India’s top court orders stay on farm laws that riled growers

Farmers participate in a tractor rally against newly passed farm bills, on a highway on the outskirts of New Delhi, India on Jan. 7, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

New Delhi | Reuters — India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered an indefinite stay on the implementation of new agricultural laws that have triggered widespread protest from farmers, saying it wanted to protect farmers and would hear their objections.

For more than a month, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital, to protest against reform measures that they say benefit large private buyers and harm growers.

Chief Justice Sharad Bobde told a hearing the Supreme Court would set up a panel to hear the farmers’ grievances.

“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.

Farm leaders said their demand for a full repeal of the laws remained unchanged.

“We are grateful to the Supreme Court for its positive response,” said Rakesh Tikait, president of one of the largest farmers unions, Bharti Kisan Union.

“The protests will continue until demands are met.”

India says the laws aim to modernize an antiquated farming system, bedevilled by wastage and bottlenecks in the supply chain.

But farm leaders say the reforms are an attempt to erode a longstanding mechanism that ensures farmers a minimum support price for their crops.

The government has said there was no question of dropping the reforms and eight rounds of talks have failed to find common ground. The two sides are set to meet again on Friday.

— Reporting for Reuters by Suchitra Mohanty and Manoj Kumar; writing by Alasdair Pal.

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