CJI Bobde defends farm panel members’ right to differ in opinion

CJI S A Bobde was responding to Bharatiya Kisan Union (Mann) president Bhupinder Singh Mann recusing himself from the four-member committee formed to review farm laws

Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said the Union of India will be issued a notice today (April 22) and the matter will be heard tomorrow.

Chief Justice of India S.A, Bobde on Tuesday (January 19) said that panelists, part of the four-member committee to review Centre’s farm laws, can change their opinion and there is no ground to disqualify them just because they expressed their views on the laws before their selection.

A few days after Supreme Court selected him to the four-member committee, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Mann) president Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself from the panel, saying he ‘stands with the farmers of Punjab.’  People in the know say Mann pulled out because of protests over his pro-farm laws stand in the past.

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CJI Bobde said, “There is some confusion in understanding the law. One person may have an opinion before being a part of the committee but his opinion can change. There is no way that such a member cannot be part of a committee.”

“Just because a person has expressed a view on the matter does not disqualify him from being a member of a committee. Keep one thing in mind, the committee members are not judges,” Bobde further said.

During a hearing to resolve the impasse on January 11, the Supreme Court put a stay on the implementation of the three laws. The court ordered the constitution of a four-member committee to resolve the matter.

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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 Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti) approached the Supreme Court, asking it to reconstitute the committee since Mann has opted out and other members — Ashok Gulati, Pramod Kumar Joshi and Anil Ghanwat — have already taken positions in support of the farm laws.

The farmers’ unions have argued that the remaining three members have a bias in favour of the three laws. Hence, they won’t be able to look into the matter impartially.

Anil Ghanwat, a member of the SC-appointed panel, said on Tuesday (January 19) that the three panel members will speak to farmers, agri stakeholders as well as the government impartially before reaching a conclusion. Ghanwat said their biggest task will be to win the confidence of farmers and open up before the committee. “We’ll make all possible efforts,” PTI quoted him as saying.

Farmers have been protesting against the laws on Delhi borders for over 50 days now.

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