Farmers protest: SC indicates constituting a committee to resolve deadlock

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New Delhi, Dec 16 (PTI) The Supreme Court Wednesday indicated that it may form a committee having representatives of the government and farmer unions across the country to resolve the deadlock over farmers protesting at several roads near Delhi borders against the three new agri laws saying 'it may become a national issue'.

“Your negotiations have not worked apparently. It is bound to fail. You are saying you are willing to negotiate,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Mehta, who is representing the Centre replied, “Yes, we are willing to talk to farmers”.

When the apex court asked the solicitor general to give names of the farmer organisations, which are blocking the roads on Delhi borders, he said he can give the names of those with whom Government is holding discussions.

'There are members of Bharatiya Kisan Union and other organizations who are talking to the government”, Mehta said adding that government is talking with the protesting farmer organisations and he can give those names to the court.

He also said “now, it appears that others have taken over the farmers protest,.” The law officer said farmers and government are engaging in talks and government was and is ready for the talks.

“Difficulty is their (farmers) approach that you either repeal these Acts or we will not talk. They had come with placards of yes or no during the talks. Ministers were talking with them and they wanted to discuss the issue with farmers but they (leaders of farmer organisations) turned their chairs and showed their back with placards of yes or no,” Mehta added.

Taking note of submissions, the top court told the advocates appearing for different parties as to what it tentatively proposes to do.

“We will form a committee to resolve the dispute. We will have members of the government, members from farmer organisations in it. This may soon become a national issue. We will have members from farmer organisations from rest of India also. You propose list of names of committee members” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

Multiple pleas have been filed in the top court seeking a direction to authorities to immediately remove the farmers, saying commuters are facing hardships due to the road blockades and the gatherings might lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. The apex court issued notices to the Centre and others on a batch of petitions seeking removal of farmers camping at borders of Delhi and amicable solution of the dispute.

In a hearing conducted via video conferencing, the bench directed the petitioners to make protesting farmer unions parties to the pleas and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.

The law officer said that positive and constructive talks were going on and 'government will not do anything which is against the interest of farmers'.

The bench asked petitioners which include a law student Rishabh Sharma, lawyer Reepak Kansal, who have sought removal of protestors and advocate G S Mani, who has sought amicable settlement of dispute and opening of blockades, to array farmers unions as party in the matter.

“We will issue notice and it will be returnable tomorrow as courts are closing after Friday,” the bench said.

The bench asked Mehta to submit the names of protesting farmers union and asked the petitioners to array them as parties.

At the outset, advocate Om Prakash Parihar, appearing for petitioner Rishabh Sharma, said that the roads are blocked at Delhi borders by the protesting farmers which is causing inconvenience to the public.

He referred to October 7 order of the top court, delivered on a petition filed by advocate Amit Sahni against the blockade of a road in the Shaheen Bagh area here by those protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which said public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely.

The bench said there cannot be any precedent in a matter of law and order situation and cannot pass orders without hearing all the parties. Petitioner G S Mani told the bench that he has land in Tamil Nadu and do farming whenever he goes to his native place and referred to the issue of farmers’ suicide.

Mani said that he want the issue to be resolved amicably through talks and a peaceful solution to this problem.

The bench told Mehta that most of these petitions before it appears to be ill-conceived and “We don’t see any legal issue being raised before us in these petitions except that freedom of movement in the territory of India is blocked, which is caused by the people who are not before us”.

It said that the only person before the court is the person who has blocked the roads and it's the government authorities.

The bench said, “Who has prevented these farmers from coming to Delhi?” to which Mehta said that it is police who has done so.

“You are the only party before us” the bench told to Solicitor General.

Several rounds of formal talks have taken place between the Centre and the representatives of thousands of protesting farmers since November last week, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, but the deadlock has continued with the unions sticking to their main demand for a repeal of the three contentious laws and repeatedly rejecting the government's offer to make certain changes in the legislations and give written assurances or clarifications on a few issues such as the minimum support price (MSP) and the 'mandi' (wholesale market) system. PTI ABA MNL SJK MNL RKS RKS