The Supreme Court hearing on the Centre’s farm reforms and ensuing protests by section of farmers from Punjab and Haryana descended into complete farce today.
The Court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking removal of protesting farmers from Delhi borders, another set of petitions challenging the 3 farm laws, and intervening pleas by farmer organisations which view the new laws as beneficial. In the last hearing on December 17, the CJI Bobde led bench had suggested that Centre should put implementation of the new laws ‘on hold’ to facilitate talks and also mentioned about setting up a ‘neutral committee’ to hold talks.
In today’s hearing, the bench castigated Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal and Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta for the government’s ‘mis-handling’ of the protests and claimed ‘proper consultative process was not followed’ and that ‘many states were up in rebellion.’
The AG clarified that the laws were made on the basis of recommendations of several expert committees which wanted removal of restrictions in the APMC system and to allow direct marketing, among other reforms. He also reminded that court cannot stay a legislation unless the court finds that (1) law is passed without legislative competence (2) law violates fundamental rights (3) law violates other provisions of constitution.
However, the CJI said he was not interested in discussing Constitutionality of the laws, but was concerned about lack of progress in negotiations at this time. If one reads the transcript of what transpired in court today as live-tweeted by legal site LiveLaw, one cannot escape the conclusion that the SC bench’s overriding concern was how the Court’s role would be perceived by protestors, and how to prevent any blame falling on SC if the protests turn violent.
CJI also seemed worried with media reports about parties placing onus on courts to decide on the new farm laws. This should be seen in context of the Agriculture Minister’s request to protestors to ‘wait for the court’s decision’, after being repeatedly frustrated by the unions’ intransigence and adamant demand to completely repeal the 3 laws. The CJI also took offence to another newspaper article which reportedly mentioned one political party’s (BJP?) stance that ‘Supreme Court should not decide on the policy of the law’.
A similar attitude could be seen when faced with petitions requesting SC’s intervention to remove Shaheen Bagh’s anti-CAA protestors – there too, the court had expressed displeasure at being asked to adjudicate over a ‘law and order’ issue and ended up appointing interlocutors (with serious biases of their own) to ‘negotiate’ with protestors.
The highest judiciary of the country being so apparently concerned with optics, media reporting and pandering to the left-liberal gallery, and not with implementing the law of the land, has now become a worrying pattern. While one can still understand the need for elected governments, which face a non-stop election cycle, to mould responses in a context-sensitive manner, but why does the SC have to bend to any lobby or votebank?
It really calls into question the entire Constitutional model by which this country is run, if laws passed by Parliament can be challenged by any special interest group with capacity to organise street protests and exercise undue influence on judiciary.
Rule by court-appointed committees?
In today’s hearing, the CJI kept going back to his preferred ‘solution’: appoint a ‘neutral’ committee to discuss with farmers and then submit a report to SC, and the laws to be withheld till then. Of course, the choice of committee members suggested in December by CJI like veteran The Hindu journalist and known Modi-baiter like P Sainath really bring into question the judiciary’s understanding of ‘neutrality’.
When the SG tried to intervene, the CJI remarked, “We don’t know if you are part of the problem or solution.” When the SG told the court that many farmers organizations are telling the government that the laws are progressive and good, the CJI said, “We don’t have any single petition before us saying that the laws are good.”
The SG reminded the court that just to appease a minority group of vocal protesters, it cannot stall laws which are beneficial to the majority.
While the CJI was dismissive of the government lawyers, he was very deferential to senior Lutyens’ advocates like Dushyant Dave, Colin Gonsalves, HS Phoolka and Vivek Tankha appearing for protesting farmers groups. Addressing them, the CJI requested them to move protest site once the laws were stayed, stating “We are not against protests. Don’t understand that the Court is stifling protests. But we ask. If after the laws are stayed, will you move the site of protests to accommodate people’s concerns?”
The threat of violence was clearly uppermost on the CJI’s mind, when he stated, “Each one of us will be responsible if something goes wrong….We don’t want anybody’s blood on our hands.” The court seemed to have forgotten its own ruling after the protracted and illegal Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest culminated with the anti-Hindu Delhi riots, where it said – “public places cannot be allowed for indefinite protests which must take place at designated sites. In a parliamentary democracy, there is an avenue of debate.”
For that matter, protests are not new in Bharatiya public life – Jat, Maratha and Gurjar protests for reservation benefits comes to mind in recent times. Some resulted in violence, while others were resolved through negotiations with government or by approaching courts. But no where did one see this kind of blackmail of the entire state machinery, and bypassing the legislative entirely to set up court-appointed Committees to decide on laws.
When senior advocate PS Narasimha, appearing for an intervenor, argued that there are many other farmers organizations which see the laws as beneficial, and the court did not have their perspective, the CJI said, “Mr.Narasimha, even if your argument is valid, it does not help the situation which is on ground now.”
