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Chhattisgarh to challenge Centre’s farm bills in Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: The Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh government is set to challenge the Centre’s recently notified agriculture legislations in the Supreme Court on the grounds that they infringe on a state subject.

Speaking to ET, Chhattisgarh agriculture minister Ravindra Choubey said, “The Chhattisgarh government will challenge the agriculture legislation in the Supreme Court. This would be done on the ground that the Centre has framed laws on agriculture, a state subject in our Constitution. The Centre has used the term ‘inter-state trade and commerce’, which are in the Concurrent List of the Constitution. This trade is of agricultural produce and the Centre has practically rendered useless the state’s marketing machinery and the way our produce was being sold. It has used a backchannel to push the bills. This is what we will tell before the Supreme Court.”

By moving the top court, Chhattisgarh would be the first state to legally challenge the Centre’s agriculture laws which have triggered widespread farmers’ protests in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, Congress MP T N Prathapan had moved the apex court against Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.

Chaubey held an extensive meeting with chief minister Bhupesh Baghel over the issue on Tuesday. Apart from challenging the matter in the court, the state would bring in separate notifications and legislation to negate the impact of the central farm laws. “The amendment in Essential Commodities Act has done away with the limit on stocks of cereals, pulses and oilseeds that can be stocked. In Chhattisgarh, we are planning to bring a specific notification which would make it essential for every trader to declare how much of what produce he is stocking and how much has been traded. This would keep a check on hoarding,” Choubey told ET.

The biggest intervention would be to negate the Centre’s step to allow private individuals to buy at private mandis. Unlike Punjab and Haryana, which have a robust mandi system, Chhattisgarh procures through cooperative societies that are managed by the Chhattisgarh State Cooperative Marketing Federation Limited (MARKFED). “A separate law would be brought in to ensure that no land is given to a private company or an individual to open an agricultural market. This would ensure that there are no private mandis in our state,” said Chaubey.

The minister told ET that the state agriculture department and legal experts are studying the three legislations to look for any lacunae which can be addressed through a law and separate notifications. A special session of the state assembly would be convened to pass the special law. The move comes after Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s directive to the Congress-ruled states to pass a law to negate the Centre’s farm legislations.

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