India’s top court asks Modi gov’t to put farm laws ‘on hold’

Supreme Court says government should pause implementing the laws while the concerns of the farmers are heard.

India Supreme Court
Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde said the drawn-out confrontation was causing distress to farmers [File: Altaf Qadri/AP]

India’s Supreme Court says Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government should pause the implementation of the three farm laws passed recently while the concerns of the farmers, protesting for more than a month against the legislations, are heard.

Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde said in a hearing on Monday the drawn-out confrontation was causing distress to farmers. He said the court would pass orders if the two sides remained at an impasse.

“Tell us whether you will put the laws on hold or else we will do it … What’s the prestige issue here?” the court asked, as it criticised the government for failing to break the deadlock.

“We are extremely disappointed at the way government is handling all this,” Bobde said. “We don’t know what consultative process you followed before the laws. Many states are up in rebellion.”

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi, for more than a month, with at least eight rounds of talks between the government and farmers’ groups unable to break the deadlock.

The farmers have promised to march during Republic Day celebrations on January 26 against what they see as laws benefitting large private buyers at the expense of producers.

Modi’s government says the legislation is aimed at modernising an antiquated agricultural system, which suffers from colossal wastage and bottlenecks in the supply chain.

But farm leaders say the laws are an attempt to erode a longstanding minimum support price for their crops, and will enable a few corporates to control the country’s vast agricultural sector.

The government has earlier said there was “no question” of a repeal of the laws. The two sides are set to next meet on Friday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies