The Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold the implementation of the three farming laws and announced the setting up of a committee of experts, purportedly to suggest if any changes were needed in the enactments which are being opposed by the farming community.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, however, said during the hearing that the suspension cannot be indefinite or for an empty purpose.
The bench said it will make it clear in the detailed order to be passed later Tuesday that the land of farmers cannot be sold under the new law.
“We have the power to suspend the legislation. But the suspension of legislation must not be for an empty purpose. We will form a Committee which will submit a report to us…Every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to go before the Committee. The Committee will not punish you or pass any orders. It will submit a report to us”, remarked the CJI adding
The day’s hearing was marked by the absence of senior lawyers Dushyant Dave, H S Phoolka and Colin Gonsalves representing different farmers associations.
Advocate M L Sharma, who represents some of the unions, told the bench that some farmers had told him that they were not willing to go before the committee.
The bench said members of the bar must show “some loyalty” to the judicial process. “You cannot reject the process if it does not suit you. You will have to cooperate with us and accordingly speak to the client. You cannot tell us negative without telling something positive to your clients.”
The court said it is constituting the committee to understand the ground situation. The CJI added “all it needs to be seen is which part needs to be deleted from the law and which should stay.. that is why a committee is needed”. The committee, it pointed out, “is part of the judicial process in this case”.
The Centre may have a specific interest and farmers want repeal, the court said and pointed out that a knowledgeable person has to tell the court what is the complaint on the ground.
Advocate Sharma also said that the farmers were upset that the Prime Minister was not speaking to them. To this, the CJI said the court cannot ask the PM as he is not a party before it.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta intervened and told the court that the Agriculture Minister is talking to the farmers. When one of the lawyers said there’s a confusion that it’s a mediating committee, the court responded “who said it’s mediation?”
The Bench also asked Attorney General K K Venugopal about the charges by one of the parties that a banned outfit ‘Sikhs for Justice’ was aiding the protests. The AG replied “we have been informed there is a Khalistani infiltration in the protests”. The bench asked the AG to say the same on the affidavit which the senior law officer agreed to.
The CJI also noted the absence of Dave, Gonsalve and Phoolka at Tuesday’s hearing. Senior Advocate Harish Salve submitted it’s a coincidence that they are not present in hearing today. “This is really concerning,” he said. Salve said that the Republic Day parade should go on unaffected.
The court then said it will issue notice to the Delhi Police on the plea by the Centre against any tractor/vehicle rally in the national capital on the Republic Day.
Salve also added that there is no basis to the apprehension that land of farmers who have entered into a contract under the new laws will be sold. The law doesn’t allow that, he said.
The CJI responded that the court will add a word in the order that nothing of that sort will happen. Savle said the two main concerns were whether the MSP will be dismantled and land sold. Both will not happen, he added.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said the farmers needed a prominent place like Ram Lila Maidan or Boat Club for the protests. The court said it will say in the order that they may apply to police for permission.
Attempting to assuage the concerns of farmers, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the law says no farming agreement shall be entered into for mortgage, sale of land. Also, no action for recovery of the amount will be initiated against the agricultural land, he pointed out.
Farm land is completely immune from attachment, the SG said, adding misinformation are being spread.
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