In March, Supreme Court had said the report would be made public on the date of the next hearing of the PIL.
On Wednesday, Anil J Ghanwat, one of the key members of the Supreme Court-appointed panel on the contended farm laws, which have led to ongoing large-scale protests in the country, wrote to the Chief Justice of India, demanding that the country releases the panel’s report in the public domain.
In a letter dated 1st September, Ghanwat said that the committee’s report had addressed all concerns of the farmers and that the panel’s recommendations would make the way to resolve the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
Ghanwat is the president of Shetkari Sanghatana, a Maharashtra-based organization. He was a part of a four-member committee appointed by the Supreme Court after a PIL was filed challenging the constitutional validity of the three laws, and SC had to suspend implementation of the said laws.
The three farm laws are-
● Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
● Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and
● Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
This committee was formed “to listen to the farmers’ grievances on the farm laws and the views of the government and make recommendations”.
On 19th March 2021, after holding 12 rounds of discussions with concerned stakeholders and nine internal meetings, the committee submitted its report in a closed cover to the court before the stipulated time. The information was to be made public on the date of the next hearing of the PIL.
Addressing the fact that the panel incorporated the opinions and suggestions of all the parties involved, Ghanwat said he is “pained that the issue raised by the farmers is not resolved” and that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has not given the report any attention.
Ghanwat believes that the report submitted by the committee ultimately favours the interests of farmers, and the Supreme Court must look into the matter without any further ado.
Apart from Ghanwat, the committee included agri-economist and former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) Ashok Gulati, Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, an agricultural economist the Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute.
The committee also had farm union leader Bhupinder Singh Mann who later recused himself as he didn’t want to “compromise farmers’ interests”.
Giving comments on Ghanwat’s letter to the Indian Express, Gulati said SC’s “prerogative” when making the report public.
“It is up to the Hon’ble bench of the SC to see how and when they want to share it with the farmers and the Government. Making it public is their prerogative. I leave this issue to their best judgment”.
“The Hon’ble SC set up the committee. We submitted our report within the time given to us and the best of our ability, keeping the interest of the farmers as the foremost concern in our minds,” he added.
The other member, Dr P K Joshi, did not respond to the said media seeking his comments. Ghanwat gave the nod on being asked if he had consulted Joshi or Gulati regarding the letter.
He said, “They are professional people, so they have not taken any step on making the report public”.
As the panel’s report on Farm Laws has sat aloof inside the sealed cover for five months now, we are coming close to completing one year since the day thousands of farmers marched towards the national capital demanding repeal of the Centre’s farm laws 26th November 2020.
One can still witness the movement persisting as farm unions conduct sit-in agitation outside the mini-secretariat in Karnal after months of failed discussions with the Centre.
Even though the sitting farmers had not appeared before the SC committee, any measure with the potential to end this prolonged impasse must be given due attention by the apex court.