12 Oct 2020 7:17 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Central Government on three writ petitions challenging the three farm laws passed by the Parliament recently, which have attracted opposition from several farmers groups across the country.The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde, asked the Attorney General to file a reply to the petitions within a period of six weeks.The bench...
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Central Government on three writ petitions challenging the three farm laws passed by the Parliament recently, which have attracted opposition from several farmers groups across the country.
The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde, asked the Attorney General to file a reply to the petitions within a period of six weeks.
The bench was considering three writ petitions filed by Manohar Lal Sharma, office bearers of Chattisgarh Kisan Congress (Rakesh Vaishnav and others) and DMP MP Tiruchi Siva.
At first, the bench, taking up the petition filed by M L Sharma, observed that there was no cause of action for the petition.
"Where is the cause of action? In the "Kusum Ingots case", the SC held that mere passing of a legislation does not furnish a cause of action", CJI Bobde told M L Sharma, who was appearing as party-in-person.
"You go and acquire a cause of action. We don't want to reject your prayer. We will allow you to withdraw and come back when a cause of action arises", CJI told Sharma.
At this juncture, Advocate K Parameshwar, appearing in the petition filed by the office bearers of Chhattisgarh Kisan Congress, intervened. He submitted that the central laws have effectively repealed the state law on the mandi system.
When the CJI suggested that he should approach the concerned High Court, Parameshwar replied that different High Courts passing conflicting judgments on the issue could be problematic.
Then, the CJI turned to the Attorney General and said that at some point of time, the Centre will have to file a reply, be it in the High Court or the SC.
The Attorney General agreed that he will file a reply within six weeks. Thereupon, the bench, also including Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian proceeded to issue notice on the three petitions.
Senior Advocate P. Wilson appeared for the Tiruchi Siva, Member of Parliament (DMK) who also filed a petition challenging the Acts
The petitions challenge the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Agriculture and Promotion) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
The first mentioned Act seeks to enable the farmers to sell the farm products in places outside the market yards regulated by the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees(APMCS) established by various state laws. The second mentioned Act seeks to provide a legal framework for contract farming agreements. The third mentioned Act seeks to relax the food stock limits and the price control over food items like cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils under the Essential Commodities Act.
The petitioners raise the apprehension that the laws will lead to the dismantling of the APMC system intended to assure fair prices for farm products and will expose small and marginal farmers to exploitation by big corporates.
The petitions challenge the legislative competence of the Parliament to enact the laws on farmers trade by contending that agriculture and agriculture trade are exlcusive State subjects under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
The petitioners argue that the Parliament has acted ultra vires of Article 246 of the Constitution by legislating the Acts as the subjects related to agriculture are covered under Entry 14,18, 28, 30, 46, 47, 48 of List II, under the seventh schedule and thus, it is the State that has the legislative competence to draft policies or enact any law, with respect to the agricultural fabric of the country.
"... the basic fabric of federalism unites the Union and different States within an overarching political system in such a way so as to allow each to maintain its own fundamental political integrity. Therefore, the federal structure of our democracy cannot be permitted to be destroyed by the Union Legislature blatantly encroaching into matters purely within the domain of the State Legislatures," the plea filed by DMK MP read.
The Acts are also challenged as violating Articles 14, 21 and 23 of the Constitution by arbitrarily removing the protective measures meant for farmers.
"The FTPC Act violates Article 23 read with Article 14. The Act violates the equality of status and opportunity of the farmers and would render the farmers' choice to be nullified and their labour be exploited. In essence their labour would be reduced to begar, specifically prohibited under Article 23", the plea filed by Chattisgarh Kisan Congress office bearers said.
It further said that most farmers of the State of Chhattisgarh belonged to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who are entitled to additional protections under Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution.
"These Acts would pave way for cartelisation and commercialisation of the agricultural produces and if allowed to stand, are going to ruin India as the corporates can, with one stroke, export our agricultural produce without any regulation, and may even result in famines. Very soon, the country which fought for its independence from the British will have to wage war to free itself from the clutches of crony capitalism"- the plea by Tiruchi Siva stated.
"Famers will be compelled to sign / put thumb impression on paper by force and his land, cultivated crops and freedom will be forever under the hand of the corporate houses belong to various political leaders. In fact, it is a butchering of the farmers through these notifications a serious threat to the life, liberty and freedom of the farmers and its family. Therefore impugned notifications are liable to be quashed", ML Sharma stated in his plea.