Supreme Court Has To Adjudicate On The Constitutionality Of Farm Laws

Supreme Court is considering setting up a committee to resolve the standoff between the government and agitating farmers on the new farm bills. The apex court has demonstrated concern over the impasse. But, the highest court need not remain an agency to mediate in a dispute between the government and the citizen over a law enacted by parliament. The courts do not decide the feasibility or desirability of a law. The constitution of India endowed the courts with a responsibility to adjudicate whether a law is constitutionally tenable.

There are enough grounds to question the new farm laws from the standpoint of constitutional provisions. The apex court would render a great service to the constitutional governance by examining the validity of these laws from a juristic point of view.

Agriculture is in the state subject. Entry 14 in the state list of the seventh schedule of the constitution of India clearly states this. Yet Parliament in its own wisdom felt the need to encroach upon on the subject that falls into the states’ domain. Thus, the new farm laws enacted by Modi dispensation are a clear violation of federalism.

Section 13 of the FARMERS’ PRODUCE TRADE AND COMMERCE (PROMOTION AND FACILITATION) ACT, 2020, states “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Central Government or the State Government, or any officer of the Central Government or the State Government or any other person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or of any rules or orders made thereunder”. Section 15 of the same act further states, “No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respect of any matter”.

Similar provisions exist in the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act that enables contract farming. 

This goes contrary to the constitutional remedies granted to the citizen by Article 32 of the Constitution. 

Section 8 of the FARMERS’ PRODUCE TRADE AND COMMERCE (PROMOTION AND FACILITATION) ACT, 2020, gives the power of dispute resolution to the sub-divisional magistrate and the district collector excluding civil courts. A similar provision exists in the contract farming law too. Thus the powers of the judiciary are transferred to the executive violating the concept of separation of powers enunciated by the constitution and declared as its basic structure by the apex court. 

Thus, the new farm laws are constitutionally untenable. People of this country hope that the highest judicial institution will deliver its verdict on the constitutional viability of the farm laws. 

By Prof K Nageshwar

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