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‘If govt does not form a committee, we will stay the laws’: Supreme Court wades into the domain of Legislative discretion

The apex court opined that it was not in favour of the annulment of the new farm laws, however, its implementation could be put on hold until a committee with ICAR members is formed to tackle the "delicate situation".

Hearing a clutch of petitions seeking the removal of people participating in the ‘farmers’ protests near Delhi borders owing to the Coronavirus outbreak and petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the three new farm laws, the Supreme Court bench led by CJI SA Bobde raised apprehensions that the farmers, who have been camping at the border areas of Delhi, agitating against the three new farm laws, might create situations which might breach the peace.

It might be intended or unintended, said the SC asking the people who are protesting to follow guidelines. “We don’t want anybody’s injury or blood on our hands!”, observed the CJI.

“Responsibility is on all of us. Any stray incident can spark violence. All of it cannot be achieved in a single order. As a court we will not pass any order saying that you cannot protest. But we can say that it is not the only place to protest”, said CJI SA Bobde while hearing a bunch of petitions seeking removal of farmer protesters near Delhi borders.

The apex court opined that it was not in favour of the annulment of the new farm laws, however, its implementation could be put on hold until a committee with ICAR members is formed to tackle the “delicate situation”.

Speaking about the efforts the central government has so far made and is further ready to make to resolve the deadlock, senior Adv Harish Salve appearing for the centre, said: “On Minimum Support Price we have agreed upon. All areas on which they are not agreeing with the centre can be resolved by judicial orders. The objectionable parts of law can be stayed”.

On this, the bench comprising of CJI Bobde Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian opined that the talks between the Centre and farmer unions on the new agriculture laws failed to make any headway even after the eighth round of talks because the Centre wants to discuss point by point of law and farmers want it to be repealed.

Owing to this, the SC observed that the implementation of the new agricultural laws be kept on hold until the committee does not find a middle path. “If laws are put on hold, then negotiations will have a chance to work out”, observed the apex court.

Though the court said that it would not like to comment on the on going protest as they did not wan’t anyone to point fingers at them accusing them of stifling the protest, the SC bench observed that there was urgent need to relocate the protesters as a precaution to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

It raised apprehension at the way Centre was handling the entire fiasco.

Almost in a threatening tone, the CJI did say that if the Centre did not constitute a committee, the Court will stay the farm laws.

The CJI said, “We propose to form a committee and if the government does not (stay the law), then we will stay the implementation of the Farm Acts. We are extremely disappointed with the way Centre is dealing with this. We are doing this because you have failed to solve the problem. Union of India has to take responsibility. The laws have resulted in a strike and now you have to solve the strike,” the Court said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta vehemently argued that the Centre has done its best to resolve the deadlock and said that observations by the Court in that regard were “harsh”.

The Court did not pass any order on Monday but remarked that it is likely to pass its order later today or tomorrow. 

“We might pass the order in part today and in part tomorrow,”

The Court also said that it will do its job as the apex court of the country. 

“We are the Supreme Court of India and we will do our job“, said CJI Bobde.

Further, CJI said, “Our intention is to see if we can bring about an amicable resolution to the problem. That is why we asked you why don’t you put the Farm Bills on hold. You want time for negotiation. If there is some sense of responsibility showing that you will not implement the laws, then we can form a committee with ICAR members to look into this. Till then, you can continue to put the law on hold. Why will you insist on continuing the law anyhow”.

Attorney General KK Venuogapal, representing the Centre, objected to the stay stating that the laws are within the legislative power of the Parliament.

Several commentators have criticised the approach of the Judiciary saying that the Judiciary cannot wade into Legislative powers and curb the laws passed by a democratically elected government, thereby, effectively infringing on Legislative discretion.

Supreme Court raises concern over ‘farmers’ protests turning into another superspreader Tablighi Jamaat event

Prior to this, the Supreme Court bench had raised concerns while drawing equivalences between the ongoing ‘farmer’ protests and the controversial Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the capital last year that went on to become one of India’s biggest clusters of coronavirus cases. Observing that the same problem may arise from farmers’ protests too, the apex court had asked the Centre to file a report on the steps taken so far to contain the pandemic and ensure guidelines are strictly followed.

It may be recalled how the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which took place in Nizamuddin Markaz in the first half of March, became the mega-spreader of coronavirus in India, as many as more than one-third cases in India are linked to that event now. Now, with thousands of ‘farmers’ camping at the border areas of Delhi for over 45 days, chances are extremely high that this could emerge as a second Nizamuddin Markaz.

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