• Recently, Punjab became the first State in the country to formally reject the Central government’s three Farm Acts by passing three Bills to negate the Union laws


Note – For detailed understanding of farm Bills please refer Monthly magazine of September 2020


  • Punjab State Bills: The Punjab assembly introduced three farm Bills Namely the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020.



  • It seeks to ensure that sale or purchase of wheat or paddy in Punjab is not allowed below the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
  • It also seeks to provide for punishment for harassment of farmers or payment of less price to the farmers.
  • It provides for imprisonment of not less than three years and fines for sale-purchase of wheat or paddy under a farming agreement below the MSP.
  • It prevents hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce and seeks to ensure status quo ante with regard to implementation of the Central Act namely, ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’.
  • While the central law abolished any market fees or licences for private players outside the APMCs, the Punjab bills have reintroduced it.
  • These fees will go towards a fund for the welfare of small and marginal farmers.



  • The seventh schedule of the Constitution distributes the power between the Centre and states by way of earmarking three lists – the union list, state list and concurrent list.
  • Article 254 in the Constitution deals with inconsistency between laws made by Parliament and those made by state legislatures on subjects on which both the Centre and states are entitled to enact laws.
  • Article 254 (1) lays down that if a state government enacts a law inconsistent or repugnant to the central law which Parliament is competent to enact, or even if an existing law is contrary to a law that Parliament passes at a later stage on matters enumerated in the concurrent list, the central law will prevail
  • Article 254 (2) sates: “Where a law made by the Legislature of a State with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law with respect to that matter, then, the law so made by the Legislature of such State shall, if it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent, prevail in that State.”
  • Article 254 (2) does not stop here. The proviso to this Article says that even an approval from the President shall not prevent Parliament from enacting a new law on the same subject at any time so as to add, amend, vary or even repeal the law so made by the legislature of the state.
  • ‘Agriculture’, as a subject, has eight entries under the state list, authorising a state to enact laws on subjects such as agricultural indebtedness, taxes on agricultural income markets and fairs, rights in or over land, land tenures, rents, transfer agricultural land and agricultural loans.
  • Therefore, the order of the Constitution is such that matters relating to agriculture, apparently, have been outside Parliament’s jurisdiction.
  • Therefore, the first area of contention shall be the source of power that the central government has used in enacting the three controversial laws. Is ‘agriculture’ a subject on which the central government can legislate at all?
  • Entry 27 of the state list talks about “production, supply and distribution of goods” and subject it to the provisions of entry 33 of the concurrent list. This empowers the central government to control “trade and commerce” with respect to production, supply and distribution of such “industry” in the public interest that may include foodstuff, raw cotton and jute, etc.
  • This leads to another inquiry on whether agriculture can be brought under the ambit of ‘trade and commerce’ because as has been traditionally understood and used, agriculture is an occupation. If agriculture is an occupation, clearly, the concurrent list does not give an upper hand to Parliament.
  • Besides, if foodstuff or other produce are considered one and the same as agriculture, despite all the entries under the state list on agriculture and its related activities, the central government could frame laws citing foodstuff and public interest.
  • The constitutional court will also be called upon to examine if ‘agriculture’, ‘taxes on agricultural income’ and ‘markets and fairs’ are under the state list and within the legislative assembly’s competence, can Parliament pass a law directly on these subjects, especially when either the union list or the concurrent list has no entry relatable to agricultural market?


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