Supreme Court’s lawyer Sanjoy Ghose discussed his reading of the farm law episode so far, and the implications of farmers’ tractor rally on India’s Republic Day occasion. Below are edited excerpts.
Q: What is your assessment of the way the farm law episode has played out so far? The story has witnessed huge agitation by farmers from Punjab, Haryana as well as the Supreme Court’s unprecedented intervention…
Sanjoy Ghose: It is unfortunate the episode has played out this long. Maybe farmers could have accepted the government’s latest moratorium offer which seemed reasonable. But then it would be unfair to blame the farmers since the government in the past has repeatedly backed out on its assurances.
At the end of the day, only the government is responsible for creating its own mess, it should have brought the legislation after much more debate with the concerned stakeholders, and it should have taken them along all this while.
Q: Farmers are staging tractor rallies on Republic Day occasion. What signal does it send?
Sanjoy Ghose: The farmers’ tractor rally should not be seen in enmity of the Republic Day parade. Both these rallies add to the beauty and the grace of India’s constitution. Farmers’ rally is a beautiful expression of dissent in a democracy. One should be proud of the fact that the tanks and tractors will stand side by side and welcome the new republic.
Q: Do you have any fears about anti-social elements in this protest? A lot has been talked about…
Sanjoy Ghose: It is important to ensure the rally is not disrupted for any reason since it will be neither beneficial to farmers nor government. If that happens, only anti-social elements will come out victorious. So far farmers have staged protests extremely well without causing any major disruptions. I am hopeful the tractor rally would go peacefully.
Q: Where is this episode eventually headed?
Sanjoy Ghose: It will be difficult to speculate how this story unfolds further. One scenario could be farmers striking a truce with the government over its latest proposal to suspend laws somewhere down the line. While the farmer community has not accepted the offer as yet, no one is privy to the backdoor discussions between the government and the farmers. At the same time, it seems unlikely that the government will agree to the complete repeal of the legislation. But the future is fraught with a lot of uncertainty.
Q: What do you think about the role of the Supreme Court from here on?
Sanjoy Ghose: The Supreme Court will have a limited role to play from here. It can strike down the regulation only if it finds the law in violation of the Constitution. The court-appointed committee to resolve the deadlock will too have a limited say, for it can’t give out any verdict per se.
Q: What learnings does this episode have for the government?
Sanjoy Ghose: The simple learning for the government is that it should bring in any legislation only after extensive consultations. It should not implement laws in haste. The issue today is not much about constitutionality or legality of the law as much as it became about its acceptability.
When a doctor proposes a radical treatment to the patient, s/he buys in the latter’s confidence. S/he tells the patient the pros and cons of the treatment, he tells why that treatment is necessary, and what are its implications? Similarly, before applying any law tomorrow, the government must extensively debate with the concerned stakeholders. Discussion is a healthy sign of democracy!