A Via Media Solution

Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

A meeting was held in Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi on December 1, between the representatives of 35 farmers organizations and Ministers representing the Central Government. Despite several hours of talks, they were inconclusive, and the next talks have been fixed for tomorrow, 3rd December.

The agitating farmers are demanding the repeal of the three recent laws relating to farmers, but the government seems unwilling to agree, resulting in an impasse.

I submit that a reasonable via media can be that both parties agree that the laws remain on the statute book, but will not be enforced till the parties after wide negotiations agree to some compromise formula.

For this purpose, the government can issue an Ordinance amending the three laws and stating that they will come into effect only when they are notified in the official gazette. Ordinarily, a law comes into effect as soon as the Bill which has been passed by both Houses of Parliament receives the assent of the President (or the Governor, in case of a state Bill). But some laws specifically state that they will come into effect only when notified in the Official Gazette, or on the happening of some other contingency. These latter are known as conditional legislation. So, the suggestion I am making is that the Central Government should by an Ordinance convert the three farmers laws into conditional legislation. This will be face-saving for the Government as well as for the farmers, who can both claim partial success. The Government can claim that it has not repealed the laws, while the farmers can claim that the laws are not being enforced. The alternative is violence, which seems inevitable if the present confrontation continues.

The Government must realize that if it does not partially relent and agree to this suggestion it will lose a large number of farmers’ votes in future elections (farmers are 60-65% of India’s population).

On the other hand, farmers must not insist on a measure ( i.e. repeal of the three laws ), which will be a total loss of face for the government. In negotiations, both sides need to bend a bit, and not be too rigid and intransigent if there is to be a successful outcome. The farmers must know that in every struggle there is a time to advance, a time for talks, and sometimes a time to retreat.