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Respond to petitions on new agricultural laws, Supreme Court tells Centre

They are the beginning of an anti-farmer “exploitative regime”, say pleas

October 12, 2020 04:44 pm | Updated 04:55 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

The Supreme Court asked the Centre to respond to petitions describing the passage of the controversial new agricultural laws by Parliament as the beginning of an anti-farmer “exploitative regime” .

Though the court said the mere passage of the laws does not give rise to a “cause of action”, questions on the laws would tend to rise in the future in courts, and hence, it would be better for the government to address these issues now .

Also Read | Farm Act wants farmers to sell outside mandis, but most already do so

“You may have to answer these pleas sometime or the other... You better file a reply,” Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde addressed Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, on Monday.

The court was dealing with various petitions filed by Rakesh Vaishnav, an office-bearer of the Chhattisgarh Kisan Congress, represented by advocate K. Parameswar; DMK MP Tiruchi Siva, represented by senior advocate P. Wilson; and a separate plea by advocate M.L. Sharma.

The petitions have challenged the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Agriculture and Promotion) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act of 2020.

The hearing kicked off on a sceptical note from the Bench.

Also Read | Who gains and who loses from the farm Bills?

The CJI, on noting that the government was represented by Mr. Venugopal flanked by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natraj, said it seemed an ‘overkill’ to have so many top law officers appearing for a case showing no “cause of action”.

Addressing Mr. Sharma’s petition, the CJI advised the lawyer to “go get a cause of action” and then approach the High Court concerned instead of the apex court.

“Merely passing a legislation does not permit a cause of action...We do not want to reject your case, we want you to withdraw,” Chief Justice Bobde told Mr. Sharma.

Also Read | Farm laws merely a ruse to subvert APMC, says plea in Supreme Court

Mr. Parameswar however prevailed on the court about the necessity to take judicial notice of the laws at this stage.

“Farmers’ produce was being sold in the mandis of Chhattisgarh but this Act goes against the Constitution,” Mr. Parameswar submitted. The Bench asked the government to file its response.

Mr. Siva, through Mr. Wilson, said the laws were “prima facie unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary” as they would “usher in a new exploitative regime for the poor farmers of the country, who are entirely dependent on earning their livelihood, by selling their produce in the market”.

The amendment to the Essential Commodities Act would facilitate black marketing. It would have black market dealers regulate the stock limit and stocking of agricultural produce, Mr. Siva’s petition said.

Also Read | Farm laws have to be opposed for country’s future: Rahul Gandhi

“Suffice it to say that the Acts attack the very foundation of the agricultural fabric of the country that was built to safeguard the interests of the farmers and not leave them at the mercy of the new era of privatisation,” the petition said.

It said the Acts would create an alternative that’s outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC).

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