00:40 GMT26 January 2021
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    Besides ordering a temporary stay on the new farm laws, India’s top court has also called for setting up a four-member committee to mediate between the government and protesting farmers. The court has also urged the protesters to drop their plans to hold a tractor rally on 26 January at the site of the annual Republic Day Parade.

    Farmer unions, protesting new farm laws cleared by the Indian parliament in September last year, have said that their agitation will continue despite the country's Supreme Court ordering a temporary stay on the laws' implementation.

    “Farmer unions reiterate the fact that they will not participate in any court-ordered committee process further. One of their (farmers) apprehensions about such a process got validated in the very constitution of the committee”, said a statement issued by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), one of the farmer outfits that have been leading the protests at Delhi's state borders.

    “Farmers wish to interact with the government, not engage with the Supreme Court, (a place) where farmers did not present themselves. So no comment on it, no offence to it”, said the farmers' union, part of the umbrella outfit Samyukt Kisan Morcha (Joint Farmers’ Forum), which has been coordinating the farmer protests.

    Both the protesting farmers and the country's opposition political parties have rejected the proposal of a court-monitored mediation committee while questioning the pro-government credentials of its members.

    “We are not satisfied with the members in the committee because of the four members; three - Ashok Gulati, P.K. Joshi, and Anil Ganwat - have openly supported the BJP farm laws”, said Jaiveer Shergill, a lawyer and spokesperson for India’s main opposition party Congress, which has been demanding the repeal of the three laws.

    “It will be tough for farmers to have faith in a committee wherein most members have a divergent view from them on this issue”, he said.

    Several legal experts also told Sputnik that the committee may just buy the government more time in a bid to convince the farmers about the new laws' benefits.

    "A day-to-day hearing would have been better, given the grave nature of the matter", says Justice (retired) B.G. Kolse Patil, a former judge at the Bombay High Court.

    Patil, who is now a social activist, believes that the court has a “constitutional obligation” to protect the rights of the farmers in line with the equality principle enshrined in the Indian constitution.

    Reacting to the allegations that the court has overstepped its mandate in staying a law that was cleared by both houses of Parliament, Subhash Kashyap, a veteran constitutional expert, reckons that the Supreme Court may not be obliged to pass the final judgment if the committee is able to mediate between the farmers and the government.

    “The court has not at all exceeded its jurisdiction, one could have said that if it had passed a judgment”, says Kashyap, a former secretary general of India’s lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha.

    ​Law and Order Crisis Feared

    Harsh Vardhan Tripathi, a veteran journalist, told Sputnik that the farmers' refusal to trust the court is foolhardy on their part and shows that the protesters are motivated by political interests, referring to the opposition parties' support for repealing the legislation.

    “We are moving towards a law and order crisis, if not a constitutional crisis. The farmers can’t block the traffic indefinitely”, he said.

    Pravesh Khanna, a veteran Supreme Court lawyer, claims that farmers’ refusal to shelve their tractor rally on 26 January despite the top court order clearly “constituted” contempt of court.

    “This is a clear cut case of contempt from farmers”, he warned, reacting to statements by farmer outfits saying that they would go ahead with their tractor rally as a sign of protest on 26 January alongside the annual Republic Day Parade.


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    Supreme Court, protest, farm, farmers, India
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