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The noblest intentions, no doubt, motivate the Supreme Court’s decision to take the initiative to resolve the farmers’ agitation, probably setting up a committee to consider the laws and the objections to them, while asking the government to put the laws on hold, pending the committee’s finding.
However, the court errs, when it arrogates to itself the role of arbiter of politics and policy. Its job is to settle matters of law. So, if the court were to consider the constitutional propriety of the Centre legislating on agriculture, an item in the State List, or of taking disputes under the farm laws outside the ambit of the courts, that would be entirely kosher.
The misplaced zeal to pronounce on policy is all the more jarring, given the court’s silence on the love jihad laws that blatantly violate basic liberty and fundamental rights but proliferate across states. Whether the farm laws articulate an underlying policy on agriculture that is suited for the present conditions in the sector is not for the court to decide.
As individuals, judges are welcome to commiserate with the elderly farmers suffering the cold of a harsh winter at the protest site, far away from their hearth and home. But as judicial arbiters, it is not their job to find a compromise that would send the farmers home: that is the job of politics.
Whether the government has been negotiating skilfully or in bad faith is not for the court to decide. Politics is the domain in which the people and the government interact. Sometimes, leaders do make wrong calls, but it is for the people to hold them to account when they do, provided no laws have been bent or broken in the process.
What tactics should be used to resolve the confrontation over the farm laws is for the government to decide and for the people to deliver their verdict on. That is part of the political process in a democracy. When two adults fall in love and get married, regardless of caste or creed, democratic India should share their joy. Why does the court not respond when, instead, they are penalised?
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.