Agri Business

Farmers, activists urge Chief Justice of India to resume hearing

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on July 26, 2021

(File photo) Farmers dance as they sing a folk song during a 12-hour strike, as part of protests against farm laws, on a highway at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghaziabad   -  REUTERS

Supreme Court stayed the implementation on January 19; urge for a verdict by August 15

A number of farmers’ associations, farmers’ welfare activists and social workers have begun urging the Supreme Court Justice NV Ramana to resume the hearing of the petitions filed against the three farm laws passed by Parliament in September last year.

On January 19, taking up various petitions that challenged the farm laws – which give freedom to them to sell their produce anywhere to anyone in the country, enter into contract farming and removing the limits on stocks that can be held by traders – an apex court bench, headed by then Chief Justice SA Bobde, stayed the implementation of the legislations.

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The bench also appointed a four-member committee to look into the farmers’ grievances against the laws and submit a report. With Bhupinder Singh Mann of Bharatiya Kisan Union withdrawing from the committee, the panel comprised

Pramod Kumar Joshi of International Food Policy Research Institute, agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, and Shetkari Sanghatana President, Anil Ghanwat.

Farmers’ protests

The committee submitted its report on March 19 but the court is yet to resume the hearing, though farmers, mainly drawn from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, continue to hold protests against the laws.

These farmers have been holding protests on the borders of the National Capital Region since November-end. Last week, they decided to hold daily protests before Parliament but Delhi police convinced them to hold their protests at Jantar Mantar.

Also read: Farmers’ protest reaches Parliament

“We request you to kindly hear the farm reforms case pending before the Supreme Court urgently and pass orders. We are in a dilemma over the acts. We respect your judgment. We farmers will abide by your decision. We request you to consider (i) whether Parliament has followed due procedure in passing the acts; (ii) Consequence of Acts to farmers welfare and agriculture development; and (iii) Committee report,” some farmers and associations have written or mailed to the Chief Justice NV Ramana.

BusinessLine has seen the copy of the mails sent by these farmers and associations. They have also requested a decision by the apex court by August 15 this year.

Low growth

When contacted, Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Association Chief Advisor, P Chengal Reddy said his association supported farmers sending mails to the Chief Justice of India, urging early resumption of the hearing.

“Since the 1990s, the growth in the farm sector has been less than two per cent compared with the service industry’s 10 per cent growth. The farm laws have been passed to benefit the farmers and agriculture sector to attract investments, technologies and build infrastructure,” he said.

“While farmers from Punjab and a couple of north Indian States assume the farm laws are harmful and have launched an agitation demanding their repeal, we are of the view that these laws benefit the overall development of the agriculture sector,” Reddy said. The stay on the laws has put many farmers in a dilemma, the CIFA Chief Advisor said.

Reddy has also impleaded himself in the case in favour of the laws.

‘Release report’

A member of the committee told BusinessLine on the condition of anonymity that the Supreme Court should at least release the report submitted by them.

There is some justification behind the farmers and their associations pleading for resumption of the hearing in the farm laws, said Anil Ghanwat.

Also read: RS stalled as Opposition seeks debate on price rise, farm laws

One of the important issues raised by the petitioners in the farm laws case is whether the Centre is competent to pass the legislations when agriculture is taken care of by the States. However, supporters of the laws argue that agriculture is a concurrent subject and the Centre has powers to enact these laws.

“Parliament has passed the Acts. Someone has disagreed and gone to court, which has stayed the implementation. After that, why is there so much delay to resume the hearing, particularly after the three-member committee appointed by it has submitted the report?” wondered Reddy.

Opponents of the farm laws have argued that they have been passed to end the minimum support price (MSP) scheme for farmers as well as end sale of farm produce through the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) yards.

However, the Centre has allayed the fears. During the last two years, it has procured record volumes of rice, wheat and cotton under the MSP scheme from growers. It has also said APMC yards will continue to function despite new systems coming due to the laws. The Union government has also allocated ₹1- lakh crore for improving infrastructure at APMC yards.

Also read: Farm laws need more detailing, robust regulatory mechanism

The Centre has come forward to hold talks with the agitating farmers. Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told the Rajya Sabha on Friday that 11 rounds of negotiations have been held with the farmers. The Centre is “serious and sensitive towards farmers’ issues,” he said.

Tomar said during all the 11 rounds the agitating farmers have been demanding repeal of the laws. “The Union government has stressed that instead of demanding repeal of the Acts, the farmers’ union should discuss their concerns on the clauses of the farm Acts so that their concerns can be resolved,” the minister said.

Published on July 25, 2021

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