‘Opinion can change’: CJI defends farm panel selection


Days after BKU (Mann) president Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself from the Supreme Court-appointed panel to resolve the impasse over the three farm laws, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde Tuesday was quoted by Bar and Bench as saying that panel members expressing their views on the farm laws before their selection is no ground for disqualification and that their opinion can change.

Mann, president of Bharti Kisan Union (Mann) and chairman of All India Kisan Coordination Committee, had recused himself from the court-appointed panel two days after his induction, saying “I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab”. He allegedly pulled out of the committee following protests over his pro-farm laws stand in the past.

Without taking any names, the CJI said, “There is some confusion in understanding the law. One person may have an opinion before being a part of the committee but his opinion can change. There is no way that such a member cannot be part of a committee.”

“Just because a person has expressed a view on the matter, that is not a disqualification to be a member of committee. Generally, there is a peculiar lack of comprehension about constitution of a committee. They are not judges,” he added.

The Supreme Court had on January 11 stayed the implementation of the three laws, against which farmers are protesting at Delhi borders for over 50 days now, till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse.

The committee comprised Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Dr 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.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti) filed a plea before the top court, asking it to reconstitute the committee as Mann has recused himself and other members — Ashok Gulati, Pramod Kumar Joshi and Anil Ghanwat — have already taken positions in support of the farm laws.

The farmers’ body wondered how these three members could submit a report without bias when they had already backed the laws “made and passed by the Central government without enough discussion with farmers”.

Meanwhile, Anil Ghanwat, a member of the SC-appointed panel, today said the panel members will keep their personal views on farm laws aside while preparing report to be submitted to apex court. The committee will seek views of farmers, agri stakeholders besides central and state governments, Ghanwat said.

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.

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