NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its "disappointment" at the way the Centre is handling the farmers' protest, bluntly telling it that the court may step in if the government cannot control the crises.
"Tell us whether you will put the laws on hold or else we will do it, what is the ego here," remarked Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde who is hearing a bunch of petitions on the farmers' protest.
The Bench noted that there is no improvement on the ground as every round of talks has resulted in a stalemate. It, however, made it clear that it would not at this stage go into the question of constitutionality of the laws.
Finally, CJI Bobde abruptly adjourned the hearing for Tuesday without passing any order.
To the farmers, he said that an order of stay on the implementation of the laws would not mean they have to call off their protests, pack up and go home. “Even after we stay the implementation of the laws, you [farmers] can carry on with the protest. We don’t want any criticism that the court is stifling the protest,” the CJI observed.
Censuring the government’s two top law officers for claiming that majority of the farmers support the farm laws, the CJI said: "We don't know whether you are part of the solution or the problem. There is not a single petition here which says the laws are beneficial....If the laws are put on hold, negotiations before the committee will be much better."
He also questioned the government's "insistence" on implementing the laws first, wondering why they were brought without proper consultations.
Senior advocates Dushyant Dave, Colin Gonsalves, H S Phoolka and Prashant Bhushan suggested that former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha could head the committee to resolve the stand-off. The court, however, said it would choose from a panel of names; the government has promised to come back on this on Tuesday.
On the lawyers telling the court that they would have to first discuss with their clients, the Kisan Ekta Morcha was quick to clarify that none of the farmer unions under its coordination has gone to the court, nor did they empower any lawyer to commit on their behalf.
Attorney General K K Venugopal protested when the court hinted at a stay on the three controversial laws saying that it would be a "drastic decision," since none of the farmer leaders, during the discussions, had shown a single provision which was unconstitutional.
“Mr Attorney general, sorry to say, we may be taking a decision because you, the Union of India, did not take responsibility. You were not able to resolve the problem... You should have been able to resolve the strike, but you did not,” the CJI reacted.
“The situation has gone from bad to worse, people have committed suicide. Why are the old and the women part of the agitation in this weather,” the CJI asked and appealed to them to return home.
"Tell them the Chief Justice of India wants them to go home....Whether you have faith in us or not, we are the Supreme Court of India and we will do our job."
Towards the end of the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta remarked that the court had made “harsh” observations. The CJI responded: “Why do you say ‘harsh’? It was the most innocuous observation made.”
When Mehta insisted that "we did our best," the CJI adjourned the hearing, saying “Alright, alright... you did your best, but it did not seem to have any effect.”
The court is apprehensive of an outbreak of violence if the issue lingers without any solution. “We ourselves do not claim to know how to resolve every situation. We are only trying to defuse the tension and make the atmosphere more conducive for negotiations. We are a constitutional court... Who is going to be responsible if this sabre-rattling goes on," the CJI asked, adding that everybody, including the court, would be responsible if any violence breaks out.
“Each one of us is responsible. The responsibility is on all of us, including the Supreme Court, that there will be no bloodshed. We don’t want any blood on our hands. There should be no violence. A stray incident can spark violence,” the court underlined.