This article has been written by Tulika Bhattacharya, a student at
Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab
On 12 January 2021, the Supreme Court delivered its judgement on a number of petitions filed against the Farm Law Bill passed by the legislature in September 2020. The Supreme Court has put a stay on the implementation of these farm laws for three months. The court reprimanded the government for its inability to resolve the crisis peacefully.
The CJI said, “Who will be responsible if there is violence or bloodshed, we do not want anybody’s blood on our hands”. And had set up a four-member Committee to negotiate between the farmers and the Government.
The members are as follows: -
· Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, Agricultural economist, International Food Policy Research Institute,
· Mr Ashok Gulati, Agricultural economist, former Chairman of Commission of Agricultural Cost and Prices,
· Mr. Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkar Sanghatana
The reforms are bought with the contention of growth of agriculture, improvement in farmers lifestyle, diversification of crops, to make subsidies less counterproductive. Reforms are necessary but what is more essential is the drafting of the right kind of reforms that are the need of the hour. The bill has some problematic and confusing reforms like the contract farming and removing the obligation of APMC markets. Now these reforms have their own pros and cons. But here we are mainly concerned about the legal nuances of the Supreme court judgement on the farm bill. The recent judgement spurred a lot of critics, it alarmingly tried to erase the distinction between judiciary, legislature and executive
THE LEGAL ISSUES PERTAINING TO THE JUDGEMENT
The supreme court by this decision have intruded into the political territory, mediating a political dispute. Judiciary is known as a faithful keeper of constitution, its role is to determine the unconstitutionality or illegality of law. By giving this decision the Supreme Court have clearly violated the separation of powers enshrined in the constitution. In the case of Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain the Supreme court itself clearly stated the Importance of separation of power. This judgement is a perfect sheer example of judicial overreach. First of all the supreme court does not have the authority to put stay on the passing of any bill, secondly it lost its neutrality by disturbing the momentum of a social movement, and lastly it violated the first rule of mediation. The Supreme court on the basis of Suo moto appointed a four-member committee without the consultation with the other side that is the farmers group. It is not the role of the supreme court to act as a mediator and break the social movement so as to suppress the voice of dissent. This a complete façade intrusion by the judiciary into the legislature. The supreme court assured in the judgement that the farmers would get their MSPs but it is not within the jurisdiction of the court to decide the policy making decisions that is the work of the administration. The Supreme court was clearly seen as the arbitrator of the National security. The contention of the Supreme court behind this decision is also not justified. The matter of agriculture falls under the State affairs according to the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The grounds on which the Supreme Court stayed the bill was mainly concerned to halt the protest. Whereas the SC should have halted the bill on the ground that there was a possibility of the Farm laws to be unconstitutional. The role of supreme court is not to decide whether a law is good or bad but to decide the validity or constitutionality of the law. The constitution of the 4-member committee will not be of much use in deciding the constitutionality of the farm laws as that is the work of Supreme Court. This judgement gives a misleading impression about the fact that distributive conflicts can be resolved by judicial means. For suspending some law the Supreme court ought to give some prima- facie case that might have taken place. The Supreme Court cannot simply wade into the political territory. This judgement does not qualify under judicial review given under Article 13 of the Indian Constitution. The main function of the judicial review is that it determines that whether the law is in line with the constitution. It should not be ultra vires with the constitution. The importance of judicial review was clearly presented in the case of R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu. In the constitutionality of farm law case the judiciary instead of determining the constitutionality of law, suspended the implementation of the laws as well as formulated a four-member committee which was not under the ambit of judicial review.
It is well said by Lord Action- “A power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupts absolutely”. Conferring the power to a single entity would rise absolutism which is antithesis to democracy. It is the duty of the government to mediate upon the issue with the farmers so as to settle the matter peacefully. Mediation is always welcomed but it must be the process between government and people, judiciary has no role to play here. Reforms to any law is always much needed, but these reforms should be presented with utmost clarity. Many people viewed this judgement as the encroachment of judiciary into the administrative and political arena. The Supreme Court is the apex court of the country it is the last resort of its citizens. The farmers need clarity on these farm laws that are being reformed they want to be heard by the government. Bringing clarity in these laws, focusing on the good reforms that are genuinely concerned with the welfare of farmers and growth of agriculture is the need of the hour.