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The Supreme Court has done no one a favour with its directives staying the operation of the three farm laws, setting up a committee to advise it on the propriety of the laws, and directing all farmer organisations to submit their views to the committee. It suffers from a number of flaws with the common characteristic of extrajudicial trespass into the areas of politics, policy and legislation.
And, curiously, the court refrained from taking up certain questions of constitutionality that have been raised in connection with the farm laws, namely, the propriety of the Centre legislating on trade in farm produce and the conflict with the fundamental right to judicial review implicit in the farm laws’ exclusion of disputes from the courts’ ambit.
It is the prerogative of the executive to formulate policy that advances the public good, and frame laws that enable execution of the policy. It is the job of Parliament to vet the policy and legislate the laws that enable it. Any expert or philosopher is entitled to give his or her opinion on the said policy and law, but no one can override the authority of the executive and the legislature to make policy and legislate.
The court, by setting up a committee to advise it on the viability and validity of the farm laws, has arrogated to itself the power to second-guess the government and the legislature, and to superimpose its opinion on the will of the people expressed through the government and Parliament. Parliament and the government can err, admittedly.
If the error is incompatible with the Constitution’s provisions and principles, it is the job of the court to check that. Disputes over the suitability of legally valid policy are to be settled in the arena of politics, mediated by parties, organisations and protests. Anyhow, the court-appointed committee is to submit its report in two months’ time. The government and the farmers should figure out a viable strategy of crop diversification away from unwanted grain, instead of wasting time in futile wrangling over the laws.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.