Pleas by others like Adv. MP Devnath, appearing for Confederation of All India Traders, who demanded the implementation of laws, or another counsel appearing for Consortium of South India Consumers who also urged courts not to stay implementation of laws, were dismissed by the CJI, stating, “Can you persuade the Punjab farmers who have been protesting for two months? No, right? Let the committee look into it…..We are staying the implementation only to facilitate the talks before the Committee.”
When the AG remarked whether farmers would show the same adamance and churlishness in front of the Committee that they have displayed in multiple rounds of talks with the government, and questioned the utility of the Committee unless protestors revealed their exact grievances (which they have refused to divulge to the Government), the CJI said, “We trust senior advocates like Prashant Bhushan, Dave, Phoolka, Gonsalves etc will tell the farmers about the real purpose of the Committee. We are not creating an alternative forum.”
In essence, the CJI is trusting one of the same lawyers (Prashant Bhushan) who the SC itself had found guilty of contempt of court a mere 4 months back!
CJI then asked for suggestions for a previous CJI to be part of the Committee, to which Dushyant Dave suggested former CJI RM Lodha’s name. Lodha, who was CJI from April to Sept 2014, had clashed with the Modi government during his brief stint over the NDA government’s rejection of UPA-era Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium’s candidature as SC judge. Post retirement he has also been critical of the signature CAA law passed by the Modi government.
Clearly, the higher judiciary is surrounded by and influenced by powerful Congress-ecosystem lawyers like Kapil Sibal, Dushyant Dave, Prashant Bhushan, Rajiv Dhawan, Sanjay Hegde et al who cajole or browbeat the judiciary into doing their bidding, and can even go to the extent of threatening a CJI with impeachment like was done to Dipak Mishra.
We share below some twitter comments on today’s hearing in Supreme Court, which we are sure will resonate with many –
@brakoo – “If you go through this entire thread, you’ll feel we are in the hands of an ad-hoc system and we are governed by random musings of the day which may well be an outcome of getting up on the wrong side of the bed. What a pity.”
@Ananth_Krishna_ – “The Poor AG has to educate the court on how exactly the most basic of legal principles work…The demystification of Supreme Court is reducing the veneer of dignity, knowledge and confidence it had in the mind of the people. This will not end well.”
@I_Am_Raj_Nair – “Will you pls move a little, a little please, jara sa jagah dedo pls, we are not against freedom of speech, pls don’t write against us in NYT, Wapo aur humara naam kharab math karo pls, aap protestor bahut ache kaam kar rahe hon, jara sa humare gaadi ko paas karne ka jagah dedo.”
@cbkwgl – “Translation: If implementation of law impacts order on the roads, we will prefer order to law. Implication: Because you didn’t riot and harm order, your voice need not be heard, even if it is legally right.”
@gautambhatia88 – “Darbaar jurisprudence. Everything depends on the will of whomever sits on that chair, and that will can change every five minutes.”
@Ateendriyo – “Folks like Bhushan, Dave, Phoolka who have been rather economical with the truth will not do anything or that sort. The SCI doesn’t seem ready to realize, but for the short term mental comfort of no protests, it’s given up a large part of Indian democracy over to the wolves.”
@barbarindian – “The Indian Supreme court derives its power from globalists. Therefore, it can do flagrantly anti-constitutional things and get away with it as long as globalists support the action. As a result, India is not a truly sovereign state….All this because the dude got photographed with a motorcycle and Soros backed NGOs rained down on him.”
@thesuniljain – “Now that Supreme Court will suspend @narendramodi farm laws till a panel it sets up decides the way forward, what are other laws — including tax ones — we can get suspended? Just keep in mind that, to be successful, we need to b able to gherao capital, so need tractors, etc”
No country can progress if its institutions are not aligned with its people. In Bharat, what we are seeing today is that 3 of the institutions – judiciary, media, bureaucracy (key branch of executive) – upon which any country depends, are acting as colonial entities who have to ‘civilize’ or ‘transform’ their subjects. These institutions have fashioned themselves as guardians of an esoteric Constitutional morality that only they have the right to interpret. The will of the people is dismissed as ‘majoritarianism’.
At the heart of this behavior is an elite ruling class that is loosely termed ‘Lutyens’ Delhi’ – the geographic location is not important, these left-liberal Indian globalists can be found in other metros and even in foreign academia and think tanks. This class controls public discourse, and exercises outsize influence on all facets of our life – from education, culture, international relations, diplomacy, defense, personal law, religion – and even controls how Bharatiya big business conducts its philanthropy.
The threat to the sovereignty of the people of Bharat is very real, and it comes mainly from this deracinated, power hungry and arrogant elite which might have lost access to government corridors after May 2014, but which still controls many levers of power. Reforming the Indian judiciary to make it accountable to the people of Bharat has to be one of the top agenda items for all of us.
(Featured image source: Live Law)
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