Punjab Assembly Passes 3 Bills on Farm Laws, Now Over to President
CM Amarinder Singh said the Centre’s farm laws go against the interest of the farmers and landless workers.
During a special session on Tuesday, 20 October, the Punjab Legislative Assembly passed a series of Bills, including three state-level amendments to the Centre's controversial new ‘Farm Laws’ that are meant to negate their effects.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that the Farm Laws go against the interest of the farmers and landless workers and the “time-tested agriculture marketing system” established in Punjab, and therefore the state government needed to take action to amend them.
A resolution against the three new Farm Laws passed by the Centre has also been adopted setting out the position of the Vidhan Sabha on these issues, following consultations with farmer unions, local officials and “above all, Punjabis”.
The CM proceeded to lead MLAs to Punjab’s Raj Bhawan on Tuesday to submit the resolution to Governor VP Singh Badnore, ANI reported. “The [Centre’s Farm Bills] have become an Act at the Parliament but Vidhan Sabha unanimously rejected those Acts. We've adopted a resolution & have come here together. We gave copies of the resolution to the Governor and requested him to approve it,” he explained to the media.
Even if the Governor grants his approval as is required under the existing constitutional scheme, the three Bills meant to negate the effects of the Farm Laws will not come into force unless they are approved by President Ram Nath Kovind, in accordance with Article 254(2) of the Constitution. Captain Amarinder Singh has said the state government has sought an appointment with the President in the coming weeks, and if necessary, the whole Assembly will go to press their case.
“It first goes to Governor, then to President. If it doesn’t happen then we have legal methods too. I hope the Governor approves it because it is unanimous. I’ve also sought an appointment from President between Nov 2-5. Entire Vidhan Sabha will go to him.”Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh to ANI
Punjab is the first state to move a resolution challenging the Centre’s farm laws.
The three Bills that were moved by the state cabinet to counter the farm laws are:
- The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill – which provides that no sale or purchase of wheat or paddy in the state shall be valid unless the price paid for it is equal to or greater than the MSP, according to the Punjab government. Any person purchasing at a rate below the MSP will face up to three years’ imprisonment as punishment.
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill – which provides that no contract farming agreement can be entered into where the price of wheat and paddy is set below the MSP. Again, any violations of this will be punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment.
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill – which includes provisions to prevent black marketing and hoarding of agricultural produce, following the Centre’s move to remove several food crops from the list of essential commodities.
A fourth Bill approved by the Assembly for the benefit of farmers in the state makes an amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure which prohibits attachment of the land of any farmer in connection with a case where their landholding does not exceed 2.5 acres. This amendment also requires the assent of the President.
‘Not Afraid to Resign’: Punjab CM Amarinder Singh Warns of Security Threat in State
Speaking in the Assembly on the second and last day of its special session, he warned of possible disruption in the border state's peace and threat to national security as a result of the central farm laws, pointing out that nobody can tolerate religious hurt and attack on livelihood.
"I am not afraid of resigning. I am not afraid if my government is dismissed. But I will not let the farmers suffer or be ruined," said the chief minister, pointing out that he had chosen to quit in the wake of 1984 Operation Blue Star in Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar "instead of accepting or endorsing the assault on Sikh ethos".
Cautioning the Centre against allowing the situation to get out of hand, Amarinder Singh said: "If the farm laws are not revoked, angry youths can come out on the streets to join the farmers, leading to chaos. The way things are going on, the situation has the potential to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the state."
Even as he reiterated his full support to the agitating farmers, who he said were left with no option but to fight to save themselves and their families, Amarinder Singh appealed to them to help out Punjab by ending the 'Rail Roko' and road blockades and allow movement of essential commodities.
"We have stood by you; now it is your turn to stand by us," he appealed to the farmers, adding that the entire House was with them even though the state was going through tough times, with power generation at a precarious low, no fertilisers, and no space in godowns for fresh paddy arrivals.
What Happened on the Eve of Introducing the Bills?
On the eve of the introduction of the Bills, several Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs spent the night inside the Assembly building to demand the copies of the draft Bill.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is in Opposition, had registered a formal protest on Monday evening for non-supply of the proposed legislation copies to members with Speaker Rana KP Singh.
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu slammed his own party's government in the state for its crop procurement model and "lack" of storage and marketing ability.
Coming out of political hibernation after quite some time, he also flayed the central government by accusing it of handing over agriculture sector to the capitalists whom, he said, it wanted to rule.
How Has the Punjab Govt Moved These Bills?
The Captain Amarinder Singh government in Punjab has not sought to tweak its existing laws on APMCs as had been suggested by SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, but has actually tabled state-level amendments to all three Farm Laws passed by the Centre.
As the Centre has claimed that these Farm Laws dealt with issues under the Concurrent List in Schedule VII of the Constitution (which sets out which areas can be legislated on by the Centre, States, and both), the Punjab government does have the power to make state-level amendments to the three Acts of Parliament. This is noted in the preambulatory clauses to the three bills in the Vidhan Sabha.
Such amendments cannot generally be used to dilute the provisions of a Central Act, as this would fall foul of the Doctrine of Repugnancy. This is provided for in Article 254 of the Constitution which says that where a Central and State law are inconsistent, the Central law will generally prevail. However, there is an exception where both Centre and State are passing a law in connection with a matter in the Concurrent List – in such cases, the State law can be referred to the President of India, who can then approve it.
This is what is likely to be required in this current case. In an interview to the Hindustan Times on 2 October, the Punjab CM had suggested such approval would not be forthcoming for any Punjab-level laws relating to the farm laws. The matter could also end up in the Supreme Court of India, which can hear Centre-State disputes under Article 131 of the Constitution.
(With inputs from IANS)
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