While several Opposition leaders on Tuesday questioned the composition of the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee to examine the farm laws and backed the farmers’ demand for a repeal, former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar welcomed the court’s decision and called it a “big relief”.
The Congress, however, pointed out that all the four members named by the court had publicly supported the laws enacted by the Narendra Modi government and cannot be expected to be “neutral arbiter”.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Can you expect justice from the people who supported the farm laws? This struggle will continue until the anti-farmer and anti-labour farm laws are repealed. Jai Jawan, Jai Kishan!”
At a press conference, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “We don’t know who gave these names to the honourable Supreme Court. There was a ray of hope in the manner and fashion in which it came out and stood in support of the farmers. Perhaps nobody pointed out the background of the members or the fact they stand for the implementation of these laws.”
Asked if the party wanted the court to take another look at the names, Mr. Surjewala said it is up to the top court.
He also distanced the party from one of the committee members — Bhupinder Mann — who is supposed to have backed the Congress during the 2017 Assembly polls in Punjab.
Congress ally and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who held the agriculture portfolio during the tenure of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), welcomed the move.
“A welcome decision taken by the apex court to put on hold the implementation of three farm bills and set up a four-member committee to resolve the issues. It is a big relief for farmers and I hope that a concrete dialogue between the Central government and farmers will be initiated now, keeping the farmers interests and well being in mind,” he said in a series of tweets.
Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, in a series of tweets, said: “The concern expressed by the Supreme Court over the farmers’ protests is justified and welcome in the situation created by a stubborn government. The decision to form a committee to help find a solution is well-intentioned. However, the composition of the committee is puzzling and sends contradictory signals”.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said given the views of the expert committee, farmers have no option but to boycott it.
“Can anyone expect the protesting farmers demanding repeal of agri laws to talk to such a committee? Why should they? Farmers are left with no other option than to boycott it?” he tweeted.
CPI general secretary D. Raja told The Hindu that the constitution of the committee by the court after issuing a stay on the implementation raises serious questions.
“As a political party, we are with the farmers and we reiterate our position that the laws should be repealed,” Mr. Raja said. Trinamool leader in the Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien also reiterated the party’s stand of “withdrawing the draconian anti-farmer laws”.
Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, in a statement, said the composition of the committee is only provocative.
“The issue is essentially one of policy involving a major political decision based on the broadest national consensus and is clearly a function of political rather than a judicial process. Even otherwise, the question of enforceability of its policy related judgments concerning political sensitivities has caused enough embarrassment to the court in the past, apart from raising issues about the advisability of the top court entering the political thicket contrary to its own pronouncements,” Mr. Kumar said.