India's top court suspends implementation of new farm laws

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 13, 2021

As the farmer's agitation entered the 48th day on Tuesday (January 12), the Supreme Court put the three new contentious farm laws on hold and ordered to constitute a committee to be headed by a former Chief Justice of India to resolve the impasse between the Centre and farmers against the laws.

The government maintains that the farmers are being misled and the new laws that lift curbs on who can purchase agricultural produce will remove middlemen and increase farmers' income.

"Laudably, the farmers have so far carried on the agitation peacefully and without any untoward incident", the bench said.

Tens of thousands of farmers will continue their protests against India's new farm laws until they are repealed, rejecting the top court's decision to keep them in abeyance and adding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's woes.

The committee, comprising agriculturist economist Ashok Gulati, BKU president and chairman of Kisan Coordination Committee Bhupinder Singh Mann, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, Pramod Joshi, and Anil Ghanwat, president of Sethkari Sangathan as members, may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of farmers, the court said.

The unions also raised doubts over the neutrality of the members of the committee even as they welcomed the top court's order to stay the implementation of the laws.

The leaders of the unions also claimed the members of the court-appointed committee tasked to listen to their grievances are "pro-government", and asserted they will not appear before it.

The court asserted it had the power to suspend the legislation, but the stay must not be for an empty goal.

The court also hoped its "extraordinary order" of stay of implementation of the laws will be perceived as an achievement, and encourage farmers to go back to their homes.

He also said farmers will continue the protest, regardless of the number of days it takes.

The siege of a key roadway connecting the country's capital where the farmers have been camping for the past two months will continue, protest leaders said, as will plans to march into the city later this month.

They say the legislation passed by Parliament in September will lead to the cartelization and commercialization of agriculture, make farmers vulnerable to corporate greed and devastate their earnings.

"We are against the committee in principle". In an opinion piece for Indian Express, Joshi had said: "Any dilution in the farm laws will constrain Indian agriculture in harnessing the emerging global opportunities". "These are people who are known for their support to the three Acts and have actively advocated for the same".

On Monday, when attorney general Venugopal told the court that there are reports that the farmers bodies may take out a tractor rally on January 26, 2021, disrupting the Republic Day parade and celebrations, senior counsel Dushyant Dave appearing for the agitating farmers' bodies had rebutted it saying that at least one member of the family of each of the farmers from Punjab is in the Army and that they would not disrupt the Republic Day celebrations.

BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said any order of the Supreme Court has to be complied with by all the concerned parties.

Bishop Vadakumthala said the court order "can be a way forward for finding a permanent solution for the impasse", he said, welcoming the court order to establish a committee to talk to both sides for a solution.

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