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SC Suspends Implementation of Contentious Farm Laws; Forms Negotiation Panel

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the implementation of the three controversial farm laws.

“The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act shall be stayed until further notice,” Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said at the end of an hour-long virtual court hearing.

“If there is a victory at all, it is the victory of fair play,” Bobde corrected senior advocate Harish Salve responding to an apprehension expressed by the latter that the stay should not be misconstrued as a “political victory” of sorts.

The stay on the implementation of the laws means the Centre cannot, for the time being, proceed with any executive action on the basis of the three laws.

The government has been vouching for the laws as major reforms in the agriculture sector to remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. The government has even projected the laws as an antidote to lowering demands during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, protesting farmers consider the laws as a key to an exploitative regime that would ultimately lead to the loss of their lands.

The court formed an expert committee, comprising Bhupinder Singh Mann, agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, former director of National Academy of Agricultural Research Management Dr. Pramod Kumar Joshi and Anil Ghanwat of Shetkari Sangathan, to hear the apprehensions of the farmers against the laws. The committee will report back to the court.

Some farmers’ bodies had on Monday declining to cooperate with its committee.

“There is no power on earth which can prevent us from forming the independent committee. We want to solve the problem. We want to understand the ground situation. This is not politics. You have to cooperate,” Bobde told the farmers’ side.

He said the committee has been formed to facilitate negotiations on the laws.

“This is not an empty suspension of the laws… All people who want to genuinely resolve the problem should go to the committee … We are willing to suspend the law, but not indefinitely and without any activity on the ground. We don’t want inactivity. We want to hear you tell the committee which part of the law needs to be changed, etc. You can go one by one and tell the committee what your problems are,” Bobde said.

The court also issued a formal notice on an application by the Centre for an injunction order against farmers holding any tractor/trolley/vehicle march that may disrupt the Republic Day celebrations.

It also asked attorney general K.K. Venugopal to find out whether any outlawed organisation has infiltrated the farmers’ protest and file an affidavit in this regard. The government side alleged there were reports that ‘Khalistanis’ have infiltrated the protests.

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