SC questions Centre’s opposition on its suggestion to stay implementation of farm laws

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New Delhi, Jan 11 (PTI) The Supreme Court Monday questioned the Centre’s vehement opposition to its suggestion that the implementation of three new farm laws be held back for the time being so as to help find an amicable solution to the ongoing farmers’ protest against them at Delhi borders.

While rapping the Centre for its handling of farmers' protest against the new laws, the apex court said that either the implementation of these statutes be held back or the top court itself will proceed to do so on the recommendation of a court-appointed committee which is to be constituted.

“We don't see why there is an insistence on implementation of the law,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said, adding, “We are not experts on economy and you (Centre) tell us whether you are going to hold on these laws or we will do this”.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, that a law cannot be stayed unless the court finds it violates fundamental rights or constitutional schemes.

“A law cannot be stayed by the Supreme Court unless the Lordships find that it violates the fundamental rights or constitutional schemes. Law has to be without the power to legislate, only then it can be stayed. No petitioners have raised any such issues,” Venugopal said.

The bench however observed, “We are doing this because you have failed to solve the problem. The Union of India has to take the responsibility. The laws have resulted into a strike and now you have to solve the strike”.

The bench also said, “Of course, usually we are against stay of any laws”.

The top court said it may stay the implementation of these laws as talks between the government and farmers are “breaking down” because the Centre wants to discuss these legislations point by point, while the farmers want them to be repealed.

When the Attorney General said that laws cannot be stayed in such manner, the bench said, “We are at this position. We are sorry to say that you have not been able to solve this problem. You as the Union of India has failed to solve the problem and the agitation.” The bench referred to the apex court's last year order staying the implementation of 2018 Maharashtra law granting reservation to Marathas in education and jobs.

It asked Venugopal to give a list of earlier judgements dealing with the issue of stay on implementation of law.

The bench said that till date it has not been told anything by the Centre on the proposal given by the top court to keep the implementation of these laws at abeyance for some time.

“We are still thinking it is equally important that we stay the implementation of law without staying the laws,” the bench said.

To this, Venugopal said, “This amounts to same thing”.

The top court said it will constitute a committee headed by a former Chief Justice of India to resolve the impasse.

It suggested that stay on implementation of these laws will help the committee in finding solution.

“After the implementation of farm laws are stayed, you can carry on protest and we don't want anyone to say that we stifled the protest,” the bench told the advocates appearing for several farmer organisations.

The apex court, which said it will pass orders on the issue concerning farm laws and farmers' protest in part in the matter, asked the parties to suggest two-three names of former CJIs including former CJI R M Lodha who can head the apex court-appointed panel.

The court 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.

The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on January 7 headed nowhere as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws, while the farmers' leaders said they are ready to fight till death and their 'ghar waapsi' will happen only after 'law waapsi'.

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. PTI SJK ABA MNL SA