Supreme Court says that the representatives of all the farmers’ bodies, whether they are holding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws shall participate in the deliberations of the committee and put forth their views.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of all three farm laws and formed a committee comprising B.S. Mann, Pramod Kumar Joshi, Ashok Gulati and Anil Dhanwant, to examine them.

“We are staying three farm laws until further orders,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde said, announcing the order.

The court also issued notice to farmers’ associations over Delhi Police’s plea seeking injunction against holding a tractor rally on the Republic Day.

The implementation of the three farm laws—Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act,2020; Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020—shall stand stayed until further orders, the top court said

The Supreme Court in its order also said that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system in existence before the enactment of the farm laws shall be maintained until further orders.

In addition, the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the farm laws, the court added

The Supreme Court in its order further said that a committee comprising of Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee, Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, president, Shetkari Sanghatana, is constituted for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the farmers relating to the farm laws and the views of the government and to make recommendations. 

This committee shall be provided a place as well as secretarial assistance at Delhi by the government. All expenses for the committee to hold sittings at Delhi or anywhere else shall be borne by the Central government, the court added.

The court also said that the representatives of all the farmers’ bodies, whether they are holding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws shall participate in the deliberations of the committee and put forth their view points. 

The committee shall, upon hearing the government as well as the representatives of the farmers’ bodies, and other stakeholders, submit a report before this court containing its recommendations, the court added.

This shall be done within two months from the date of its first sitting. The first sitting shall be held within ten days from today, the court said

During the hearing, the CJI said: “We want the farmers to go to the committee. Members of the bar who are officers of the court are expected to show some loyalty to the court. You cannot accept the court when it suits you and reject it when it doesn’t suit you.” 

“You will have to co-operate with us. You cannot tell your clients all negative things. We want to solve the problem. We want to know the ground situation. There is no power that can stop us from forming the committee,” the court added.

The CJI also observed that “We are not seized of matters of life and death. We are considering validity of the laws. We are trying to solve a problem in the best way we know.”

“One of the powers we have is to suspend the legislation. But it should not be empty suspension of legislation without any purpose. We want to set up a committee which will submit a report to us. All of the people who genuinely want the problem to be solved are expected to go before the committee,” the CJI added.

Appearing for farmers’ organisation, advocate A.P. Singh said: “I have sent a message to my client BKU Bhanu about what you have said about participation of old persons and women. BKU Lokshakti and BKU Bhanu are organisations from Haryana. Have said old persons and women will not participate in the protests anymore.”

The CJI said, “We are recording your statement.”

Advocate AP Singh replied:“I’m saying on behalf of BKU Bhanu and Lok Shakti that women, old persons and children will not sit at Chilla border protests.”

Senior advocate Harish Salve appeared forthe petitioner and said:“Please note the absence of Dave, Phoolka and Gonsalveswhile lordships are setting up committee. Let there be an objective report. Nothing will be achieved. They have said they won’t participate in the process till the laws are withdrawn.”

“It’s a matter of public record that Khalistan supporting organisation Sikhs for Justice is present there in the protest. They have put their posters and banners there. They organise rallies for Khalistanis,” Salve added.

The CJI asked where is this on record? Who has said this organisation is there? Salve said petitions have pointed it out. 

The CJI asked the AG that there is an allegation made that there is a banned organization helping the protest. “Will AG confirm this?”

The AG replied: “We have intelligence inputs that Khalistanis have infiltrated the protest. It’s a huge law and order situation. So far as Karnataka and Kerala are concerned, there is huge support for these three laws; more than 1 lakh people are there. No way to control which route they will take. There is no question of letting them inside Delhi,” the AG added.

The CJI said that it’s within the power of the police to see how many people they will allow inside and check whether they are armed or not. “We are asking you to confirm or deny the allegations that banned organisations have infiltrated the protest. You file an affidavit on this issue.”

The AG pointed out affidavit filed by the government on Monday. He also argued that the Centre has filed plea to pass injunction order against any tractor rally on 26 January. The CJI said: “We will hear that issue on Monday.”

The Supreme Court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking removal of protesting farmers from Delhi borders. The court also heard another set of petitions challenging the three farm laws.