The Supreme Court on Monday sought to put on hold the implementation of the three controversial farm Acts to let a high-powered committee deliberate on the laws and end the impasse, which was later in the day rejected by the protesting farmers.
The farmers, in a late night statement said that they are unwilling to participate in any committee formed by the Supreme Court on the laws as the Central government has already made it clear that it won't repeal the laws which is the main and prime demand of the protestors.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the group representing the protesting farmers also said they are disappointed as the Court hasn't permitted their lawyers to seek their opinion and have just said that the final order will be delivered tomorrow.
The Centre also in an affidavit submitted to the Court later in the day said that an impression has been sought to be created in the Court today that adequate consultation has not been undertaken before the laws were framed but the Court must consider the sincere and constructive efforts made by the Centre to engage with the limited number of protesting farmers who are opposing the Act.
The top court will pronounce its order on Tuesday on various issues related to the new farm laws and the farmers' protest at Delhi borders, and may take a call on setting up the committee to be headed by a former Chief Justice of India.
Earlier in a stinging indictment of the Centre’s handling of the protest, the court said it was very disappointed with the way negotiations were being conducted. The court also refused to grant extra time to the Centre to explore the possibility of an amicable solution. “We have given you a long rope, Mr Attorney General. Please don't lecture us on patience,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.
At the outset, the Bench said, "What is going on? States are rebelling against your laws,” adding, “We don't want to make any stray observations on your negotiations, but we are extremely disappointed with the process.”
The apex court, hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the new farm laws as well as the ones raising issues related to the ongoing agitation at Delhi borders, said it was not talking about the repeal of these farm laws at the moment. “This is a very delicate situation. There is not a single petition before us which says that these farm laws are beneficial.”
“We are not experts on economy; you tell us whether the government is going to put on hold farm laws or we will do this,” the Bench said. “We are sorry to say that Centre has not been able to solve the problem and the farmers’ agitation.”
Attorney General K K Venugopal argued that a law cannot be stayed unless the court finds it violates fundamental rights or constitutional schemes.
“Our intention is to see whether we can find an amicable solution to all this. That is why we had asked you (Centre) whether you are willing to keep these laws on hold for some time. But you wanted to buy time,” the Bench observed, adding, “We don't know whether you are part of the solution or part of the problem.”
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The court noted that the matter was getting worse and people were committing suicides, reiterating the need to have a committee comprising representatives from the government and farmer organisations from over the country. It said it would stop the implementation of these laws if the panel advised to do so.
It said that after the implementation of these laws was stayed, the protestors could carry on with the agitation as the court didn't want "anyone to say that we stifled the protest”.
The top court observed that talks were breaking down because the Centre wanted to discuss the new farm laws point by point but farmers wanted them repealed. “We are not going to protect any law breakers. We want to prevent the loss of property and lives,” it said.
When the issue of law and order was raised before the Bench, it said this “will be taken care of by police. The right to protest is intact and Gandhiji exercised Satyagraha. That agitation was much bigger”.
“Let me take a risk and say the Chief Justice of India wants them (protesting farmers) to go back to their homes,” the CJI said.
The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on January 7 failed to break the deadlock as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws while the farmer leaders said they were ready to fight till death and their ghar waapsi would happen only after law waapsi.