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28th December Current Affairs

In farm laws, the dispute settlement provision govt has offered to roll back

In News:

In its bid to placate famers protesting on the borders of the national capital for over three weeks against the new farm laws, the Centre offered to significantly water down key provisions of these laws.

Details:

Among the changes proposed is the rollback of a unique dispute resolution mechanism for issues between farmers and buyers, and instead bringing such disputes under the jurisdiction of a civil court.

What is the dispute settlement mechanism?

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, provides a buyer a right to engage in trade and commerce of a farmer’s produce across the country.

This means a farmer has freedom to engage in intra-state and inter-state trade with buyers, expanding her choices beyond a traditional market.

The law also provides for a dispute resolution mechanism. Section 8 of the Act, which lays down the “dispute resolution mechanism for farmers” states that “in case of any dispute arising out of a transaction between the farmer and a trader”, a Conciliation Board appointed by the Sub- Divisional Magistrate will settle the dispute.

It says the settlement by the Conciliation Board will be binding on the parties.

What if the parties cannot reach a settlement?

If the dispute is not settled within 30 days of being brought to the Board, the SDM will hear the dispute acting as the “Sub-Divisional Authority” for settlement of such dispute.

The Sub-Divisional Authority is empowered to pass three kinds of orders under the law:

Pass an order for the recovery of the amount payable to the farmers and traders.

Impose a penalty.

Suspend for such period as he deems fit or cancel the right to operate as an electronic trading and transaction platform.

Why are farmers upset with this dispute resolution framework?

Section 15 of the Act says “no civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respect of any matter, the cognisance of which can be taken and disposed of by any authority empowered by or under this Act or the rules made thereunder.”

It is essentially the replacing of the jurisdiction of civil courts with a heavily bureaucratic procedure under the authority of the SDM.

 Can a statute bar courts from having jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction of civil courts is governed by Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code. The provision says that civil courts have the jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature, except suits of which cognisance is either expressly or impliedly barred.

So statutes routinely bar the jurisdiction of civil courts to set up alternative dispute mechanisms.

Vaccine hesitancy

In News:

An online survey has shown that as the country readies to implement its COVID-19 vaccination programme, vaccine hesitancy could be an issue that the government needs to address forthwith.

Details:

The results showed that there was considerable hesitation even among the medical community to take the vaccine as soon as it is available.

What’s the Concern?

A vaccine is one of the essential weapons in the armamentarium in our war against the pandemic. Any hesitation in accepting the vaccine will have a negative consequence on our effort to control the pandemic.

Need of the hour:

Proactively address the reasons behind this hesitancy.

Give confidence to the public by discussing the robustness of various processes involved in drug/vaccine development — clinical trial designs, conduct, monitoring, analysis, reporting and the regulatory reviews that happen before it is approved.

This will make the public aware about the rigorous processes followed for clinical trials, and the approval, as followed by regulators.

Vaccine Hesitancy: A generation at risk:

Vaccine hesitancy is defined by WHO as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services”.

It was one of 10 threats to global health this year.

Three capitals for Andhra Pradesh- Issues

In News:

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) national president N. Chandrababu Naidu has challenged Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to hold a referendum on the idea of the three capitals.

Three- capitals:

On July 31 the state government notified the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, and the AP Capital Region Development Authority (Repeal) Act, 2020.

This law paves the way for three capitals for the state.

  • Amaravati– legislative capital.
  • Visakhapatnam– executive capital.
  • Kurnool– judicial capital.

Need for three capitals:

The government says it is against building one mega capital while neglecting other parts of the state. Three capitals ensure equal development of different regions of the state.

Decentralisation has been the central theme in recommendations of all major committees that were set up to suggest a suitable location for the capital of Andhra Pradesh. These include Justice B N Srikrishna Committee, K Sivaramakrishnan Committee, G N Rao Committee etc.

Why implementing this idea will be difficult?

Coordination and logistics fear: Coordinating between seats of legislature and executive in separate cities will be easier said than done, and with the government offering no specifics of a plan, officers and common people alike fear a logistics nightmare.

Time and costs of travel: Executive capital Visakhapatnam is 700 km from judicial capital Kurnool, and 400 km from legislative capital Amaravati. The Amaravati-Kurnool distance is 370 km. The time and costs of travel will be significant.

Which other Indian states have multiple capitals?

Maharashtra has two capitals– Mumbai and Nagpur (which holds the winter session of the state assembly).

Himachal Pradesh has capitals at Shimla and Dharamshala (winter).

The former state of Jammu & Kashmir had Srinagar and Jammu (winter) as capitals.

Can states refuse to implement Central laws?

In News:

Delhi Assembly passes resolution rejecting agricultural laws.

Details:

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has said farmers have a constitutional right to continue with their “absolutely perfect” protest as long as their dissent against the controversial agricultural laws did not slip into violence.

What’s the main issue here?

Experts argue, the three agriculture laws are a clear infringement on the states’ right to legislate.

The main subjects of the three acts are agriculture and market that are essentially state subjects as per the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

However, the Central government finagled its way into the legislation by misconstruing its authority on food items, a subject in the Concurrent List, as authority over the subject agriculture.

However, food items and agricultural products are distinct categories as many agricultural products in their raw forms are not food items and vice versa.

What does the Constitution say on this?

Agriculture is in the state list under the Constitution.

But, Entry 33 of the Concurrent List provides Centre and the states powers to control production, supply and distribution of products of any industry, including agriculture.

Usually, when a state wants to amend a Central law made under one of the items in the concurrent list, it needs the clearance of the Centre.

When a state law contradicts a Central law on the same subject, the law passed by Parliament prevails.

Why the Constitution envisaged such an arrangement?

This is an arrangement envisaged as most Parliament laws apply to the whole of India and states amending the Central laws indiscriminately could lead to inconsistencies in different regions on the application of the same law. In matters of trade and commerce, this could especially pose serious problems.

The other option available with the states is:

To take Centre to the Supreme Court over the validity of these laws.

Article 131 of the Constitution provides exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to adjudicate matters between the states and the Centre.

Article 254 (2) of the Constitution empowers state governments to pass legislations which negate the Central acts in the matters enumerated under the Concurrent List.

A state legislation passed under Article 254 (2) requires the assent of the President of India.