come to the committee and say we want it," CJI Bobde said.

"We [SC] understand from the newspapers that talks are breaking down because the government is insisting on discussing point by point and farmers want the repeal [of farm laws]. We can stay the laws till the committee gives its report," it said, adding, "We are sorry to say that Centre has not been able to solve the problem and the farmers' agitation."

The court also suggested that it will not pass any order against any citizen or group of citizens saying they cannot protest. "We can say you cannot protest at this spot. We don't want any criticism that the court is stifling protest. You carry on protest if you want to," the court said while suggesting that the site of the farmers' protest be shifted.

The Supreme Court hearing will resume tomorrow.

In the previous hearing, the Supreme Court had expressed concern over ongoing farmers’ protest, saying "there is absolutely no improvement in the situation” regarding farmers’ protest. The observation was made by the SC as it took up a petition filed by advocate ML Sharma challenging the constitutional validity of the three farm laws.

The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on January 7 appeared heading nowhere as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws while the farmer leaders said they are ready to fight till death and their 'ghar waapsi' will happen only after 'law waapsi'.

The Monday hearing in the Supreme Court assumes significance as the Centre and the farmer leaders are scheduled to hold their next meeting on January 15.