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Opinion

Healthy talks, closer to resolution, SC said

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The central government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that an “understanding” with farmers’ unions on the controversial farm laws could be in sight, even as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) lamented that “there was no improvement. in the situation “.

However, CJI SA Bobde also said that the high court has always encouraged talks and that legal adjudication around farm laws and farmers’ protests could wait if there was a chance for a breakthrough. The court said it would address the matter on January 11, but could postpone the hearing in case there was any progress in the talks.

The government statement suggesting a breakthrough in the negotiation came two days after the seventh round of talks between the Center and agricultural leaders ended in a stalemate. The three Union ministers who participated in the negotiations had suggested that it was not possible to commit to a rollback of the laws without broader consultations with higher authorities. The agricultural unions had rejected this position and said they would increase their agitation: A large tractor demonstration has been planned on the outskirts of the capital on Thursday. However, both sides agreed to continue the talks on January 8.

On Wednesday, the CJI-led court was hearing a statement from petitioner and defender ML Sharma, who has challenged the laws on the grounds that the Center lacked the power to legislate on issues directly related to agricultural products, their trade and market.

The court, which also included judges AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, told Sharma that her petition could also be heard along with another batch of petitions on the same subject that are listed on January 8. At this point, the CJI commented: “There is no improvement in the situation.”

The comment triggered a response from Attorney General Tushar Mehta, who said the government was in “healthy conversations” with farmers, and therefore did not want to file an affidavit in response to requests in court.

“We will have to oppose the petitions if we file our counter-affidavit. Otherwise, we are in a healthy discussion. So we don’t want to file our affidavits and oppose the petitions. We do not want to oppose anything formally as we are discussing at the moment, ”Mehta presented, indicating that a documented response from the government at this stage may not be conducive to talks.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, who also represents the Center in these matters, added that the government would not want to record any opposition to farmers’ affairs. “There is a good chance that the parties will reach an understanding. In the event that such an understanding is reached, we would not want to present our affidavits and oppose anything, ”Venugopal said.

The presentations by law enforcement officers led the CJI to observe: “We would like to encourage discussions. That has always been our intention since we began to hear this matter. “

The court then assured Venugopal and Mehta that the court could simply postpone the proceedings on Monday to a future date if the talks continue. “We do not want to create more problems when the talks continue,” he added.

When asked about the government’s argument in the Supreme Court, Darshan Pal, a senior leader of the farmers’ agitation, said: “We are not party to any of the petitions related to the three agricultural laws. Therefore, we are not opposed to this. The government must repeal the three laws, which continues to be our main requirement ”.

Pal, however, said the government has shown no signs of repealing the laws and insisted there could be no progress without it.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, another agricultural union leader, said that if there were any court verdicts related to the unrest, a response would be made only after studying the ruling. He said the court had already made it clear that farmers had the right to protest peacefully.

Thousands of farmers are “fully prepared” for Thursday’s tractor rally that is planned to converge on the KMP highway, Rajewal said. The rally, which farm unions are calling a “rehearsal” for a larger rally on Republic Day, will cover peripheral highways both east and west.

“This will be a dress rehearsal for the farmers’ tractor parade on Republic Day in the national capital,” said Yogendra Yadav, one of the leaders who coordinated the protests.

Meanwhile, the court issued notices on Sharma’s petition, which also challenged the 1954 amendment to the Constitution under which Entry 33 of the Concurrent List was re-enacted. This new enactment also gave the Center the authority to legislate on trade and the production, supply and distribution of food, livestock fodder, raw cotton, and cottonseed; and raw jute.

According to Sharma, the government misused Entry 33 to frame the three laws: the Trade in Agricultural Products and Trade (Agriculture and Promotion) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Guarantee and the Law of Agricultural Services and the Essential Products (Amendment) Act of 2020 Your petition argues that the Center has no authority under the Constitution to legislate on these issues, and only states can make these laws. Sharma’s petition added that the laws will lead to the exploitation of farmers by large corporations.

On December 17, hearing a handful of petitions related to farmers’ protests, the high court allowed the unrest to continue and showed its inclination to establish an independent committee to mediate between protesting farmers and the government. However, the decision on the committee’s constitution was postponed because the prominent unions leading the protests did not participate in the court proceedings.

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