- In future, can a mere protest, however intense, lead to a stay on a law?
- The Supreme Court's power to put a hold legislation is not in question.
- If necessary, the court should have set up a bench and heard the case.
The Supreme Court's decision yesterday to put on hold three recently-legislated Central farm laws may have set a dangerous precedent whose implications will mostly show up only in future, legal experts believe. While the top court was well within its rights to "stay" laws passed by Parliament, what could be a matter of concern is that it may have come to conclusions based on "misconceived emotions".
The government has been negotiating with unions representing thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and other states of India over the three laws passed in September. While several of the issues have been discussed and solutions to these mostly agreed upon, it is the issue of withdrawal of laws that neither party is willing to give in on, leading to a deadlock.
Such a deadlock becoming a reason for judicial intervention, let alone the holding in abeyance of laws passed by Parliament, may turn out to be problematic, according to experts.
"The Supreme Court has taken the view (in some cases) that there can be a stay on legislation under some conditions. Normally the courts do not stay regularly legislation merely because its challenge is pending, but the power to stay the legislation based on the consequences that may arise is clear and the power vested. Therefore, the exercise of the power cannot be doubted," said Sidharth Luthra, former Additional Solicitor General.
Yet, can a mere protest justify such intervention?
"It is a dangerous thing and consequences are serious. In future, (if/when) the Centre introduces some laws and if protests happen across the country, can the law be stayed? The Supreme Court decided on misconceived emotion. The only (cause for) the deadlock was 'repeal' which is beyond the court's jurisdiction," said Rakesh Dwivedi, a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court.
"It is constitutionally obligatory for the Supreme Court to examine the law and only if it comes to a conclusion that, prima facie, the law is not right, can it order a stay. Here, the court has stayed it emotionally," Mr Dwivedi said.
The Senior Advocate said that if the court had found the matter so grave, it should have constituted a bench and heard the case.