Udayavni Special

SC irked over aspersions cast on members of court-appointed committee on farm laws


PTI, Jan 20, 2021, 2:13 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday expressed strong displeasure over the aspersions cast by some farmers’ unions on members of the court-appointed committee to resolve the impasse over new farm laws and said it has not given any adjudicating authority to the panel.

The Centre, meanwhile, withdrew its petition seeking injunction against the proposed tractor rally by farmers on the Republic Day after the apex court said it was police matter.

On the issue pertaining to the committee, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said it had appointed experts in the panel as the judges are not experts on the subject.

Controversy had erupted after the apex court appointed the four-member committee as some of the members had earlier reportedly expressed their views and favoured the contentious farm laws, following which one of the members had recused himself.

“Where is the question of bias in this? We have not given adjudicating powers to the committee. You don’t want to appear is understandable, but casting aspersions on someone because he expressed his view is not done. You don’t need to brand anybody like this,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

“Everyone should have an opinion. Even judges have opinion. This has become a cultural thing. Branding people which you do not want has become a norm. We have not given any power of adjudication to the committee,” the bench said.

During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the Centre withdrew its plea seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor rally on January 26 by farmers protesting against the new farms laws after the top court said “it is a police matter”.

The police has the “authority” to deal with the issue pertaining to the proposed tractor march in Delhi on the Republic Day, the bench said.

“We have told you that we will not issue any direction. It is a police matter. We will allow you to withdraw. You are the authority and you have to deal with it. You have the powers to pass orders, you do it. It is not for the court to pass orders,” the bench said.

After the observation of the apex court, the Centre withdrew the plea filed through Delhi Police seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor or trolley march or any other kind of protest which seeks to disrupt the gathering and celebrations of the Republic Day.

On January 12, the top court had stayed the implementation of the contentious new farm laws till further orders and constituted the four-member committee to make recommendations to resolve the impasse over them between the Centre and farmers’ unions protesting at Delhi borders.

The members of the court-appointed committee were — Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President of Bhartiya Kisan Union, All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Parmod Kumar Joshi, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sanghatana.

Later, Mann had recused himself from the committee after the controversy.

The top court had on January 12 said it would hear the pleas against the farm laws after eight weeks when the committee would give its suggestions to resolve the impasse after talking to the protesters and the government.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.

Enacted in September 2020, the government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers’ income, but the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and “mandi” (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out a repeal of the laws.

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