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India’s top court stays implementation of new farm laws which have sparked protests

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India’s top court suspended on Tuesday the implementation of new agriculture laws that have sparked weeks of demonstrations by tens of thousands of farmers outside New Delhi.

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The Supreme Court said it wanted to facilitate mediation between the government and the protesting farmers who fear that the legislation will leave them at the mercy of big business.

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“We are going to suspend the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders,” Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde said.

The court in Delhi added that it would form a committee of experts to try and resolve the protracted dispute, which has emerged as a major challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to go before the committee,” the court added.

“The committee will not punish you or pass any orders. It will submit a report to us.”

The government has said the changes would allow farmers to sell to private buyers instead of just at state markets.

But the demonstrators — mostly from states in northern India near Delhi — fear that under the new system, large corporations would squeeze them for profits and destroy their livelihoods.

They have vowed to continue their protest until the laws are repealed. The government has said it would not consider repealing the laws.

Several meetings have been held between the government and farmers, but have not yielded any results. The next meeting was expected to be held in mid-January.

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