Are the new Farm acts Anti-Federal?

India Oct 11, 2020

President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the contentious farm Bills passed by Parliament last week. Amidst protests by farmers’ organisations across the country, questions were being raised about the anti-federal nature of these ‘Acts’.

Federalism is the system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units. It is based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and state governments, creating a federation. It essentially means both the Centre and states have the freedom to operate in their allotted spheres of power, in coordination with each other.

Federalism, like constitutionalism and separation of powers, is not mentioned in the Indian Constitution. But, it is the very essence of our constitutional scheme.

But where does the farm bills(now acts) cut in with federalism?

So as per Union of India v H.S.Dhillon (1972), constitutionality of parliamentary laws can be challenged only on two grounds — that the subject is in the State List, or that it violates fundamental rights. And the Union List and Concurrent List put matters relating to agriculture outside Parliament’s jurisdiction, and give state legislatures exclusive power. No entry in respect of agriculture in the State List is subject to any entry in the Union or Concurrent Lists.

In nutshell, the government’s move to privatise the agricultural sector contradicts the federal principle as the agricultural policies come under the state’s jurisdiction and the bills were passed by the central government. Some states (mostly the opposition states, like Punjab, Maharashtra  and Chattisgarh) are strongly protesting these acts as there states collect a lot of revenue from the and the fees that were previously necessary. The small farmers are protesting as they believe that the big corporates will swallow them with complicated legal contracts and their money power.

The debate on this issue could go on for long, but the thing which is definite is that whenever there has been privatization in any sector it has been beneficial.

We can hope that the same goes with agricultural sector.

This article has been written by Yashovardhan Tiwary for The Paradigm

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