New Delhi, Jan 20: The Supreme Court Wednesday expressed strong displeasure over the aspersions cast by some farmers' unions on members of the court-appointed committee to resolve the impasse over new farm laws, saying no adjudicating authority has been given to the panel of experts who are "brilliant minds in the field of agriculture".
The top court said that it has serious reservations that committee members were called names and branded, which has "become a cultural thing now".
Meanwhile, the hopes of Delhi Police to get a judicial order to stop the proposed tractor rally by the protesting farmers on the Republic Day in the national capital were dashed as the top court asked the Centre to withdraw the plea, saying it was a police matter and was not an issue for the court to pass orders .
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said, You malign people according to public opinion. I am very disappointed and sorry to see the kind opinion which has been appearing in this press and questioned, How can you malign them just because they have expressed some views in the past?
The bench also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notice and sought response from Centre in two weeks on a separate plea of Kisan Mahapanchayat', a farmers' body from Rajasthan, seeking removal of three remaining members of the apex-court appointed panel and the replacement of Bhupinder Singh Mann, who had recused himself from the panel.
Taking note of submissions of a lawyer that opinions on the panel members have been formed on the basis of media reports about their pro-farm laws views, the bench said, You people unnecessarily cast aspersions. Can the people expressing their views in some other context, be debarred from the committee?
The CJI, who was visibly annoyed, said, One of the committee members Sardar Bhupinder Singh Mann had called for amendments in the law. Does this mean a person expressing his opinion cannot be in a committee? You cannot brand people like this. People should have an opinion. Why should people not have an opinion? Even judges do have and express their opinions .
The bench said, Everyone argues before a judge as if he is arguing on a clean slate but branding people has become a cultural thing now. Even judges express views during hearing. That doesn't mean they can't decide an issue. The Committee was not given any adjudicatory power
It told Chaudhary, appearing for Mahapanchayat', that it was not telling him personally but to his client, which has sought reconstitution of the committee and filing of the vacancy in the committee.
If somebody has expressed an opinion, do you think there is a bias? If you don't want to appear then don't appear. But don't brand people and malign them and on top of that you cast aspersions on the court , the bench said, adding that committee was not given any adjudicating powers but was asked to listen to the grievances of protesters and give us a report. Where is the question of bias in that?"
In a hearing conducted via video-conferencing, the bench said that experts in the field have been appointed on the committee to look after the grievances of parties affected by the new law and moreover, we are not the experts .
The basis of your application is that all four people are disqualified as they have expressed their views. How do you come to that conclusion? They are brilliant minds in the field of agriculture. They are experts. How can you malign them just because they have expressed some views in the past? the bench said.
The CJI said, We have serious reservations that committee members were called names. They were called names and then said the court had an interest in this .
You don't want to appear before the committee is understandable, but casting aspersions on someone because he expressed his view is not done. You don't need to brand anybody like this, a visibly irked CJI remarked.
The controversy had erupted after the apex court appointed the four-member committee as some of the members had earlier reportedly expressed their views and favoured the contentious farm laws, following which one of the members had recused himself.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for some farmers' unions, said that his clients have taken a stand that they will not participate in the meeting of the committee as they wanted the farm laws repealed due to the firm belief that they are against their interests.
On January 12, the top court had stayed the implementation of the contentious new farm laws till further orders and constituted the four-member committee to make recommendations to resolve the impasse over them between the Centre and farmers' unions protesting at Delhi borders.
The members of the court-appointed committee were -- Mann, National President of Bhartiya Kisan Union, All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Parmod Kumar Joshi, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sanghatana.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws -- the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.