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Farmers vs Farm Laws: MSP is already been Established as A Legal Right

Prity Barman
Prity Barman
Farmer Preparing to Plant
Farmer Preparing to Plant

In this article we are going to read all the arguments and the reasons given by Mohit Rana, a Delhi High Court lawyer and Ravi Singh Chhikara, a law student at Delhi University; where they talk about how MSP is already a part of our farmer’s constitutional rights.

Now in the article they mention that the protests by farmers were over a demand for a strict specific law mandating minimum support prices (MSP) for each crop. These farm laws will trigger the beginning of the end for small and marginal farmers, the farmers have claimed. The concern that emerges now is if the farmers would be protected within the framework of current Indian laws if the government retained the power structure.

They said that even if no MSP mandatory law were enforced, the courts will not be deprived of the power to protect farmers from corporate unfair trade practices, and they are still obligated to do so by the Constitution.

Farm laws as the consititutional rights:

  • The 'freedom to life' granted under Article 21 of the Constitution has been held many times to include the 'right to livelihood'. The right to life takes the bare essentials of life, such as clothes, lodging, proper healthcare, etc., within itself. There is no need for evidence that it has been increasingly difficult for farmers to make a living. Asking the farmer to sell below the MSP thus leads to a denial under Article 21 of the Constitution of their 'right to livelihood.'

  • Moreover, Article 23 of the Constitution safeguards people from exploitation on the part of both state and private citizens. Article 43 of the Constitution guides the State to give farmers a living wage. When read together, these clauses oblige the courts to uphold the farmers' right to sell at a favorable price.

  • The Indian Contract Act, 1872, provides the weaker party in the contract with an option to set the contract aside against his will. When one of the parties to the contract is in a position to control the will of the other, agreement is assumed to be caused by 'undue interference.' The Supreme Court of India ruled that the imbalance in the economic ability of the contracting parties contributes to unfair bargaining power and thus leads to the stronger party's exploitation of the weaker party.

  • This condition clearly applies to cases where a stronger party buys a commodity from a weaker party at a price below the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Selling the crop below the MSP per se indicates that at the time of making the deal, the farmer has no alternative available. The farmer will then be given the option of rescinding the contract and accepting money for the damages suffered due to the contract at the same time.

  • The concern is now whether it is a matter of state policy and, thus, whether it is a matter not to be determined by the courts. Government policy is not any single government's policy. If the behavior is contrary to the public conscience, the public welfare and the public interest, the courts shall control that conduct. The Supreme Court has specifically ruled that 'in any case not covered by authority, courts should be guided by the Preamble to the Constitution and the principles underlying the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles.' Thus, even if there is no specific law on MSP, the courts should not leave this as a matter to be decided solely by the government.

  • When the Supreme Court act to provide instructions to protect the poorer segment of society in the matter of farmers and corporate, it won’t be the first time that it does so. There are several examples for the same.

  • If any directions are issued by the constitutional courts in the matter of the farmers’ demand for MSP, they will serve as the binding rule on possible dealings between corporates and farmers.

  • So, the lack of a law that mandates MSP would not mean that corporates will be able to take advantage of struggling farmers. The courts are not stripped of the powers given to them under the Indian Contract Act, 1872, and the Constitution and they are in effect of moral obligation to secure the farmers’ right to market their crops at favourable rates.

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