New Delhi, January 20:

A panel formed to negotiate with farmers protesting near Delhi borders against the three contentious agricultural laws amid deadlock with centre has no power to decide, the Supreme Court said today. The top court also asked the government to respond to a petition seeking reconstitution of its committee.

Protesters and several opposition parties – including the Akali Dal – had raised objections saying the four members of the panel had earlier expressed views in favour of the controversial legislations. One of the members – Bhartiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann – last week had recused himself from the committee, farmers body the Kisan Mahapanchayat – said today during the hearing.

“We have appointed experts in the committee as we are not experts. You are casting aspersions on someone in the committee because he has expressed views on farm laws?” the top court asked.

“They are the brilliant minds in agricultural field. How can you malign them?” Chief Justice SA Bobde said today during the hearing.