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Opinion

Supreme Court steps in to resolve stalemate over farm laws: ‘talks are about to fail

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The Supreme Court intervened on Wednesday to try to end the stalemate between farmers’ unions and the Center over controversial new laws to open agricultural trade, noting that the protest will soon become a national issue and that recent events suggest negotiations. governments with the unions were “destined to fail again.”

The organization that led the protest said in its initial reaction that the court’s decision was a moral victory for the farmers, but insisted that the laws should be repealed.

Read also | ‘Tolerating is also a sin’: Haryana priest dies by suicide amid farmer unrest

A court headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India (CJI) SA Bobde will hold a joint hearing of the government and farmers’ organizations on Thursday, stating that the court will establish a committee of representatives from both sides to discuss and resolve the dispute.

“Negotiations between the government and the farmers do not appear to be working,” the court said.

The CJI-led bank has already seized a handful of petitions that have questioned the validity of the laws passed in September. These will also be heard on Thursday. At least six factions of the BKU will be present at Thursday’s hearing. Permission was granted to implement the major agricultural unions as defendants in the case, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU – Rajesh Tikait), BKU – Sidhupur (Jagjeet S. Dallewal), BKU – Rajewal (Balbeer Singh Rajewal), BKU – Lakhowal ( Harinder Singh Lakhowal) and others.

The three laws sparked a massive outcry from farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, who have been gathering on the borders of Delhi since Nov. 26. The laws allow agribusinesses to trade with minimal regulation, allow traders to store large quantities of food products for economies of scale, and establish new contract farming rules.

Farmers say the new rules favor large corporations with which they will lose business and gradually end the minimum price system set by the state. The protesters decided to suspend negotiations on December 8, after a meeting with Interior Minister Amit Shah, citing a deadlock. The government has offered to substantially amend the laws; farmers unions want nothing less than its repeal.

“The SC order, in which he suggested a negotiating committee, is a great moral victory for the farmers. But the talks will only help if it comes to withdrawing the three laws, ”said Avik Saha, secretary of the Coordination Committee of All India Kisan, a large platform of agricultural unions that is leading the protests.

The AIKSCC said the Prime Minister was misinforming the nation about laws that do not affect farmers’ lands, about minimum support prices, and diverting attention from the real issues by invoking the specter of “Opposition fools farmers. farmers”.

“The Movement in Delhi will continue until 3 Acts are withdrawn. Farmers are always ready to explain their problems to the court or the government. We will provide more detailed views after studying the SC order, ”said Darshan Pal, another farmer leader.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Attorney General Tushar Mehta, representing the Union government, complained that “some other interests” have taken over the farmers’ protests and that representatives of the protesters are turning their chairs, giving his back on the union ministers during the talks. .

“They come with banners, written ‘Yes or No’. The government was ready and is still ready to engage in talks with farmers. But the problem is that your position is that you repeal the laws or we don’t want to talk. I can affirm that the government will not do anything that goes against the interests of the farmers, ”added the law enforcement officer.

But the bench was not impressed. “What good is it to say this when they perceive that it goes against their interests? Their negotiations don’t seem to be working and are destined to fail again. What is the point of saying something very good when it is useless, since the farmers are not before us (the court)? “

The court, which included Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, noted that while the group of three petitions were brought before it by lawyers with different types of prayers, no union or farmer representative is part of the hearings.

The court issued notices on the petitions, but underscored the need to hear farmers ‘representatives for proper adjudication of issues, ranging from clearing roadblocks to guiding the government to ensure that farmers’ demands are met. farmers.

In response, the SG said that he knew that the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) was at the forefront of the protests and that his office would share the contact details of its leaders so they can be heard tomorrow.

At this, the CJI told Mehta: “Tentatively, we will form a committee made up of representatives from the Bhartiya Kisan Union, the government and other farmers’ organizations from other parts of India because this will soon become a national issue. Then, we will also have other organizations from other parts of the country ”.

One of the petitioners cited the need to move farmers to a designated location and clear roads in the context of the Supreme Court ruling in the Shaheen Bagh case, which held that protesters cannot block public roads indefinitely. Shaheen Bagh’s protest was against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

However, the court said that an order cannot be approved without the court listening to the other party. “What was the number of people in Shaheen Bagh? How many blocked the road? Won’t the numbers matter? Who will take responsibility? There can be no precedent in a situation of public order, “he added.

Permanent lawyer for the Delhi government, Rahul Mehra, also appeared in the case. While questioning the petitioners for filing public interest litigation (PIL) half-way, Mehra said it was very important that the Center take some urgent action given that farmers have been forced to protest outside in a cold winter. .

At this, SG Mehta replied: “It seems that Mr. Mehra is presenting himself in favor of some union and not of a government. What union do you belong to, Mr. Mehra? This prompted a strong response from Mehra, who said she can also comment on why and for whom Mehta appears on the matter.

The court asked the two attorneys to refrain from making personal comments and set the matter for a hearing on Thursday, noting that the court will be on winter break after Friday. Lead attorney Harish Salve is also expected to appear on this matter Thursday for a new petition or application.

Zia Haq in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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