New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday (December 17) acknowledged the right of farmers to non-violent protests and suggested the idea of putting on hold the new farm laws to enable negotiations with agitating farmers. The Centre, however, said that agriculturists would then not come forward for the talks.

The apex court said, “it will not interfere with the farmers’ protest against the three farms laws,” adding “We are of the view at this stage that the farmers’ protest should be allowed to continue without impediment and without any breach of peace either by the protesters or police.” 

The top court asked the Attorney General if the Centre can assure the court that it will not take any executive action on implementation of the laws till the court hears the matter.

The apex court, however, made it clear that the issue of farmers’ protest and the right to move freely of others would be dealt on priority and not the validity of laws at the moment. The SC said it was thinking of setting up an “impartial and independent” panel of agriculture experts and farmer unions to resolve the impasse.

It also said that the court was of the view that the farmers’ right to protest should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies as right to protest cannot mean blockade of the entire city.

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The apex court 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 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.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, however, opposed the suggestion and said if the implementation of the farm laws are put on hold then farmers would not come forward for negotiations.

The top court said it was not asking the Centre to stay the farm laws but only suggesting that its implementation be put on hold for the time being to enable the farmers to talk with the government.

Maintaining that in a democracy, police and authorities have to be given the power to prevent the protestors from infringing the rights of others, the bench said: “Who will take guarantee that if farmers are allowed to enter the city in such high numbers, they will not resort to violence?”

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal and Narendra Singh Tomar to discuss the ongoing farmers’ agitation

The meeting was held at the BJP head office and was also attended by the party’s general secretaries CT Ravi, Dushyant Gautam and Arun Singh among others. It lasted for more than an hour.

According to sources, during the meeting, Shah reviewed the BJP’s outreach programme through press conferences and ‘chaupals’ or open meetings across all districts of the country to allay fears on the new farm laws.

Since the large-scale farmers’ stir began a few weeks ago, the BJP has been organising press conferences and ‘chaupals’ in all the districts of the country on the new agriculture-related bills passed recently by the Centre. The party has planned to hold 700 press conferences and 700 ‘chaupals’ in the coming days.

(With Agency Inputs) 

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