Farm Laws | “Court cannot be said to be completely powerless to grant stay of any executive action under a statutory enactment”; Supreme Court stays implementation of Farm Laws

Supreme Court: The 3-Judge Bench of S.A. Bobde, CJ and A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., stays the implementation of farms laws until further orders.

Three categories of petitions have been filed before the Court, all revolving around the validity or otherwise of three Farm Laws namely:

  • Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
  • Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
  • Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020

 Categories of Petitions

The first category of petitions challenges the constitutional validity of the farm laws. A petition under Article 32 challenging the validity of the Constitution (Third Amendment) Act, 1954 enabling the Central Government also to legislate on a subject which was otherwise in the State List has also been included within this category of petitions.

Another Category of petitions included the ones which support the farm laws on the ground that they are constitutionally valid and beneficial to the farmers.

The third category included the ones filed by individuals who are residents of the National Capital Territory of Delhi as well as the neighbouring States, claiming that the agitation by farmers in the peripheries of Delhi and the consequent blockade of roads/highway leading to Delhi, infringes the fundamental rights of other citizens to move freely throughout the territories of India and their right to carry on trade and business.

Negotiations

Further, the Bench noted that several rounds of negotiations took place, yet no solution seemed to be in sight and the on-ground situation is as follows:

  • Senior citizens, women and children are at the site, exposing themselves to serious health hazards posed by cold and COVID
  • A few deaths have taken place, though not out of any violence, but either out of illness or by way of suicide.

While applauding the Farmers for their peaceful protest, Court noted that it was pointed out that a few persons who did not belong to the farmer’s community also joined, with a view to show solidarity with the farmers.

A specific averment was made in an intervention application that an organization by name “Sikhs for Justice”, which has been banned for anti-India secessionist movement is financing the agitation. The said contention was also supported by the Attorney General.

Constitution of a Committee of Experts

Bench noticed that the negotiations between the farmers’ bodies and the government did not yield any results so far, therefore the constitution of a committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and Government of India may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers.

Stay on implementation of Farm Laws

Court also opined that a stay of implementation of all the three farm laws may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith.

Attorney General argued that none of the petitioners who have attacked the farm laws has pointed out any single provision which is detrimental to the farmers and that the laws enacted by Parliament cannot be stayed by this Court, especially when there is a presumption in favour of the constitutionality of legislation.

“…this Court cannot be said to be completely powerless to grant stay of any executive action under a statutory enactment.”

 Senior Counsel, P. Wilson representing one section of farmers from Tamil Nadu welcomed the proposal to stay the implementation of the Laws and the constitution of the Committee and stated that his client would go before the Committee.

Similarly, A.P. Singh Counsel appearing for the Bhartiya Kisan Union also submitted that the representatives of the Union will participate in the negotiations.

Insofar as the apprehension regarding MSP [Minimum Support Price] being done away with, it is submitted across the Bar that the same may not be dismantled. The learned Solicitor General also confirmed that there are inherent safeguards, in-built in the Farm Laws, for the protection of the land of the farmers and that it will be ensured that no farmer will lose his land.

Interim Order

(i) The implementation of the three farm laws 1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; (2) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and (3) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, shall stand stayed until further orders;

(ii) As a consequence, the Minimum Support Price System in existence before the enactment of the Farm Laws shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ landholdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws.

(iii) A Committee comprising of (1) Shri Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee; (2) Dr. Parmod Kumar Joshi, Agricultural Economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; (3) Shri Ashok Gulati, Agricultural Economist and Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and (4) Shri Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana, is constituted for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the farmers relating to the farm laws and the views of the Government and to make recommendations. This Committee shall be provided a place as well as Secretarial assistance at Delhi by the Government. All expenses for the Committee to hold sittings at Delhi or anywhere else shall be borne by the Central Government. The representatives of all the farmers’ bodies, whether they are holding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws shall participate in the deliberations of the Committee and put forth their view points. The Committee shall, upon hearing the Government as well as the representatives of the farmers’ bodies, and other stakeholders, submit a report before this Court containing its recommendations. This shall be done within two months from the date of its first sitting. The first sitting shall be held within ten days from today.

While parting with the decision, the Court expressed that:

“While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmer’s bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.”

Matter to be listed in 8 weeks. [Rakesh Vaishanv v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 18, decided on 12-01-2021]

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