New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday did some plain speaking with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and told him in so many words that the government's negotiations with the protesting farmers are not yielding results and "are bound to fail yet again."
The court suggested that a committee comprising representatives of farmer unions, the government and other stakeholders be set up to resolve the issue. If this does not happen, the simmering protests may "soon become a national issue,’’ the court warned. And with the government, that won't work out.
Removal of blockade
Adjourning to Thursday the hearing on a batch of petitions seeking removal of the farmers’ blockade, a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde said it needs to hear farmers in the case to decide the matter.
The court accordingly directed the Solicitor General to forward names of representatives of some agitating unions, so that they could join as parties in the proceedings before it.
CJI Bobde also pulled up the petitioners: "Why are farmers' associations not a party to the case and without hearing them, how can orders be passed?"
At the protest site, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti leader Satnam Singh Pannu told reporters: "Farmers have a lot of faith in the top court and its integrity is not in question. So, if the court calls us, we will consider going. If the court wants, we are ready to fight the legal battle.’’
The court's candid assessment that the government's negotiations will fail yet again came when the Solicitor General said the government is already engaged in talks with the farmers and that the issue had got complicated because some ‘other’ elements had joined the protests. These ‘others’ had hijacked the protest, he said.
These ‘elements’ were not identified but the Union ministers have been repeatedly dubbing them as urban Naxalites and non-farmers who were trying to wrest control of the agitation.
The Solicitor General assured the court that the "government will do nothing which is against the interests of farmers."
The CJI shot back: "What's the point of saying so when it is adversely impacting them; your negotiations will again fail as they won't agree. Give us names of organisations that can come before us... This will soon become a national issue and will have to be solved through negotiations in a committee."
He said the government's difficulty is that the farmers want a yes or no for answer.
Notice to Centre, 3 states
The court also issued notice to the Centre and the state governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana asking them to respond by Thursday before the court's winter vacations begin. It was examining a batch of pleas seeking a direction to the authorities to immediately remove the farmers from Delhi borders as also a petition seeking to direct the Centre to concede the farmers' demands.
Advocate Om Prakash Prihar, appearing for Delhi law student Rishabh Sharma, argued for opening up the borders in the light of the Shaheen Bagh judgment in which the Supreme Court has held that the roads cannot be blocked. The CJI, however, told him not to compare the two protests since "there can't be any precedent in a law and order situation."
Another petition filed by advocate GS Mani in support of farmers sought a direction to the Central government to consider the demands favourably, ensure basic amenities and prevent any violation of any human and fundamental rights of fellow farmers.