The Government should accept the Supreme Court’s wise suggestion

Justice Markandey Katju-

Justice Markandey Katju

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

In the hearing before it yesterday(Dec. 17) relating to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, the Supreme Court gave a very sensible via media to resolve the present impasse. Since the farmers are insisting that the 3 laws enacted by Parliament be withdrawn, but the government seems adamant that it will not do so, the reasonable compromise formula appears to be what has been suggested by the Supreme Court, viz. the government should withhold implementation of these laws, so as to facilitate a dialogue for reaching an amicable settlement.

The learned Attorney General said he will have to take instructions from the government before responding to this suggestion by the court. The ball is now in the court of the government, and I strongly urge it to accept the wise suggestion of the Court.

One can understand that immediate repeal of the 3 laws to which the farmers are objecting may be perceived by the government as a loss of face. There is a principle of administration that the govt must not surrender before pressure, because if it does so, it will be perceived as a weak govt, and then more pressures and demands will come.

However, the Supreme Court has not asked the govt to repeal the 3 laws, but only withhold their implementation. This can be done by the govt by issuing an Ordinance. Thereafter a Farmers Commission can be constituted having as its members’ representatives of the farmers’ organizations, govt representatives, and agricultural experts. This body may hold several meetings, maybe over several months, and when a consensus is reached, acceptable to all parties, the same can be implemented by suitable legislation.

This via media should be acceptable to both sides. The govt can say that the 3 laws have not been repealed, and the farmers can say they will not be implemented. This will amount to a partial win-win solution for both.

I, therefore, implore the govt and the farmers’ organizations to immediately accept this wise suggestion of the Supreme Court to resolve the present impasse. The alternative, I fear, is something like Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg in January 1905, or like Vendemiarie in Paris in October 1795 when the mob was dispersed by a ‘whiff of grapeshot’ from Napoleon’s cannons.