The Supreme Court on Monday heard a batch of petitions, including those filed by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva, RJD MP Manoj K Jha, challenging the constitutional validity of the three farm laws, passed by the Centre along with the plea to remove protesting farmers. An order might be passed today in part and then again tomorrow, the CJI said today. While hearing the pleas, the top court said it is “extremely disappointed” with the way negotiations are going on between the Centre and the farmers on the new farm laws, against which several farmer organisations are staging a protest at Delhi borders.
"What is going on? States are rebelling against your laws", a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde told the Centre. “We are extremely disappointed with the negotiation process”.
“We don't want to make any stray observations on your negotiations but we are extremely disappointed with the process,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The apex court, which was hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the new farm laws as well as the ones raising issues related to the ongoing agitation at Delhi borders, said it is not talking about the repeal of these farm laws at the moment.
“This is a very delicate situation,” the bench said, adding, “There is not a single petition before us which says that these farm laws are beneficial”.
Meanwhile, Attorney General KK Venugopal said there are Supreme Court precedents saying that the courts cannot stay legislation. "The Court cannot stay legislation unless it finds that the law is passed without legislative competence and the law violates fundamental rights," Attorney General KK Venugopal said.
"What happened with Haryana CM cannot happen. On 26th January, farmers with their tractors are planning to march down to Rajpath to destroy a day of national importance," said AG KK Venugopal before SC during the hearing on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of farm laws.
The Monday hearing on the pleas by a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde assumes significance as the Centre and the farmer leaders are scheduled to hold their next meeting on January 15.
Farm laws: What happened so far
The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on January 7 appeared heading nowhere as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws while the farmer leaders said they are ready to fight till death and their 'ghar waapsi' will happen only after 'law waapsi'.
The top court, which had observed that there is no improvement on the ground regarding farmers' protests, was told by the Centre on the last date of hearing that "healthy discussions" were going on between the government and the unions over all the issues and there was good chance that both sides may come to a conclusion in the near future.
The court had then assured the government of an adjournment on January 11 provided it urges so saying that the settlement through talks was a possibility.
"We understand the situation and encourage consultation. We can adjourn the matters on Monday (January 11) if you submit the same due to the ongoing consultation process,” it had said.
After the eighth round of talks, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said no decision could be reached as the farmer leaders did not present alternatives to their demand for the repeal of the laws.
On Saturday, a farmers' body, Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA), moved the top court in support of the three laws and sought impleadment in the matter.
It said the laws are “beneficial” to farmers and will enable increased income and growth of agriculture.
The apex court had earlier issued notice and sought the Centre's response on a batch of pleas against the three contentious farm laws -- the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
While hearing the pleas on the issue of farmers' protest, the top court had on December 17 said that the agitation should be allowed to continue “without impediment” and this court will not “interfere” with it as the right to protest is a fundamental right.
While acknowledging the right to non-violent protest of farmers, the apex court was also of the view that their 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.
In its December 17 order, the bench had said, “We clarify that this court will not interfere with the protest in question. Indeed the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order. There can certainly be no impediment in the exercise of such rights as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to the life and properties of other citizens and is in accordance with law."
"We are of the view at this stage that the farmers' protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police," it said.
The farmers' protest
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are staying put at various border points of Delhi since late November last year to protest against the laws.
Enacted in September, the three laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.