IYC supporters protest against the farm bills in New Delhi on Thursday.
IYC supporters protest against the farm bills in New Delhi on Thursday.

Cong terms farm bills ‘unconstitutional’

The party also extended its support to Friday’s ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by various farmers’ organisations in protest against the bills.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON SEP 25, 2020 12:19 AM IST

The Congress on Thursday said it will challenge the three farm bills in the court, saying the “black laws” are “unconstitutional” and against the country’s federal structure.

The party also extended its support to Friday’s ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by various farmers’ organisations in protest against the bills.

The main opposition party also launched on Thursday its nearly two-month-long “mass movement” against the government for passing “anti-farmer and anti-poor” bills in Parliament.

The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, have been passed by both the Houses of Parliament and await Presidential assent.

The support to the ‘bandh’ was announced by Congress party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

“The diabolical & debilitating attack on Farmer & Farm Labourers by the three ‘Black Bills’ of Modi Govt would be decisively defeated,” he tweeted.

Surjewala said the Congress and former party chief Rahul Gandhi stand solidly behind the farmers and support the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by various farmers’ organisations.

“Congress worker and leader will join farmers’ dharna and protests,” he added.

The Congress and 17 other opposition parties had on Wednesday requested President Ram Nath Kovind not to give his assent to the three farm bills.

Addressing reporters at the party headquarters in Delhi, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the 18 opposition like-minded parties have urged the President to not sign the bills as they will be against the federal structure if they become laws.

“If the President signs these bills, which I want and hope he should not sign, and once they become the law, I feel they will be against the federal structure,” he said.

“These laws will be challenged in the court from high court up to the Supreme Court and I have no doubt that they will be quashed. We want that... these laws are stopped and quashed by the court as they are unconstitutional,” Singhvi said.

He said the issues come under List 2 of the 7th Schedule and are exclusive rights of states.

Singhvi, a Rajya Sabha member, added agriculture is included in List 2 and these laws directly relate to agriculture and trade and commerce within the state. The holding of markets and fairs also fall within the purview of state governments, he said.

Singhvi also accused the government of pushing through the bills in the Rajya Sabha while ignoring calls by many members for a division of votes.

“These are three black laws and the manner in which they were passed was unconstitutional and against parliamentary traditions and rules,” he alleged.

He said as per parliamentary precedents, the chair has to hear the plea by even a single member wanting a division of votes but that was not done. “There were doubts about the quorum in the Rajya Sabha when the bills were passed amid the din.”

Singhvi alleged that whatever happened on Sunday during the passage of bills in the Rajya Sabha was not just “unconstitutional but also undemocratic”, as the government sought to push through the bills due to its power.

“The government did not have the numbers and that is why it resorted to such measures to get the bills passed, without adhering to members’ request for a division,” he added.

Singhvi said Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu “wrongly rejected” the no confidence resolution against deputy chairman Harivansh by opposition parties as a 14-day notice is not required.

The Congress had earlier announced that it will also collect two crore signatures from protesting farmers against the proposed legislations.

The decision by the Congress to hit the streets was taken at a meeting of general secretaries and in-charge of states at the party headquarters in Delhi on Monday in absence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The six-member special committee formed by the Congress president to help her in organisational and operational matters chaired the meeting in her absence. Its members are AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Accompanied by her son and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi had on September 12 left for the United States for a routine health check-up. Both of them returned to India on Tuesday morning.

On Thursday, Congress leaders fanned out across the country to address a series of press conferences, attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government on the farm bills.

Apart from a chain of press conferences across the country starting from Thursday, senior Congress leaders from states will on September 28 walk to the respective Raj Bhavans and submit a memorandum on the farms bills to Governors to be handed over to the President.

On October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Congress will observe ‘Kisan-Mazdoor Bachao Divas (Save Farmers and Farm Labourers Day).’

There will be protests and demonstrations in every district across the country demanding immediate withdrawal of the agriculture bills.

On October 10, state level conferences will be held and from October 2 to October 31, the party will collect signatures from 20 million farmers from all parts of the country.

On November 14, the birth anniversary of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a memorandum along with signatures of 20 million farmers will be submitted to the President.

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