The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Tamil Nadu government to waive all farmers’ loans, keeping in mind the condition of the drought-hit state. The division bench of Justice S Nagamuthu and Justice MV Muralidharan also urged the administration to ensure that no penal action is taken against farmers who have defaulted on repayment of loans, reported Deccan Chronicle.

“We restrain action against the farmers for recovery of crop loans and outstanding dues to cooperative societies/banks, as on March 31, 2016,” the judges said.

Earlier, the Tamil Nadu government had waived loans for farmers with landholdings less than five acres. The new order includes all farmers, irrespective of the size of their landholdings. The high court took cognisance of the matter after farmers from Tamil Nadu staged demonstrations at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for the past 20 days.

The ruling, which will help more than three lakh farmers, translates to an additional financial burden of Rs 1,980 crore on the Tamil Nadu government, according to The Times of India. Requesting the Centre to help reduce the burden on the state, the bench said, “In this difficult situation, the central government cannot be a silent spectator. It should come forward to extend help to the state government to share the burden.”

On Saturday, the Centre had approved the release of Rs 1,712.1 crore for Tamil Nadu from the National Disaster Response Fund to help address the acute water shortage in the state. While the committee had sanctioned Rs 1,793.63 crore for drought relief in Tamil Nadu, the Centre released Rs 1,447.99 crore by adjusting Rs 345.64 crore from the State Disaster Response Fund.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin had supported the protesters from Tamil Nadu and demanded the loan waiver, as well.

On January 10, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had declared the state drought-hit and announced a number of concessions for farmers, in addition to waiving the land tax they need to pay. The Supreme Court had directed Karnataka to continue to release 2,000 cusecs of Cauvery water a day to Tamil Nadu. But on March 22, Karnataka had informed the apex court that it was not in a position to follow the order.