Constitutional Validity of Farmer’s Protest and New Farm Laws
Written By: Ashima Mishra
As we have already witnessed the new farm laws framed by the government of India. In September 2020, three bills related to the agricultural field were proposed in the parliament of India. The farm bill’s main objective is to provide the farmers with multiple marketing channels and lists down a legal framework to the farmer which they need to obey before entering into a pre-arranged contract. The farm’s bill was approved by the house of people i.e. the Lok Sabha and the council of states i.e. the Rajya Sabha on 17th September and 20th September 2020 respectively. It also got the assent of the President on 27th September 2020.
The Farms bill after approval came to be known as the Indian Agriculture Acts, 2020 having three separate acts included in it and they are as follows: –
- The Farmer’s Empowerment and Protection Agreement on Price Assurance and Act, 2020: It is a mechanism that is meant to solve the dispute legally. This Act mainly provides legal guidelines for a farmer about how to enter into contracts that are pre-arranged with the buyer. It also included the price.
- The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce ( Promotion and Facilitation)Act, 2020: This Act mainly dealt with the scope of trade areas to ‘any place of production, collection, aggregation.’ It also allowed e-trading and e-commerce of scheduled farmer’s produce crops.
Further, it also put a barrier on the respective state governments from levying any kind of market fee, cess, or levy on farmers, traders, and e-trading platforms for the trade of farmer’s produce in an outside trade area.
- The Essential Commodities Amendment Act, 2020: This act was passed for the removal of foodstuffs such as pulses, cereals, onions, potatoes, edible oil seeds, and other essential commodities. It also removes stock holding limits on such commodities except under some exceptional situations.
NEGATIVE REACTIONS FROM THE FARMERS
Most of the farmers reacted to the Indian Agriculture Acts or the Farm bills in a negative manner. They considered it as an anti-farmer Act. This led to many protests by the farmers all over India and mainly from Punjab and Haryana as they are purely agriculture-based states. The farm laws also received backlashes from the opposition parties which included the Communist Party of India, Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Indian National Congress. These political parties alleged about the bill that it will badly affect the farmer’s earning and livelihood.
The main reason for farmer’s refusal of accepting the farm laws is that they believe it would lead to the creation of private mandis which would again drive agriculture business towards privatization. Consequently, the big corporate house will take over the markets and procure farm produce and in an incidental amount. The farmers have been continuously protesting at the borders of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and across other places of the country.
DOES THE RECENT FARM LAWS IS CONSTITUTIONALLY VALID?
If my personal opinion is asked, I would say ‘no’ because as we know one’s right is another’s the duty and we should not forget that our constitution maintains a balance between right and duty.
What actually our Constitution promises?
It promises to be a guardian protector of the rights of each and every citizen irrespective of any kind of social, mental, or economic status. I believe a farmer can better understand his own advantage or disadvantage of having the farm laws than the person who is trying to solve his problem.
As we all know has been continuously regulated by three organs of the government i.e. legislature, executive, and judiciary for decades. They are the makers, sustainer,s or breakers of a constitutional provision.
When it comes to giving any kind of verdict, the judiciary has always kept an upper hand over the other two i.e. the legislature and the executive.
Recently, after the approval of farm laws, a dozen of petitions were filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India regarding the new farm laws. The court by giving it a reason put a stay on the operation of farm laws for now and it has decided to set up an expert committee who would a negotiator between the government and the farmers.
However, the Union Leader and the farmers are very disappointed with such formation of the committee because they believe that the committee won’t give an impartial decision as most of the members of that committee are strong defenders of supporters of the new farm laws. The farmer’s protest is also definitely valid for some reason as their rights are being violated to an extreme level. And if it is asked whether there is any constitutional validity of farm law?
Then yes, the new farm laws are constitutionally invalid and can be challenged on various grounds in the court of law and they are as follows:-
- Violates the provision of federalism: – A challenge plea was made in the apex court regarding the constitutional validity of the recent farm laws on the ground that the parliament does not hold any legislative power to enact the farm laws as it comes under the subject of state list. As we all know, there are three kinds of lists such as-
- Union List- It is governed by the central government
- State List- It is governed by the State government
- Concurrent List- It is governed by both central and state governments but if there’s a conflict of ideas between the two, the center prevails.
- Violates the rules of the House of Parliament: – It is well-known information that the voting is done in the Rajya Sabha regarding the farm bill was inappropriately done and didn’t set compliance with the rules of the house. The rule mentions that the chain to order the recording votes by members present and voting even any members demand for it. The Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha conducted the whole proceeding during that period of time but he didn’t order any division although there were few members who openly demanded it.
- Violates the procedure to be followed in the passage of bills which lso results in violation of constitution: – Under Article 100 of the constitution of India, it is mentioned that all questions at any sitting of either house shall be determined by the majority of votes of both members present and voting. The majority can be counted in terms of numbers and thereby this particular provision requires all questions to be determined by the recording of votes of the members. Also, a voice vote can’t be a ground for a majority vote as it has nowhere mentioned in the constitution It does not recognize voice vote. Though voice vote has been practised in all legislation because of getting some convenience. This new law is a clear violation of Article 100 of the constitution.
DOES RIGHT TO PROTEST IS CONSTITUTIONALLY VALID?
We all know how badly the new farm law has shaken up the entire country. For the first time, after 1945, a new divide and rule policy has been witnessed in India. On one side, the legislature has been continuously making laws without thinking about its pros and cons. On the other side, farmers are endless protesting. There is another side, where judiciary is involved in solving the petitions of farmers and citizens of the country. There are media persons who are ready with their false narratives just for the sake of TRPs and last but not the least, the common people who are busy in social media war. In the entire chaos, there’s one thing which is permanent and that is the right to protest of the farmers.
DOES RIGHT TO PROTEST A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT?
Yes, the right to protest is a constitutional right or fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution of India. Under Article 19(1)(a) & Article 19(2)(b), the provision of freedom of speech and expression and also to assemble peacefully and without any arms have been included. Again these provision is subjected to certain reasonable restrictions and they are as follows: –
- Security of the state must be looked after.
- Sovereignty and integrity of India should not be compromised.
- Maintain an amicable relation with foreign countries and public order.
- Sow decency and morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Under Article 51 A of the constitution speaks about the fundamental duties . It states that every person has some duty to safeguard public asset and to avoid any kind of violence of fundamental duties. We have seen in the case of Ramlila Maidan Vs. Home Secretary Union of India and others (2012), the apex court ruled that “citizens have a fundamental right to assemble and peacefully protest that can’t be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action.
DEMAND OF THE FARMERS
The farmers are heavily demanding for the scrapping of the new farm laws. They are not ready to end the ongoing protest till the entire new farm laws are being repealed. They believed that putting a stay is not a permanent one and it may start being implemented any moment, if the Supreme Court affirms it. The President of Indian Farmer’s Union states, “putting a stay on the laws is never a big deal and a complete solution. We want complete repealing of these laws and declare them as constitutionally invalid.
The new farm laws have done one positive thing across the country and that is the whole people came together to fight for injustice. The right to protest is not just a fundamental right but also it is a moral right as well as duty of every citizen to fight against the odd.