New Delhi: The Supreme Court acknowledged the right of agitating farmers to non-violent protests but also made it clear that it should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies while hearing a bunch of petitions on farmers’ movement. 

The apex court asked the farmers to shed their stubbornness and also asked the government not to be in a hurry, besides mooting the idea of putting on hold the contentious farm laws to enable negotiations with agitating farmers. The Centre, however, opposed it saying agriculturists would then not come forward for the talks.

Although the top court simply mooted this suggestion, the question arises can it stop the law passed by Parliament? Notably, whenever such a situation arises in India, the Supreme Court’s verdict is held supreme. Does it hamper the supremacy of Parliament? The DNA report will explain how the balance of power between Parliament and the Supreme Court has been balanced in the Indian Constitution, which in fact holds the supreme position.

As soon the apex court commenced hearing the case on Thursday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the top court that questions can not be answered in ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The government wants someone who can mediate between the two parties to break the impasse, therefore, rather than forming a committee, some well-known people from society can come forward to facilitate this.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, representing the governments of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, said that in the name of protests, arteries of Delhi cannot be blocked as this has started affecting prices of essential commodities in the neighbouring states. On this, Delhi government counsel said there are more than 120 ways to enter the capital.

The Attorney General, however, said that the closure of roads is infringing upon fundamental rights of common people. The farmers have come with preparation to stay for 6 months, and this way roads are blocked only in the times of war. He further submitted that under Article 19 of the Constitution, it is also a violation of people’s freedom of movement from one place to another. 

The Solicitor General further argued that the agitating farmers are not putting on masks, and it may further contribute to the rapid spread of coronavirus, thereby, posing a danger to the health of others.

After hearing these arguments, the Supreme Court said it was worried about the way things are going on, was told by both the Centre and one of the farmers union that the negotiations are not happening at the moment. It also said farmers cannot keep on protesting without talking to the government. The bench, headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, said “You continue the protest. You have the right. But you have a purpose also and that purpose is served only if you talk, discuss and reach a conclusion.” 

The top court said it would pass an order on constituting a committee only after hearing all the parties including the protesting farmer unions and putting on hold the implementation of new agri laws by the Centre would enable negotiations with farmers. The Attorney General, however, opposed the suggestion and said if the implementation of the farm laws is put on hold then farmers would not come forward for negotiations.

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It further said, “We are worried about the plight of farmers. We are also Indian but we are worried about the way things are going on,” adding “they (protesting farmers) are not a mob.” The top court said it will pass orders for serving notices to the protesting farmer unions and give them the liberty to approach the vacation bench during the winter break.

Senior advocate and Congress leader P Chidambaram, appearing for the Punjab government, said the farmers were fighting against the arrogant government and they have been prevented from entering into Delhi. On this, the court said if such a large number of people will come to Delhi, how would they be controlled?

The apex court showed sympathy towards the farmers, and allowed them to continue their agitation, but also imposed a condition that the national capital cannot be held hostage in the name of protests.

Amid the ongoing protests, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote a letter to farmers saying a confusion is being spread about the new agriculture laws and urged them not to get swayed by those who are spreading lies for political gains. In the letter, Tomar said that many farmers across the country have started taking advantage of the new laws, adding that some farmer organizations are creating confusion among farmers about the new agriculture laws.

Tomar wrote, “The confusion regarding laws, MSP, Mandi, and land is being spread. Some people are spreading lies for politics. I used to water my field till late at night, sometimes I used to wait for many days to sell my produce, I am aware of all this. Some people are lying to the farmers that the MSP will be closed.” 

Let us try to understand what will happen if there is a conflict between the Supreme Court and the government over the new agricultural law. Firstly, when the government brings law and the Supreme Court feels that it is violating the fundamentals rights of people then it can reject the law.

Similarly, if the Supreme Court gives a verdict, the government feels that the decision is not right, it can also reverse the apex court decision through Parliament. On many occasions, the Supreme Court has agreed that there is a limit to fundamentals rights.

The Constitution of India has clearly stipulated that the Supreme Court is the custodian of the Constitution, hence, the top court holds the right to review the laws. On many occasions, the Supreme Court has reversed the government decisions, and in many cases, the government too has refused to accept the decisions of the apex court.

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