Wednesday 28 October 2020

SC to Centre: File reply on farm laws in this court instead of High Courts

- Posted on 12 October 2020

NEW DELHI, OCT 12 : The Supreme Court has sought the Centre’s response on pleas challenging the validity of the recently enacted farm laws, which have sparked protests led by the Congress in Punjab.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian expressed surprise over a battery of lawyers representing the Centre in the matter. The bench said: “AG (Attorney General), SG (Solicitor General) and ASG (Additional Solicitor General) all are appearing in the matter…. In common parlance, it is called overkill.” The bench has clubbed the plea filed by Manoj Jha, RJD lawmaker from the Rajya Sabha, DMK Rajya Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu, Tiruchi Siva, and Rakesh Vaishnav of Chhattisgarh Kisan Congress. The bench citing an earlier verdict said mere passing of legislation does not give rise to cause for action.

The bench initially declined to entertain a PIL raising similar issues filed by advocate M.L. Sharma and told him that there is no cause of action arising merely because the laws have been promulgated. The top court asked Sharma to withdraw the petition.

Advocate K Parmeshwar, representing Vaishnav, submitted that the laws interfered with the state’s power and the top court should examine it. The Chief Justice told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal: “Instead of answering these in various high courts, you rather file a reply in this court.” The AG agreed to this suggestion and said he will file a reply in the matter. Further hearing on the matter will be after four weeks.

During the hearing, the Chief Justice quizzed the counsel of the petitioners, “There is no cause of action…merely passing of legislation won’t give a cause of action.” The PILs have challenged the three laws — Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 – which came into effect from September 27 after President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent.

Jha, in the plea filed through advocate Fauzia Shakeel, said: “The Impugned Acts encourages corporatization of India Agriculture which is the lifeline of the poor farmers and key to the survival of the nation’s agriculture sector.” “The Impugned Acts primarily intend to sacrifice the interest of the farmers and leave them at the mercy of the Sponsors without any proper dispute resolution mechanism.” Jha had contended in the plea that the Acts have been passed in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution as it fails to create an intelligible differentia as the basis for classification.

“The entire scheme of dispute settlement is equally tilted likewise in favour of Sponsors. It is stated that under the State Market Laws there were adequate supportive measures for the protection of the farmers and their produce. However, the newly enacted impugned Acts does not have proper dispute resolution mechanism leaving the marginal farmers mostly exposed to the exploits of the Sponsors”, said the plea.

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