The Supreme Court has ordered a freeze on the application of the three black farm laws.The historic peasants’ movement continuing in the borders of Delhi for nearly two months braving all odds have been demanding annulment of all the three laws, lock, stock and barrel as they hold that these laws are purported to open up agricultural sector to corporate giants for reckless loot and plunder while the interest of the farmer community would be thoroughly impaired. The BJP led central government has been disgustingly unsympathetic to the peasants’ righteous demand and goes on iterating that the laws have ushered in much needed agricultural reforms which would benefit the peasants. Rightly one columnist in a language daily has referred to a story as an analogy to the situation. One boy scout was asked one day by his leader what good thing he had done on that day. The boy replied in the affirmative but added that it was indeed a tough job. The leader asked what the job was. The boy said he had helped a blind man to cross the street. The leader wondered how could that be a tough job. The boy replied nonchalantly that the blind person did not want to cross the road. The same holds in the case of the farm laws as well. The peasants are saying that they do not want these laws. But the government is bent upon making them believe that free entry of the corporates in crop procurement and contract farming, unbridled power of hoarding food crops by the private operators, abolition of Minimum Support Price (MSP) etc. which are the key aspects of the laws would make the poor and middle peasants prosperous. Then when the defiant peasants marched to Delhi to register protest in the form of a united movement, the government tried all possible coercive means to stop them. Being unsuccessful, the government switched to negotiation mode. But seven rounds of meeting between the peasants’ representatives and the government proved abortive as the peasants stuck to their demand for repealing the laws while the government was only indicating to bring some cosmetic changes in the provisions of the laws but refused to abrogate them. Hence the dilatory tactics of the government did not materialize. Then in the eighth bipartite meet, the government side brought the cat out of the bag and called upon the agitating peasants to accept the verdict of the Supreme Court. Thus the government thought that by playing the Supreme Court card, it would be able to diffuse the spirit of the movement. But the peasants rejected such a proposal stating that they were not fighting for any legal question. They are fighting for their life and livelihood, to secure their existence. Hence, they have not knocked at the door of the court nor have sought any judicial intervention. They have come to the government and expect that the government would honour their just demands and withdraw the laws.
Supreme Court verdict and allied questions
But, apparently in a strange coincidence, a division bench of the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) restored a PIL (Public interest litigation) challenging the constitutional validity of Centre’s newly enacted three farm laws. The same PIL the Apex Court had dismissed earlier in November on a ground that Parliament lacked power to make legislations on the subject as ‘agriculture’ is a state subject in the Constitution. But now pronouncing verdict on the same PIL, the bench suspended the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders and set up a committee comprising only those experts who have been openly favouring the contentious legislations “to help resolve the ongoing farmers’ protest”. “We want to solve the problem and that’s why we are making the committee. One of the powers we have is to suspend the legislation. We have the power to appoint a committee, which will submit to us. All who are genuinely interested in solving the problem can go before the committee”. Notably, the previous day, the Supreme Court had lambasted the Centre for its poor handling of the farmers’ protests and its apparent non-consultative approach. But the agitating farmers felt that the Supreme Court’s intervention to find an “amicable” solution to the impasse between the Centre and farmers was ambivalent at best, as they felt it may end up diluting their fundamental demand. A day later, such speculations proved right when the Supreme Court unilaterally set up a committee and announced its members without any consultation with the peasants’ representatives. The ruling also said that “The representatives of all the farmers’ bodies, whether they are ho lding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws shall participate in the deliberations of the Committee and put forth their viewpoints”. The Apex Court also issued notice to farmers’ unions on a Delhi Police plea to stop a tractor rally during the January 26 Republic Day parade. The judges rebuffed the lawyer for protesting farmers as well as he said farmers would not participate in the committee as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had refused to talk to them. Naturally, the peasants have expressed their displeasure at such a verdict stating that they had never asked for a mediation of the Supreme Court in this struggle against the government. So, they declined to appear before the Committee and declared to carry out the movement until the laws are revoked. Already programmes to escalate the movement including tractor ally in Delhi on 26 January have been announced. It is also reported that Justice R M Lodha, a former CJI who was appointed to head the Committee has declined to accept the offer. Another member, Bhupinder Singh Mann has also opted out of the committee. Obviously, questions have been raised whether the Court is taking a needless risk by stepping out of its judicial comfort zone to quell agitations and untangle policies, without the executive’s resources or mandate. Everyone is aware that of late not just the democratic-minded honest people but even jurists are miffed with the juridical process and even some of the key verdicts.Honourable judges have been expressing wrath and disgust at the way the juridical process is tampered with to give a stamp of legal approval to the whims and dictates of the Executive in the fascist autocratic rule euphemized as democracy. Judicial fraternity has been peeved at some of the recent judgments so much so as to hold that the Court is doing a ‘balancing act’ rather than enforcing the rule of law. Toiling people as well as the peasantry have now realized that the judiciary is also not independent in a capitalist set up but helps to run and protect the capitalist state, obviously and ultimately in the interest of the ruling capitalist class, the other ones being legislature and executive or bureaucracy. There is a dangerous portent inherent in fast spread of extra-judicial reach of the judiciary. That this realization has dawned upon the struggling peasants is one of the important achievements of the ongoing movement against black farm laws. By dismissing the apprehension as to what would happen if the Supreme Court finally gives a ruling against the movement, it can be said for sure that the movement would gain further momentum and frustrate the ploy of the government to break the movement under the pretext of judicial intervention and pronouncements. It is incumbent on the part of the toiling masses of all sections to firmly stand by the struggling peasants and ensure that message of the movement spreads rapidly to every nook and corner of the country. The victory of this movement would herald a new dawn in the struggle for emancipation of the oppressed millions from the stranglehold of capitalist exploitation.