Saturday, September 18, 2021

Will SC ‘stay’ the implementation of Farm Acts?

  • Supreme Court might save the face of adamant centre.

It appears that the Supreme Court is going to put an end to the farmers laws and through that the agitation of farmers. If the SC gives an interim order of staying the operation of Farm Acts, the Central government’s face will be saved. It can unhesitatingly claim that it is constitutionally bound to enforce the order of the Supreme Court.

The observations of the Chief Justice of India came up in the hearing a batch of petitions related to the great farmers’ movement at the borders of Delhi. It is unfortunate that some persons who are interested in ‘public interest’ sought immediate removal of the protesting farmers. For this the petitioners have used the order of the Supreme Court in Shaheen Bagh judgment and COVID concerns. Some petitions challenged the legality of the farm laws.

Extremely disappointed with the Centre

Today (11 January 2021) the Chief Justice SA Bobde said the apex court was “extremely disappointed” with the Centre over its approach to the farmers protests, and reiterated its intent to form an expert committee to examine the concerns raised by farmersagainst the farm laws.

Also Read: Hold farm laws or we will, SC to Centre

The CJI raised doubts about consultations, so called, before enacting these laws. “We don’t know what consultation was done before….and why whole state was up in arms”….“If there is some sense of responsibility, you can show this now by saying that there will be no implementation of the laws,”…“We don’t see why there should be insistence on implementation of the laws at all costs.”

We have to take some action today

The CJI has also criticised the way in which the apex court was being dragged into the row, with parties including the government saying the court would do this or that. At another point of time, the CJI once again expressed his displeasure at the government’s approach, saying: “We do not believe that you’re handling it correctly. We have to take some action today, We do not believe that you are being effective.”

Is it a prestige issue?

Chief Justice questioned the attitude of the Government: “We are not experts on agriculture and economics. Tell us whether you will put these laws on hold or else we will do it. What’s the prestige issue here…We don’t know if you are part of the solution or part of the problem”.

Who will be responsible?

The CJI also has raised the question of responsibility if there is breach of peace, saying: “We have an apprehension that someday maybe, there might be a breach of peace. Each one of us  will be responsible if anything goes wrong. We don’t want any injuries or blood on our hands.”

Also Read : Farm Harm Law –II: Centre Removes the State’ power to regulate supply of Essential Commodities

It looks almost like an admonition against the central government for keeping on saying it was engaged with discussions with the farmers. The judges on the Bench said they would pass a part order and asked the lawyers for the farmers’ unions to consult with them whether they would be willing to take part in the expert committee’s deliberations.

The CJI also made a request for women, children, and elderly people to return from the protest sites for their health, though he stressed this was not an order.

Vast majority of farmers support the  laws: SG

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the farm laws had been implemented in the rest of the country, and that apart from the farmers at the protest sites, other farmers in the country, and the “vast majority” of the country supported the laws. Then the CJI Bobde said that the same could be represented to the expert committee.  It is reported that the SC might pass the orders on Tuesday.

Inhuman Water Assault against farmers in cold winter

It may be recalled that since November 26, thousands of farmers have been protesting against the three farm laws – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 – at the borders of the national capital. They are braving the chilling cold and facing the water cannons used to pour water on them exhibiting no humanity.

Also Read: The LIEs as LAW-2: Analysis of the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020)

Right to protest

The Supreme Court on 17 December 2019, allowed the agitation to continue “without impediment”, citing the right to protest as a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. It also recommended the Centre and farm unions engage in consultation to come forward with an amicable solution.

The court was also of the view that the farmers’ right to protest should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies as the right to protest cannot mean blockade of the entire city.

The three Farm Acts are unconstitutional, and they deserve to be struck down as unconstitutional. There should be a full-fledged hearing of the challenge to these laws and a declaration that Parliament cannot make any law on state subjects should come from Supreme Court to prevent such encroachments in future.

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.

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