SC asks Cong MP to establish if farm laws took away MSP regime

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Supreme Court. (File Photo: IANS)

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked a Congress MP from Thrissur, T.N. Prathapan, who challenged the constitutional validity of the three farm laws, to establish which provisions of the new enactments take away the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde asked the counsel representing the MP, “You want the existing system to continue? Show us the provision which withdraws MSP.”

The counsel argued that his client is a farmer and an MP too, and insisted that he wants the MSP scheme to continue.

The top court had already stayed the implementation of the three farm laws and set up a committee of agriculture experts to hear the farmers’ grievances.

As the petitioner’s counsel was shuffling through the documents during the hearing through video conferencing, the bench decided to issue a notice in the matter to the Centre. The bench also tagged his plea with the pending petitions, which have challenged the validity of the farm laws.

Prathapan, in his plea filed through lawyer James P. Thomas, said: “Indian agriculture is characterised by fragmentation due to small holdings and has certain inherent weaknesses beyond control such as dependence on weather, uncertainties in production and an unpredictable market. This makes agriculture risky and inefficient in respect of both input and output management.”

The Congress MP emphasised that the laws are liable to be struck down, as they are unconstitutional. In his plea, he urged the top court to strike down the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, which allowed contract farming, terming it as “unconstitutional, illegal and void”.

The plea argued that the farm laws would spell disaster for 14.5 crore farmers, as they will become vulnerable to exploitation by opening parallel and unregulated markets for a few corporates.

The petitioner claimed that it is important to strengthen the existing Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) system by infusing more capital while it is also essential to effectively manage the MSP system.