Updated: September 28, 2020 8:59:34 pm
As farmers’ organisations and Opposition and regional parties continue to protest against the contentious new farm laws, a Congress MP from Kerala moved the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the constitutional validity of one of the Acts.
TN Prathapan, the Lok Sabha MP from Thrissur, has alleged that the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 is violative of Article 14 (right to equality), 15 (prohibition of discrimination) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution. He argued the law, which was accorded presidential assent on Sunday, is “liable to be struck down as unconstitutional, illegal and void”.
In the plea filed through his lawyer James P Thomas, Prathapan said, “Indian Agriculture is characterised by fragmentation due to small holdings and has certain inherent weaknesses beyond control such as dependence on weather, uncertainties in production and an unpredictable market. This makes agriculture risky and inefficient in respect of both input and output management.”
The plea further said that challenges faced by farmers such as dependence on weather, cannot be addressed by monetisation of the produce to increase their income, instead strengthening the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) system by infusing more capital and effective management of Minimum Support Price.
“The number of farmers that the Centre assumed for calculating the cost of PM-Kisan scheme is from the Agriculture Census of 2015-16, which had put the number of operational agriculture landholdings in the country at 14.5 crore. The matter is of substantial public interest and is emergent as there is need for striking down laws which violate the rights of the 14.5 crore citizens who are engaged in farming before serious financial damage is caused to them and the families of such persons,” it said.
The petition challenged the constitutionality of various Sections of the farm law — 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 18 and 19.
According to the government, the new law intends to provide a national framework for the farming agreements to protect and empower farmers as they engage with agri-business and food processing firms, wholesalers, exporters and large retailers for farm services and sale of produce at a remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner.
On Sunday, President Kovind gave his assent to The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said his government would approach the apex court over the issue. He also said that Pakistan’s spy agency ISI will use farmers’ unrest over the new farm laws and will try to foment trouble in the border state of Punjab.
“I have said we will take this matter forward. The president has passed these bills and now we will take this matter to the Supreme Court,” PTI quoted the Punjab CM as saying.
Singh also said that his government would take every possible step to protect the interest of the farming community and added that two advocates from Delhi would be coming on Tuesday and the matter would be discussed with them.
Several parts of the country, especially Punjab and Haryana, witnessed vociferous protests against the central government’s new farm laws with one of BJP’s oldest allies and a founding member of the NDA, the Shiromani Akali Dal, quitting the ruling coalition over the issue.
With PTI inputs
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