A Supreme Court panel in India refused to issue orders on the government’s petition to stop a proposed rally by farmers that would run at the same time as Republic Day celebrations on January 26.
The three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said police, and not the court, should decide on allowing farmers into the national capital for the rally. The farmers have been protesting for almost two months against a series of new agricultural laws and demanding that the government repeal them.
The court agreed to hear an application for appointing new members to the panel formed earlier for hearing farmers’ grievances over the laws.
Representing the government, Attorney General K K Venugopal said the more than 5,000 farmers ready to enter New Delhi for the rally could create a law and order problem.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is representing some farmers’ unions, said they had promised a peaceful protest.
Bobde appealed to farmers to end their protest. The court has not given a date for next hearing.
“Suspending the implementation of the laws as an interim measure is welcome but is not a solution,” the leaders camped on capital New Delhi’s outskirts said in a statement. The government “must repeal the laws.”
Farmer leaders, opposition and some of Modi’s allies fear the laws will lead to corporate control over agricultural production, processing, and markets and lower crop prices by removing government purchases causing losses to cultivators.
While the government maintains that farmers are being misled and the new laws will lift curbs on purchases, remove middlemen and increase farmers income, the court’s decision to suspend the laws adds to its challenges. Modi had in his first term promised to double farmers’ incomes by 2022.
The farmers have said they will “not participate” in discussions with the court-appointed panel saying all four committee members “have actively advocated” for the laws, according to their statement.