Farm Laws : Constitutional Provisions

Meher Sachdev, 2nd Year, Law Student
Bennett University, Times of India Group
Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh
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Date : 19/02/2021
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Farm Laws : Constitutional Provisions

I. Statement of Problem and Factual Matrix: The basis of the problem lies in the three agricultural laws passed by the parliament while exercising powers conferred by the seventh schedule of the constitution. The root cause surrounding the problem is based in the federal polity and sharing of powers amongst centre and states, as agriculture and its marketing are to be construed as state subjects. At its very outset, it is stated that agricultural market is a state listed subject, so the union government is not competent to legislate upon a state subject. The gravity of the legislative lapse could be evaluated from the aspect that even Hon. Supreme Court has issued a notice to union of India challenging the three ordinances. The said three ordinances have changed the regulations regarding sale, price and hoarding of agricultural products.

II. Applicability of Constitutional Provisions to scenario in hand: Hon. Supreme Court of India has powers to adjudicate a dispute between the government of India and the states vide Article 131, while exercising the original jurisdiction for deciding the dispute. Such a dispute and factum as in the present case would be entertained by the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the constitution. The state can challenge the said laws under Article 131 on the ground that the centre has misconstrued that it has an authority on food items.

III. Summary of Arguments:

1.1. It is argued that the said laws allow farmers to sell their agricultural produce outside the Mandi's notified under state laws. Contract farming has been legalized in favor of private companies and some food items have been removed from essential commodities. Even the minimum support price has been omitted in the central acts.

1.2. The central act also takes away jurisdiction of civil laws and courts as the farmers will not have a right to approach a civil court challenging contract violation or fraud by a corporate company.

1.3. It is shocking to note that no criminal law has been made in central act. Even the central acts as per clause 13 have made it very hard to take action against the officials on the ground that if the act is done by the officials under good faith, then no proceedings can be launched against them.

1.4. In Schedule 7, Serial Entry No.14 (Agriculture), Entry No.26 (trade and commerce within state) and Entry No.28 (market and fairs) are exclusively kept in State List. So centre has got no right to alter the basic structure of the constitution.

IV. Landmark Judicial Pronouncements governing Subject Matter: Hon. Supreme Court in AIR 1955 SC 182 has categorically held that under entry 26 list II of the schedule 7, state has power to regulate trade. The full bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court, in AIR 1977 Punjab 347 has been held that the local agricultural acts made by Punjab government, i.e. Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act would fall within the State List under Entry 28. Similarly in AIR 1957 SC 768, Hon. Supreme Court has held that the entire agricultural works including growing of crops would fall under entry 14 of the constitution. In AIR 1953 SC 83, Hon. Supreme Court has held that state legislature can control regarding export of agricultural produce outside the state on the ground of maintaining or increasing the supply within the state. Finally, Hon. Supreme Court in AIR 1976 SC 1031 has held that Kerala Essential Article control falls within the seventh schedule of the constitution and is in state list and the centre government cannot legislate.

V. Analysis: In the present case the farm laws have been made encroaching upon the rights of the state government and hence the central government cannot enact the laws by overriding the provisions of constitution which is federal in nature. In the new act, it appears that Union of India has construed its authority on food. Infant, food and agriculture are two distinct items. Agriculture produce is raw and cannot be construed as food and similarly food cannot be considered as agricultural produce. Though Punjab state has enacted local laws as per provisions of Article 254(2) of the constitution, but without the assent of president of India, such laws made by Punjab government will have no legal force. Trade and commerce are also on state list so states cannot be debated by centre laws to charge fees on agriculture, produce and its trade. In farmers produce trade and commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Bill), the Union is trying to take control of the entire inter-state selling and purchasing of agricultural products. The centre has adopted the farm laws indirectly by adopting doctrine of colourable legislation which is against the basic structure of the constitution and thus the laws are liable to be declared as ultra virus.

VI. Concluding Remarks: By debarring the state from charging market fees and other charges on the trading of agricultural products also is clearly challenging the domain of the state. The state has power under entry 33 to charge the said fee. The states thus can challenge all the three farm laws before Hon. Supreme Court on the ground that the said laws interfere into the basic structure of the constitution and federal structure is being jeopardized. Hon. Supreme Court has already issued notice to this effect as to whether the three land laws fall within the centre list or state list. It would be worthwhile to mention that Hon. Supreme Court in AIR 1977 SC 1361 has held that under Article 131, Supreme Court can not only give a judgment of declaration, but can order enforcement of any legal right. Similarly in AIR 1977 SC 1361, Hon. Supreme Court has held that any dispute between the Union of India and States can be decided legally within the purview of Article 131. Therefore, it could be concluded that by infringing the original jurisdiction of the state, the union has tried to change the basic structure of the constitution of India i.e. the federal structure. Hence, a petition would be maintainable under Article 131 as the constitution provisions are being violated and the central government has wrongly interpreted food items as agricultural produce.

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