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

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


Context:

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.

  • 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.

  1. The Sub-Divisional Authority is empowered to pass three kinds of orders under the law:
    1. Pass an order for the recovery of the amount payable to the farmers and traders.
    2. Impose a penalty.
    3. 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.

Sources: Indian Express.