Congress MP from Kerala, TN Prathapan on Monday moved the Supreme Court, challenging various provisions of the Centre’s new farm laws, PTI reported. This is the first petition against the laws in the top court.

Prathapan, who represents the Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, argued that the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 violated the right to equality (Article 14), prohibition of discrimination (Article 15) and right to life and liberty (Article 21) of the Indian Constitution. He added that the laws were “liable to be struck down as unconstitutional, illegal and void”.

The Congress MP also said in his petition that the Agricultural Produce Market Committee or APMC Model Act was created to protect the farmers from exploitation by intermediaries and to build a common market to sell produce. “Without APMC acting as a protective shield around the farmers, the market would ultimately fall to the corporate greed of multinational companies who are more profit-oriented and have no care for the conditions of the poverty stricken farmers who are dependent on farming for their livelihood,” he said.

Prathapan added that the APMCs ensured Minimum Support Price to the farmers, who were engaged in an unpredictable occupation. “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,” he said. “This makes agriculture risky and inefficient in respect of both input and output management.”

The MP said that the way to address the concerns of farmers was by strengthening the APMC system with more investment and not monetisation of the produce to increase income. “The promotion of agreements for farming produce will weaken the process of monetisation as per the current structure of the Act... Through the provisions mentioned in the above noted act, de-risking of agriculture as claimed by the Government at various stages is wrong on the analysis of the provisions enacted,” it said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also said on Monday that he will approach the Supreme court against the bills which have sparked massive protests in his state. “Our lawyers are coming from Delhi tomorrow [Tuesday],” he was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times. “We will discuss how to proceed in the matter and then challenge the legislation in the Supreme Court.”

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, meanwhile, asked states ruled by her party to pass legislations to override the Centre’s farm laws.

Nationwide protests

Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi and Tamil Nadu witnessed widespread protests against the new laws on Monday.

The protests in Karnataka were most intense in Bengaluru. By noon, thousands of farmers had gathered outside Town Hall in the city. Other groups of farmers blocked roads across the city until they were asked to move by the police.

In Delhi, a tractor was set on fire at the India Gate by a group of Congress workers protesting against the farm laws. Five demonstrators were arrested. The Delhi Police detained Congress leader Anil Kumar and other workers during a protest at Rajghat.

Two bills – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill – were passed in the Parliament on September 20. The last one, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, was also approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha on September 22. President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the bills on September 27, after which they became laws.

Critics say that these new agricultural policies would lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance in protest against these bills.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre, however, has consistently maintained that the bills would help in farmers getting a higher price for their produce as state-based Agricultural Produce Market Committees or APMC has been removed.