The value of the committee of four experts appointed by the Supreme Court in arbitrary fashion in an effort to defuse the national political crisis caused by the prolonged agitation by tens of thousands farmers is questionable.
The farmers are knocking on Delhi’s gates to protest three farm laws recently passed by the Narendra Modi government. In such haste was the regime that it first brought the legislations in the form of ordinance — or executive fiat — in mid-June and then rushed these through Parliament in three days flat by the end of September, short-circuiting and bypassing norms and procedures.
The top court waded into the delicate situation caused by the agitation, which has attracted world attention, when neither the government nor the farmers called for its help, although during negotiations the government’s ministers did tell the farmers’ representatives to try their luck in the Supreme Court if they weren’t satisfied with what the government was offering. The farmers didn’t take the bait. But the court stepped in anyway.
It has held the three laws in abeyance. Maybe, this is in order to appear even-handed. But this is not cutting ice outside government circles. The farmers’ demand is the repeal of the laws, which they see as bad policy, adversely impacting their lives. Evidently, the top court does not understand this. Nor does the SC see that it has no role in determining policy, which is the exclusive domain of the executive.
As per the court, the committee it has brought into being will hear all sides and help the apex court understand whether the farm laws are in the “public interest”. This self-given assignment is outside the top court’s remit. The SC’s job is to determine the constitutionality or otherwise of a legislation, not whether it is in the public interest. That is for the people to decide. When court-appointed experts seek to do so, it is the ayatollah syndrome that looms.
For the sake of record, all the four experts in the committee are strongly pro-government on the agri-laws, and yet the Chief Justice of India expects farmers’ representatives to appear before this committee. Instead of seeming the honest broker, the CJI may be courting disdain. What a pity!