New Delhi: Amid protests by farmers at Delhi borders against farm laws passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Government of India (GoI) whether it would pause the implementation of three controversial farm laws at the core of massive farmer protests near Delhi, saying the situation had gone worse. “Tell us whether you will put the laws on hold or else we will do it. What’s the ego here?”
The court’s sharp remarks came during a hearing on petitions challenging the farm laws and the farmer agitation at the Delhi borders.
Quoting Chief Justice of India SA Bobde saying in sharp remarks, a report by NDTV said: “Each one of us will be responsible if anything goes wrong. We don’t want any injuries or blood on our hands”.
The top court suggested that after the implementation of the laws was stayed, the protest could continue. “But decide whether you want to carry on the protest on the same site or move to other,” it the report quoted the SC as saying.
Earlier, the top had noted that there was no improvement on the ground, and it was told by the GoI that “healthy discussions” were going on between the government and the unions over all outstanding issues.
“We have asked in the last hearing but no answer. The situation has gone worse. People have committed suicide. Why are the old and the women part of the agitation in this weather?” the Chief Justice questioned the government.
The report added that court urged the GoI to set up a committee and added: “If the government is not doing it on its own, hold the implementation, we will say.”
Quoting Attorney General KK Venugopal arguing for the government, the report said: “You can form a committee but don’t stay the laws.” He referred to past judgments stating courts can’t hold a law without going into its unconstitutionality.
Venugopal also sought to highlight that “only farmers from two or three states are protesting”, that there was no participation from southern or western India.
Pertinently, anger against the GoI has been simmering since the month of September when the parliament of India passed three farm laws. Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been marching toward the New Delhi and are nearing the borders.
After failing to garner support from their respective state governments, the farmers have decided to mount pressure on the GoI, due to which they are coming to Delhi.
In UP and Haryana, BJP led governments have failed to convince farmers, however, governments of Rajasthan and Punjab have extended full support to their agitation.
Farmers want GoI to either withdraw the three legislations or guarantee them the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops by introducing a new law.
Gurnam Singh Chaduni is leading the protestors from Haryana. Gurnam had contested the 2019 Assembly elections from Ladwa constituency in Kurukshetra district, but got only 1,307 votes. However, he was quite active in raising farmers’ issues and led several protests across the state.
Apart from Gurnam, several national and regional farm unions, comprising many leaders, have joined hands under the umbrella banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha.
As farmers do not accept the three new legislations — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance; and Farm Services and The Essential Commodities (Amendment), they believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.
Since the state governments will not be able to collect market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.
They are also of the opinion that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.
Farmers are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.