The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday stayed implementation of the three farm laws till further order, while forming a four-member committee of agriculturists and agri-economists to hear farmers’ grievances against these Acts.
A bench headed by chief justice Sharad A Bobde says, "We are going to suspend the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders."
Justifying the stay on implementation of farm laws, the apex court says, "We deem it fit to pass the following interim order, with the hope and expectation that both parties will take this in the right spirit and attempt to arrive at a fair, equitable and just solution to the problems."
The bench added that this step would improve the trust and confidence of the farmers. "We are also of the view that a stay of implementation of all the three farm laws for the present, may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith," it said, reiterating that it has no intention to stifle a peaceful protest.
A bench, headed by chief justice Bobde and comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, observed that the negotiations between the farmers' bodies and the union 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," it said in its order.
Members of the committee include Bhupinder Singh Maan (president of BKU), Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi (international policy head), Ashok Gulati (agricultural economist) and Anil Dhanvat, (Shivkeri Sangathna, Maharashtra).
The SC says the committee has been constituted for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the farmers relating to the farm laws and the views of the government and to make recommendations. The bench added that the representatives of all the farmers' bodies, whether they are holding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws, shall participate in the deliberations of the committee and put forth their viewpoints.
While welcoming the SC's decision to stay implementation of the three farm laws, farmer leaders and opposition parties expressed doubts over the neutrality of the committee appointed by the apex court.
In a statement, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) says, "It is clear that the court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee. These are people who are known for their support to the three Acts and have actively advocated for the same."
Darshan Pal, chief of Krantikari Kisan Union, says farmers' bodies will not accept any committee and their agitation will go on. "We had issued a press note Monday night stating that we will not accept any committee formed by SC for mediation. We were confident that Centre will get a committee formed through the apex court to take the burden off their shoulders," he says.
Shiv Sena's farmer leader, Kishore Tiwari, supported the stay on the implementation of the three farm laws but slammed the appointment of the committee which will look into the farmers' issues.
"The expert committee members appointed by the chief justice are puppets of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who are notorious as blind advocates of market-economy and globalisation. It is a hoax and betrayal of the agrarian community," Mr Tiwari told IANS.
The apex court also issued notice on the application filed by Delhi police seeking to stop farmers from entering the national capital to hold a tractor rally on the Republic Day.
After the hearing on farm laws concluded on Monday, the Centre hurriedly filed an affidavit in the SC, stating that the legislations were not hurriedly made but are the result of two decades of deliberations and their repeal is not justifiable or acceptable.
The Union government told the apex court that it has been actively and intensively engaging with the states for about two decades to introduce reforms to provide accessible and barrier-free market system for better price realisation, but states either showed reluctance to adopt the reforms in true spirit or made partial or cosmetic reforms.
Against the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre had said that the situation may have a prolonged effect globally on demand side, hence, it became necessary and expedient for it to promulgate Farm Reform Ordinances, namely, (i) "the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and facilitation) Ordinance, 2020"; (ii) "the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance"; and (iii) "the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020".
Meanwhile, the agitation by farmers entered in to 48th day today. All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah told IANS on Tuesday that the farmer organisations respect the Supreme Court but they are unwilling to go before any committee which may be appointed by the apex court. He clearly said, "These Acts are not in favour of farmers, so we are demanding to repeal it."
On the suggestions of the Supreme Court to stay and appoint a committee to look into the matter, he said, "The government will not discuss the issue of repealing the laws as seen during eight rounds of talks.
"The government wants to linger the matter. We are not in favour of putting the implementation of new farm laws on hold, we want them to be repealed," said Hannan Mollah.
A farmer leader from Punjab and general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) Harinder Singh had told IANS that farmers are going to burn the copies of the three farm laws on the auspicious occasion of Lohri in a move to intensify stir against these laws.
He said, "Farmer's agitation will continue till the government is ready to withdraw these laws. Thousands of farmers have been demonstrating here at the bordering points of the national capital since November 23, 2020. They are demanding the repealing of the new laws enacted by the Centre last year and framing a new law which will give legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) of crops to the farmers."