The Supreme Court on Wednesday said talks between the Centre and farmer leaders on the controversial agricultural laws had broken no ground and were bound to fail.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde proposed setting up a committee of farmer leaders from across the country, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), which has been at the forefront of the protests, and representatives of the Central government.
“The committee can talk and resolve this issue. Secure the names of some farmers’ unions who want to join... It should include BKU and other farmer leaders. They should be drawn from across the country. It affects all and this will soon become a national issue,” Chief Justice Bobde said.
The court has impleaded BKU (Rakesh Tikait), BKU-Sidhupur (Jagjeet S. Dallewal), BKU-Rajewal (Balbeer Singh Rajewal), BKU-Lakhowal (Harinder Singh Lakhowal), BKU-Dakaunda (Buta Singh Burjgill), BKU-Doaba (Manjit Singh Rai) and Kul Hind Kisan Federation (Prem Singh Bhangu).
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, said the farmers had turned their backs on the government’s efforts to talk.
“The government is ready and was ready. But they [farmers] say ‘either you repeal or not repeal’ . They came to talks with placards saying ‘yes or no’. Ministers tried to talk, but they turned their chairs and sat with their backs turned to the Ministers.... It is my duty to tell this court some other interests have taken over... We want a positive, constructive talk on a clause-to-clause basis,” Mr. Mehta submitted.
“Farmers perceive that it [the legislation] is against them... Your negotiations have not worked, they are bound to fail. If you [government] are willing to negotiate, have some farmer leaders before us who want to negotiate...” Chief Justice Bobde responded.
Thousands of farmers, young and old, from various parts of the country, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have braved the onset of winter and blocked the entry points to the national capital since late November.
The Bench scheduled the case for urgent hearing on December 17.
“December 18 is the last day before we close for vacation,” Chief Justice Bobde said.
The court was hearing three separate petitions filed by lawyers and law students for and against the long blockade caused by the protests. One of them said the protests had restricted the fundamental right to free movement for the public.
However, the court expressed keenness to directly engage with the farmers first, saying they were the people on the ground.
In the absence of the farmers, the Bench turned to the government and asked: “Have you blocked the road?”
“The government has not blocked the road,” Mr. Mehta replied immediately.
“Then who has prevented the farmers from coming...” Chief Justice Bobde asked the law officer.
Advocate Rahul Mehra, for Delhi government, submitted that the farmers were suffering largely in the interest of the country. He said severe winter was setting in.
Mr. Mehta interjected to say that Mr. Mehra was submitting as if he was appearing for the protesting farmers.
Chief Justice Bobde asked the lawyers to take their exchange outside the court while noting that the Delhi government had “nothing to do with the resolution of the dispute [on the farm laws]”.