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India court puts on hold controversial farm laws

India court puts on hold controversial farm laws

dpa
New Delhi
India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold the implementation of three controversial agricultural laws against which tens of thousands of farmers have been holding a nearly 50-day protest.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde also said it was forming a committee to take over negotiations with the farmers, who are camping on highways near Delhi, to end the crisis.
“We are going to suspend the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders,” Bobde was quoted as saying by the legal news portal Live Law.
“This is a big victory for Indian farmers and a defeat for the government. The honourable court has in a way accepted that the laws were wrong, arbitrary, anti-farmer and unconstitutional and suspended them,” AP Singh, one of lawyers for the farmer groups, told reporters.
The move came as a huge setback for the government that has argued that the laws passed by parliament in September will modernise farming and allied sectors and increase the incomes of farmers.
The government in eight rounds of talks with farmers’ unions over the past month refused to accede to their demand for repeal of the laws but insisted that it was considering amendments.
Farmer leaders said they were not ending their protests yet.
“The laws have been suspended, but for how many days? Our demand is for revocation and scrapping of the farm laws. We are not going back to our homes till the laws are taken back. Our movement will continue,” said farmer leader, Rakesh Tikait of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers Union).
The farmers fear the laws that aim to ease regulations around storage and marketing of crops will benefit big corporations and leave them at the mercy of the free market.
Farmers’ unions spearheading the agitation say that the laws would lead to the end of state-regulated buying of crops and a minimum price set by government for their produce.
During the hearing, the court said it had the power to suspend laws enacted by the parliament, explaining what is considered a rare move by the Indian judiciary.
“These are matters of life and death. We are concerned with laws. We are concerned with lives and property of people affected by the agitation. We are trying to solve the problem in the best way. One of the powers we have is to suspend the legislation,” Bobde was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Activists and opposition parties say more than 60 farmers have died - succumbing to extreme cold conditions or suicide - since the protests began on November 24.
During the hearing, the government counsel told the court that the laws “were not hurriedly made” and they were the result of two decades of deliberations.

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