IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 6th Oct 2020
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.– Mark Twain
EDITORIAL HUNT #173 :“Farmers Bill vs States | UPSC“
Farmers Bill vs States | UPSC
R. Ramakumar is Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Farm Acts – unwanted constitutional adventurism
There is a case to argue that the three Acts have poor legal validity, may be unconstitutional and weaken federalism
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Agriculture
Through the Farm Bills the state autonomies have been pulverised. Punjab and Haryana are worst affected . Discuss -(GS 2,3 )
- What is entry 33 in List III ?
- Judiciary on APMC ACT .
These Acts are:
- Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
- JURISDICTION : Agriculture is a State subject in the Constitution, listed as Entry 14 in the State List (List II).
- LEGAL REALM : The farm bills bring permanent deprivation to the State legislatures from effectively exercising their legislative judgement in respect of certain vital matters.
- OTHER ENTRIES : This apart, Entry 26 in List II refers to “trade and commerce within the State”; Entry 27 refers to “production, supply and distribution of goods”; and Entry 28 refers to “markets and fairs”.
- ADMINISTRATION : For these reasons, intra-State marketing in agriculture was always considered a legislative prerogative of States.
- INVOKED ARTICLE : For this purpose, the central government invoked Entry 33 in the Concurrent List (List III).
ENTRY 33 IN LIST III
33.Trade and commerce in, and the production, supply and distribution of, —
(a) the products of any industry where the control of such industry by the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest, and imported goods of the same kind as such products;
(b) foodstuffs, including edible oilseeds and oils;
(c) cattle fodder, including oilcakes and other concentrates;
(d) raw cotton, whether ginned or unginned, and cotton seed; and
(e) raw jute.
AMENDMENT AND DISSENT
- ENTRY 33 : Entry 33, in its present form, was inserted in List III through the Constitution (Third Amendment) Act, 1954.
- SEVERE OPPOSITION : The Bill was referred to a Joint Committee. In the Joint Committee, there was severe opposition to the Bill from seven members.
- ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE CONSTITUTION : As per Article 369 , the responsibility of agricultural trade and commerce within a State was temporarily entrusted to the Union government for a period of five years beginning from 1950.
- SYSTEMIC PARTITION : The 1954 Amendment attempted to change this into a permanent feature in the Constitution.
- DISSENTING MEMBERS : The Constitution makers did not desire to place matters enumerated in Article 369 in the Concurrent List.
- UNIONS CLARIFICATION : MOC of 1954 clarified – Amendment was required because many States were deficit in food production, and the Centre had to “safeguard the interests of the weaker units in the Union”.
- OPPOSITION IN 1954 : Article 369 was retained as a temporary feature in the Constitution because “the situation in the country [after 1947] was abnormal” and “the food situation was very bad.”
- CONSTITUTIONAL EFFORTS : But the Constitution-makers knew that the situation would return to “normal” in a few years. That was why they did not vest the listed powers with the Centre for more than five years.
- RESISTANCE : Thus, the Bill would lead to “an expanding encroachment on the rights of the States”; “a progressive erosion of State powers”; and “the possibility of side stepping of democratic processes”.
- DEVOLUTION OF POWER : “Passage of the Bill would transform the Indian Constitution into a “unitary Constitution” instead of a “federal Constitution” and reduce “all the States’ powers into municipal powers”.
WHAT THE JUDICIARY SAID
- CO-OPERATIVE FEDERALISM : In many of its judgments after 1954, the Supreme Court of India has upheld the legislative powers of States in intra-State agricultural marketing.
- NOTABLE RULING : Most notable was the ruling of the five-judge Constitution Bench in I.T.C. Limited vs.Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and Others, 2002.
I.T.C. Limited vs.(APMC) and Others, 2002 CASE
- The Tobacco Board Act, 1975 had brought the development of the tobacco industry under the Centre.
- However, Bihar’s APMC Act continued to list tobacco as an agricultural produce.
- An earlier judgment had held that the State APMC Act will be repugnant to the Central Act, and hence was ultra vires.
(a) market fees can be charged from ITC under the State APMC Act;
(b) State laws become repugnant only if the State and Centre enact laws on the same subject matter under an Entry in List III; and
(c) in those cases outside List III, one has to first examine if the subject matter was an exclusive entry under List I or List II, and only after determining this can one decide on the dominant legislation that would prevail.
- APPLICABILITY : In the case of the Farm Acts of 2020, the applicable points are (a) and (c).
- TAX COLLECTION : With regard to (a), States could continue to charge mandi taxes from private markets anywhere in the notified area regardless of the Central Act.
- EXCLUSIVITY : With regard to (c), the State legislation should prevail as agriculture is an exclusive subject matter — Entry 14 – in List II.
- LEGALITY : In short, there appears to be a strong case to reasonably argue that the Farm Acts have poor legal validity, if not being outrightly unconstitutional.
Such adventurism weakens the spirit of federal cooperation that India needs in this hour of crisis.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Farmers Bill vs States | UPSC