Indian Supreme Court stays implementation of contentious new farm laws

Supreme court of India

Delhi; 12 January 2021 (UMMN): Indian Supreme Court has stayed implementation of three new farm laws that is fiercely opposed by the farmers.

“We are staying three farm laws until further orders,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde said.

The stay on their implementation means the Centre cannot proceed with any executive actions to enforce the laws.

The laws are:

1. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act,

2. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and,

3. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act. 

The stay, the court said, “may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers” and make them confident enough to scythe their way to the negotiating table in good faith.

The hearing on Tuesday took place in the absence of four senior lawyers, including senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had said they represent a bulk of the protesting farmers’ organisations.

11-page order by a three-judge Bench led by CJI. Bobde also called for the formation of an expert committee to mediate between the protesting farmers and the BJP gov in the centre.

“There is no power on earth which can prevent us from forming the independent committee. We want to solve the problem. We want to understand the ground situation. This is not politics. You have to cooperate,” Chief Justice Bobde told the farmers’ side during the hearing.

“This is not an empty suspension of the laws... All people who want to genuinely resolve the problem should go to the committee... We are willing to suspend the law, but not indefinitely and without any activity on the ground. We don't want inactivity. We want to hear you tell the committee which part of the law needs to be changed, etc. You can go one by one and tell the committee what your problems are,” he stated.

The committee has to start work in 10 days and submit a report to the court in two months. The government would take care of their expenses.

The court directed that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system in existence before the enactment of the farm laws should be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ landholdings should be protected.

“That is, no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the farm laws,” it ordered.

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

Protesting farmers, howev, consider the laws as a key to an exploitative regime that would ultimately lead to the loss of their lands.

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.

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

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