Protesting farmer leaders will seek legal opinion on Friday before taking any position in the Supreme Court case on their agitation seeking repeal of three contentious agricultural reform laws. Most of them are not in favour of impleading themselves in the case, they said.
“After a meeting of the committee plus the Punjab leaders this afternoon, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has decided to consult with four senior Supreme Court lawyers — Dushyant Dave, Prashant Bhushan, Colin Gonsalves, and HS Phoolka — before taking any position on the Supreme Court case”, said K.V. Biju, national coordinator of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh. The seven farm organisations mentioned in the case that were a part of their movement have not yet received any communication from the court, he said.
“The leaders are not in favour of impleading themselves into the case, but we have decided to seek legal opinion first… It is the BJP which is behind this case, so why should we play into their hands?”, Kisan Krantikari Union president Darshan Pal told The Hindu. “In the meanwhile, the agitation will continue. The court itself made it clear that we have every right to continue our protest.”
Farm leaders are worried about the legal precedent set during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) earlier this year. “When a PIL was filed on the anti-CAA protests, the court gave the order to vacate them. If the same thing happens, that will damage our movement,” said a leader, who did not wish to be named.
They also argued that this issue was the domain of the executive, not the judiciary. “The grammar of democratic governance must be articulated by the government. Constitutional institutions like courts exist for checks and balances, not as replacement of the obligations to be performed by the political executive,” said a statement from the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.
Public relations exercises
While the court’s virtual hearing took centre stage on the 22nd day of the protest, both farmers and the Centre engaged in public relations exercises, displaying support for their stances.
At Krishi Bhavan, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar met members of the Federation of Indian Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and Aggregators, representing 500 FPOs in 15 States, who said the three laws had created an enabling environment to benefit small and marginal farmers.
Mr. Tomar also issued an 8-page open letter addressed to farmers. Drawing on his own credentials as the son of a farmer, he made an emotional appeal to farmers not to be misled by the protesters, accusing them of harmful political motivations. In the last six years, a group of people have attempted to bring discontent and anarchy into the country, by hiding behind different groups, whether Dalits, women or minorities, said the letter. “Today, these people once again sneak up behind the farmers of the country for their political cause,” it added.
On farmers’ side, a letter was sent to Mr. Tomar from 10 senior academics and experts in agricultural economics arguing that the three laws are harmful to small farmers. “We do believe that improvements and changes are required in the agricultural marketing system for the benefit of millions of small farmers, but the reforms brought by these Acts do not serve that purpose. They are based on wrong assumptions and claims about why farmers are unable to get remunerative prices, about farmers not having freedom to sell wherever they like under the previously existing laws, and about regulated markets not being in the farmers’ interests,” it said.