India’s Supreme Court stays implementation of new farm laws

Top court pauses implementation of three new laws and says it will form a committee to hear farmers’ grievances.

Thousands of farmers have been camping out on the outskirts of New Delhi since late November [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]

India’s Supreme Court has paused the implementation of three new farm laws being fiercely opposed by farmers, who have been holding a large protest on the outskirts of the Indian capital for more than a month.

The court will form a committee to hear farmers’ grievances against the laws, Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde said during a hearing on Tuesday.

“We are staying three farm laws until further orders,” Bobde said.

“We have the power to make a committee and the committee can give us the report,” he said, ordering the stay for an undisclosed period on the laws passed in September. “We will protect farmers.”

There were no immediate further details.

Leaders of farmers’ unions are demanding a revocation of the new laws [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has ruled out repealing the laws despite widespread protests from farmers and other workers’ groups across the country.

Modi’s government says the legislation aims to modernise 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.

Despite freezing conditions, thousands of farmers have been camping out on the outskirts of New Delhi since late November.

At least eight rounds of talks between the government and farmers’ groups could not break the deadlock. The two sides are set to meet next on Friday.

“I don’t consider the Supreme Court order as a win but at least it’s a good step. After the court order, the government which was adamant is going to step back,” Paramjeet Singh of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers’ Union or BKU) told Al Jazeera at the Singhu border outside New Delhi.

He said the the farmers’ union leaders will meet later on Tuesday and will decide the future course of their protest.

Mahavir Singh of the All India Kisan Sabha told Al Jazeera the union would call off the protests only when the laws are revoked.

“Our simple demand is revoke the laws. Unless the laws are repealed, we will continue our protest,” he said.

Bilal Kuchay contributed to this report from Singhu border on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies