NEW DELHI: In a major jolt to the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the execution of the three contentious agri laws of the centre which are being protested tooth and nail by the farmers since November 26 last year. The top court also constituted a four-member committee to hear the grudges of the farmers and recommend points to solve the vexed issue.
Here are the key developments of the day:
1. The Supreme Court stayed the implementation of new farm laws till further orders saying it may encourage the protesting farmers to come to the negotiating table in good faith. The stay may “assuage the hurt feelings” of farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence, a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said. It also observed that the apex court cannot be said to be “completely powerless” to grant stay of any executive action under a statutory enactment. The top court, noting that negotiations between the farmers’ unions and the government have “not yielded any result so far”, said the constitution of a committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of farmers.
2. The implementation of the three farm laws (1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; (2) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and (3) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, shall stand stayed until further orders, the top court said and posted the matter for hearing after eight weeks.
3. As a consequence, the Supreme Court said, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system in existence before the enactment of the farm laws shall be maintained until further orders. “In addition, the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected – no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the farm laws,” the bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said in its 11-page interim order. The bench said it thinks that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmer bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.
4. The four-member committee comprises Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union, All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Parmod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana.
5. However, the government told the Supreme Court that there are “inherent safeguards” in the new agri laws for protection of land of farmers, who have been “misled” that their lands will be taken away. The government told the bench that it will be ensured that no farmer will lose his land. “Misapprehensions have been made that your (farmers) land will go and it will be taken away. That is how the farmers have been misled,” solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the bench. The government said the order to stay the implementation of three new farm laws is against its wish but the direction of the apex court is ‘sarva-manya’ (acceptable to all) and welcomed the composition of an “impartial” committee to resolve the deadlock. Union minister of state for agriculture Kailash Choudhary made these remarks and also said he is confident that whatever decision is taken by the court, that will be “taken to ensure that the laws are kept the way they are”.
6. The farmers’ leaders said they welcome the Supreme Court order staying the implementation of the three farm laws till further orders, but they will continue to protest till the contentious legislations are repealed and expressed doubts over the neutrality of the panel formed by the top court to end the impasse. The agitating farmers also made it clear that they will not participate in the SC-ordered committee process. In a statement, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said, “It is clear that the court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee. These are people who are known for their support to the three Acts and have actively advocated for the same.”
7. While opposition parties like NCP and DMK welcomed the SC order and hoped that it will help in resolving the deadlock, the Congress leaders expressed apprehensions over the members chosen for the committee, saying they are known for their support to the three Acts and the agitating farmers. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also raised questions over the formation of the committee, asking can justice be expected from people who have given written support to the “anti-agriculture laws”. “This struggle will continue till anti-farmer-worker laws are repealed. Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan,” he tweeted. Addressing a press conference, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party welcomes the Supreme Court’s concern over the farm laws, but the party has issues with the composition of the committee formed by it. He said the members of the committee have already expressed their views in the past favouring the new laws “so the question arises in our minds that how justice will be done to farmers by their hands”.
8. Asserting that any order of the Supreme Court has to be complied with by all the concerned parties, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli attacked the Congress for its criticism of the court-appointed committee. The Congress’ stand and conduct on the agricultural laws is a “classic testimony towards its duplicity and opportunistic politics practised since 2005”. The BJP has said the Congress-led UPA government had supported farm reforms but the opposition party has now taken a U-turn due to political reasons.
9. The Punjab unit of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said it fully supports the farmers’ demand for a repeal of three new farm laws, saying the formation of a committee by the Supreme Court is not a “permanent solution” to the issue. The party does not want any “compromise” with the self-respect of farmers, state AAP chief Bhagwant Mann said, adding that the only way to end the deadlock is to repeal the “black” laws. In a statement, Mann claimed that most of the members of the Supreme Court-appointed committee are representatives of the BJP-led centre. “We doubt that this committee will be able to understand the real problems of the farmers and solve those permanently. This fight of the farmers is not for forming any committee,” he said. The AAP MP said the only demand of the protesting farmers is to repeal the three laws.
10. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders should end their agitation now following the formation of a committee by the Supreme Court over the new farm laws. “The ball is now in the court of the SC and I feel whatever is its decision, it will be acceptable to all,” he said, welcoming the SC order. On the farmer unions’ refusal to call off their protest after the SC order, Khattar said there was no reason now for them to continue with it. He said the farmers should lift their ‘dharna’ at Delhi’s border and head back to the places they had come from.