New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday sought the Centre’s response on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the newly enacted three contentious farm laws.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, in a hearing conducted via video conferencing, issued notice to the central government and sought its reply within four weeks.

The bench expressed surprised on seeing a battery of law officers, including Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing in the matter even before the issuance of the notice.

“AG, SG, ASG all appear in a matter where there is no cause of action…This in common parlance is called an ‘overkill’,” it said.

Venugopal told the court that the Centre would be filing a consolidated reply to the petitions.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, was hearing pleas filed by RJD lawmaker from Rajya Sabha, Manoj Jha and DMK Rajya Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu, Tiruchi Siva, and one by Rakesh Vaishnav of Chhattisgarh Kisan Congress.

The three laws — Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 — took effect from September 27 after President Ram Nath Kovid’s assent.

The petitions alleged that these laws would dismantle the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) system intended to ensure fair prices for farm products

The bench seemed disinclined to entertain pleas against the farm laws and asked lawyer M L Sharma, who had filed a separate plea, to go a high court.

Referring to its earlier verdict, it said that mere passing of a legislation does not give rise to a cause of action. “When you have got a cause of action then come before us. Don’t come before us and go to a high court”.

This led Sharma to withdraw his PIL and the bench proceeded to hear other pleas on the issue.

Lawyer K Parmeshwar, appearing for Vaishnav, said that the laws interfered with states power and needed examination by the top court.

Jha, who filed the plea through lawyer Fauzia Shakil, said the laws would expose marginal farmers to the exploits of big corporates.

Jha said: “The impugned legislations corporatise agriculture and ushers in an unregulated and exploitative regime. A farmer would not have the knowledge to negotiate the best terms with a private company.

“This leads to unequal bargaining position in negotiating the farm agreement with corporates would lead to corporates monopolizing the agriculture sector.”

The plea said the laws have been passed by Parliament “in breach of the Parliamentary Rules and convention and the impugned acts are unconstitutional on the ground that it is discriminatory and manifestly arbitrary and further violates the Basic Structure of the Constitution.”

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