The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed Punjab Chief Secretary to file an affidavit explaining how instructions dated October 21, 2020, regarding the sale of paddy from other states on minimum support price were sustainable when the three “farm laws” were in operation and not stayed by the Supreme Court. At that time, the farmers were free to trade across the country.

The matter was brought to the High Court’s notice after two petitions were filed against the State of Punjab by Manjinder Singh and another petitioner through counsel Ferry Sofat. Manjinder Singh was seeking the quashing of an FIR registered on the allegations that he was bringing rice from outside. They were accused of bringing paddy at a lower price from Uttar Pradesh for selling it at minimum support price in Punjab.

The Bench was told that the instructions dated October 21, 2020, issued by the Chief Secretary said State farmers should not suffer any problem during the paddy season. But paddy was being brought to Punjab to be sold on minimum support price from other states. As such, police barriers should be set up during kharif season 2020-21 at the border points with other states. The vehicles coming from other states should be stopped and original bills/biltis to be checked. Cases should be registered if fake or bogus bills were found.

The farm laws, on the other hand, paved way for selling the produce anywhere. Sofat submitted that the Supreme Court passed the order in January, while the ‘farm laws’ came into effect from June 2020. Consequently, at the time that the FIR registered against the petitioner on October 20, 2020, there was no stay on the operation of the farm laws.

The instructions issued by the Chief Secretary in October 2020 were, as such, wholly illegal and unsustainable in the face of an enacted statute by Parliament, operation of which had not been stayed at that stage at all. As such, the FIR against the petitioner was wholly illegal and unsustainable.

“The State counsel would address arguments in terms of the contentions raised, with the Senior Superintendent of Police, Patiala, to also file another affidavit stating as to how the FIR is sustainable in the face of the contentions raised by counsel for the petitioner today, which prima facie seem to be wholly correct in the context of the FIR registered on October 20, 2020.” Justice Amol Rattan Singh asserted.

The case will now come up on November 18. The trial court, in the meanwhile, was directed to adjourn the case beyond the date fixed by the Bench.

Source: 09 October, 2021, The Tribune