The Supreme Court will on Monday hearing the pleas regarding the controversial farm laws and the ongoing farmers’ protest at Delhi borders, five days after it halted implementation of the legislations and formed an experts’ committee to tackle the issue.
Meanwhile, the Centre will hold the next round of discussions with the farmers on Tuesday, said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. The ninth round of talks, held Friday, did not yield any breakthrough in the current stalemate.
During Monday’s hearing, the apex court is expected to take into account the recusal of a member of the panel it had set up to resolve the issue. It would also hear the plea of the Centre, filed via the Delhi Police, seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor march or any protest by farmers that seeks to disrupt Republic Day celebrations on January 26.
In an interim order on January 12, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde had stayed the implementation of the new laws till further orders and constituted a four-member panel to listen to the grievances and make recommendations to resolve the impasse.
The committee comprised Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Dr 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.
The court had said it would hear the pleas after eight weeks when the panel would give its suggestions to resolve the impasse. But the top court’s efforts seem to have hit a hurdle as Mann recused himself from the committee on January 14. The court may take into account his recusal and take remedial actions like appointing a person to replace him in the panel.
One of the panel members, Ghanwat, has said that the panel will hold its first meeting on January 19 at Pusa campus in New Delhi. He said that if the apex court does not appoint a new member to replace Mann, the existing members will continue.
Meanwhile, the Bhartiya Kisan Union Lokshakti filed an affidavit on Saturday requesting the top court to remove the remaining three members of the committee and select people who can do the job “on the basis of mutual harmony.” It said the principle of natural justice is going to be violated as those appointed to the panel “have already supported these laws.”
Asserting that most of the farmers and experts are in favour of farm laws, Minister Tomar on Sunday said, “After the Supreme Court’s order, the laws can’t be implemented. Now we expect that farmers discuss the laws clause-wise on January 19 and tell the government what they want other than the repeal of the laws.”
“We had sent a proposal to farmer unions in which agreeing to address their apprehensions regarding mandis, traders’ registration and others. The government also agreed to discuss laws on stubble burning and electricity, but the unions only want repeal of the laws,” Tomar was quoted as as saying by news agency ANI.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three recently passed farm laws. Enacted in September 2020, the government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers’ income.
But the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and “mandi” (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations. The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out a repeal of the laws.
(With inputs from agencies)