- Apprentice Lawyer
The Supreme Court today stayed the implementation of the three farm acts, directed that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops be maintained, and that landholdings of farmers are protected.
The three laws - the Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Act, the Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, and Amendment to the Essential Commodities Act have been stayed until further orders.
While doing so, the Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian expressed hope that its directions would encourage the farmers to put an end to the protests. The order passed today states,
"While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think 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 farmers 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."
The Court has further hoped that a stay on the controversial farm laws "may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith."
The Bench also directed for the formation of a Committee to listen to the grievances of the farmers relating to the farm laws. The four-member Committee comprises:
Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee;
Dr. Parmod Kumar Joshi, Agricultural Economist, 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, Shetkari Sanghatana
Notably, the Court has called upon the representatives of all the farmers’ bodies to participate in the deliberations of the Committee and put forth their view points.
The Committee shall, upon hearing the government as well as the representatives of the farmers’ bodies and other stakeholders, submit a report before the Court containing its recommendations.
This shall be done within two months from the date of its first sitting. The first sitting shall be held within ten days from today.
Interestingly, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Court during the hearing on Tuesday that the Central government has received information that Khalistanis have infiltrated the farmers protests.
This submission was made after the Court inquired from Venugopal about whether or not he can confirm an allegation made in an application filed by one of the intervenors that a banned organisation is trying to fund the protests.
While lauding the farmers for carrying out the protests without any untoward incident, the Court took note of reports that some people who were not farmers had joined the protests in solidarity. The order states,
"An apprehension was expressed that the possibility of some persons creating trouble cannot be entirely ruled out."
Venugopal also submitted that there was no opposition to the laws by states like Kerala and Karnataka.
He also pointed out that a tractor rally is being planned by those protesting the farm laws to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations. The Delhi Police had filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking an injunction on this rally..
"Once they are allowed in the city, we don't know where all they will they be going and which all place they will go to agitate," Venugopal contended.
The Court issued notice on that application and posted it for hearing on January 18.
Notwithstanding the objections of the Attorney General and others, the Court decided to grant a stay on the farm laws, and found it necessary to direct the formation of a Committee to hash things out with the protesting farmers.
"...the negotiations between the farmers’ bodies and the Government have not yielded any result so far. Therefore, we are of the view that the constitution of a Committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and the Government of India may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers."