Constitutionality of Farm Laws
Rakesh Vaishnav & Ors v Union of India & Ors.
The Court will decide if the three farm laws: Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Act, 2020, Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2020 and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 are constitutionally valid.
Petitioner: Rakesh Vaishnav; Tiruchi Siva; DP Dhakad; Manoj Kumar Jha; Bharatiya Kisan Party; Manohar Lal Sharma; Rishabh Sharma; Reepak Kansal; GS Mani; Janeshwar; Sanjeev Tyagi
Lawyers: Mr. K. Parameshwar; Mr. V. Mukunda; Ms. A. Sregurupriya; Mr. Sukumar Pattjoshi; Mr. K.K.L.Gautam; Mr. Vijendra Kasana; Mr. A. K. Suman; Mr. Manoj Sharma; Mr. Sandeep Kumar Singh; Mr. Sanjeev Malhotra; Mr. Vivek K. Tankha; Mr. Varun Tankha; Mr. Sumeer Sodhi; Mr. Prashant Sivarajan; Mr. Ujjawal Anand Sharma; Ms. Jhanvi Dubey; Ms. Suditi Batra; Mr. Hussain Ali; Mr. P. Wilson; Mr. D. Kumanan; Mr. Richardson Wilson; Mr. M. Shoeb Alam; Ms. Fauzia Shakil; Mr. Manohar Lal Sharma; Harish N Salva; Mr. Deepak Goel; Mr. Kamal Kumar Pandey; Mr. Vipin Kumar; Ms. Madhuri Gupta; Mr. Vikas Singh; Mr. Reepak Kansal; Ms. Deepieka Kalia; Mr. Arun Adlakha; Mr. Kuldeep Roy; Harisha S.R; Mr. Omprakash Ajitsingh Parihar; Mr. Dushyant Tiwari; Mr. Yudhvir Dalal; Mr. S.Muthukrishnan; Mr. S. Mahendran; Prashant Bhushan
Respondent: Union of India
Lawyers: Mr. K.K Venugopal; Mr. Tushar Mehta; Mr. K M Nataraj
Whether the Parliament has the legislative competence to pass the farm laws?
Whether the farm laws are arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, 1950?
Whether the farmers’ occupation of public space to protest is violative of the residents’ fundamental rights?
Whether the constitution of the Committee to mediate between the farmers and the Government is legal and valid?
The Parliament passed three laws in September 2020 Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Act, 2020, Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2020 and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 (‘farm laws’). Before being enacted by the Parliament, the farm laws were promulgated as ordinances on June 5th 2020.
The farm laws seek to facilitate the selling of farmer’s produce outside of the state-designated Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), regulate contract farming and regulate the supply of certain food items during extraordinary situations like war, famine etc.
The farmers, farmers’ rights groups and the opposition political parties have severely contested the enactment of the farm laws. They suspect that the new legislative changes would adversely impact the farmers and create a private market. With allowing of trade outside of APMCs, the farmers assert that private and large companies would be able to procure produce at incidental prices. Moreover, the proposed contract farming framework might lead to the grabbing of agricultural land by corporate entities.
With the passing of the farm laws and intensified farmers’ agitation, several petitions challenging the constitutionality of farm laws were filed. Soon, petitions in support of the farm laws were also filed.
In December 2020, some residents of the National Capital Region Delhi filed petitions claiming that the road blockade caused by prolonged protests was violating the residents’ right to free movement. While hearing these petitions on December 16th, CJI Bobde commented that roads were being blocked by the Union government, not by the farmers. On December 17th, the Bench upheld the farmers’ right to protest, and refused to interfere in the matter of road blockades.
The Delhi Police filed an application on January 11th 2021 to restrict the protesting farmers from disturbing the Republic Day celebrations at Delhi. The Police claim that the proposed tractor parade would cause a massive law and order situation. The Bench, once again, refused to interfere, stating that the police had liberty to invoke all powers under the law’ to maintain peace and security.
In the hearing on January 12th 2021, the three-judge bench led by CJI Bobde stayed the farm laws. Bemoaning the lack of progress the Government has made to resolve this crisis, the Court set up a four-member Committee to negotiate between the farmers and the Government with the following members:
- Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee
- Dr. Parmod Kumar Joshi, Agricultural Economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute
- Ashok Gulati, Agricultural Economist and Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices
- Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana
Soon after the constitution of the Committee, Bhupinder Singh Mann quit noting: “I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab”. After this, the petitioners raised concerns of other members of the committee being biased, stating that they had all publicly commented on the farm laws. Bobde J rejected these concerns, stating that the experts can facilitate negotiations with farmers without bias, despite their stated opinions of the laws. The Committee submitted its report on March 19th 2021.
No hearings were conducted after the stay order. On a different bench hearing the Kisan Mahapanchayat’s plea to hold protests at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, Khanwilkar J asked whether there the farmers’ right to protest included occupying public spaces indefinitely, while the subject of protest was pending before the Supreme Court. The farmers, however, continued to protest in different parts of the country.
On November 19th 2021, in a national address, the Prime Minister announced the Union Government’s intention to repeal the farm laws in the upcoming Winter session of Parliament. If a repeal is enacted, the constitutional challenge will be infructuous.