January 22, 2021

Sambaad Patra

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Farm talks likely to have positive result: Govt to SC – Times of India

3 min read

NEW DELHI: Optimistic about a positive outcome from ongoing negotiations with protesting farm unions, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday it would be inadvisable to commence hearing on petitions challenging the contentious farm laws as that could lead to hardening of positions and derail discussions.
The Centre’s response was articulated by attorney general K K Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta immediately after a three-judge bench headed by CJI S A Bobde said, “We want to take up hearing of the pending petitions as there appears to have been no improvement in the situation at all.”
The bench’s proposal to begin the hearing from January 10 was politely opposed by Mehta, who said a “healthy discussion” was going on between the government and the farmers. “When the negotiations are ongoing, it would be inadvisable to commence hearing, which would require the government to file affidavits responding to the petitions,” he said. Spelling out positions could mean taking a formal view on the unions’ demands, including the call for repeal of the farm laws, he added.
Venugopal elaborated on the Centre’s reservation against starting the hearing at this time while indicating that negotiations may bear fruit. “There are chances of the parties coming to some conclusion. So, filing an affidavit by the Centre will close that (window of positive outcome),” he added.
The bench of CJI Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian understood the predicament the government would find itself in if hearings were started on the pending petitions. The CJI said, “We will always encourage talks for a negotiated settlement. We will adjourn the hearing on Monday if the AG informs us on that day that the talks are proceeding.”
Before the winter break, the CJI-led bench had tried to break the ice between the Centre and the protesting farmers, who are firm on repeal of the laws and have been camping on the Delhi border for more than 40 days, by suggesting a negotiation committee comprising representatives from government, protesting farmers and independent experts. It had given liberty to the government to even seek urgent hearing on this issue during the winter break if the need arose.
On December 17, the SC asked the Union government to consider deferring implementation of the farm laws as a step towards resumption of dialogue with farm unions, while observing that farmers had a constitutional right to protest but they could not impede citizens’ right to free movement.
The court’s suggestion to defer implementation of the farm laws was met with “it is not possible” response from the AG and the SG. With no farmers union represented before the SC, the CJI-led bench could do little on December 17 to push for a negotiated settlement. But if the negotiations do not fructify, then the SC will have to take up hearing and decide the validity of the farm laws.
Importantly, during the last hearing, the bench had said it would not interfere with the protest. “Indeed the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can, as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order. There can certainly be no impediment in the exercise of such rights as long as it is non-violent and does not result in damage to the life and properties of other citizens and is in accordance with law. We are of the view at this stage that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or the police,” the bench had said.

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