‘You tell us whether government is going to put on hold farm laws or we will do this,’ Supreme Court tells Centre

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‘You tell us whether government is going to put on hold farm laws or we will do this,’ Supreme Court tells Centre
Supreme Court of IndiaBCCL
  • The Supreme Court has hinted that it may issue a stay on India’s new farm laws today to assuage the farmers’ protests in New Delhi.
  • The apex court is ‘extremely disappointed’ with the central government’s handling of the protests thus far.
  • It also clarified that granting a stay is not to stifle the protests, but asking the protesters to relocate allowing for the free movement of vehicles is on the cards.
As the farmers’ protests along the borders of New Delhi refuse to subside, the Supreme Court has stepped in and asked the central government to make up its mind.

“You tell us whether the government is going to put on hold farm laws or we will do this,” said the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde. He told the government that an order might be passed today in part and then again tomorrow.

‘You tell us whether government is going to put on hold farm laws or we will do this,’ Supreme Court tells Centre
Tractor rally at New Delhi's Singhu border on January 7 protesting India's new farm lawsBCCL

The Supreme Court expressed its ‘extreme disappointment’ with the progress of negotiations between the farmers and the government.
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“What consultative process has been followed for farm bills that entire states are up in rebellion,” said Bodbe. “We propose to form a committee and if the government does not then we will stay the implementation of the farm acts.”

The Attorney General hit back, saying that a stay on the farm laws would be too ‘drastic’ a measure.

“We do not think the Centre is handling the issue correctly. We have to take some action today. We don't think you are being effective,” the CJI told him. “We are doing this because you have failed to solve the problem… Union of India has to take responsibility.”
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Supreme Court asserts it’s not stifling the protests
The Supreme Court defended its move to set up a committee by asserting that it is not an attempt to stifle the protests — the protests can carry on. The question is whether protests should be held at the same site or be shifted to accommodate the free movement of citizens.

‘You tell us whether government is going to put on hold farm laws or we will do this,’ Supreme Court tells Centre
Farmers protesting at India's Singhu border against India's new farm lawsBCCL

“As a court, we will not pass any order saying that you cannot protest. But we can say that it is not the only place to protest,” he said. One of the primary issues is the possibility of farmers interrupting the Republic Day parade with a tractor rally.

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“Nothing of that sort will happen,” Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the farmers’ unions, told the court. “Every member from a Punjab family is in the army. No one is going to disturb the republic day parade. We have been asking for three months to let us protest in Ramlila Maidan. Why can't they be allowed to go there?”

India’s national capital has been surrounded by farmers for over a month protesting the country’s three new farm laws. Despite numerous rounds of talks between the government and the farmer unions, the two have been unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

As a result, petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court seeking the removal of the farmers near Delhi borders due to COVID-19. Petitions have also been filed challenging the constitutional validity of India’s three new farm laws.

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“Frankly we have an apprehension that there will be some incident which may breach the peace. It may be intended or unintended,” said Bodbe sharing his concerns.

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