The Constitutional Validity of Farm Laws and the Farmers’ Protest: A Legal Analysis

Author : Dhruv Shrivastava, student at Prestige Institute of Management and Research, Gwalior

To the Point: 

This article examines the legal aspects of the controversial Farm Laws introduced by the Indian government in 2020 and the subsequent farmers’ protests. It analyzes the constitutional validity of these laws, their impact on federalism, and the legal implications of the protest movement.

Use of legal jargon: 

The article will delve into concepts such as ultra vires, constitutional federalism, legislative competence, and fundamental rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It will also explore the doctrine of colourable legislation and the concept of cooperative federalism in the context of agricultural reforms.

The Proof: 

The Farm Laws, officially known as the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, were introduced as part of agricultural reforms. However, they faced significant opposition from farmers’ unions and several state governments, leading to widespread protests and legal challenges.


The introduction of the Farm Laws in 2020 sparked a nationwide debate on agricultural reforms, federalism, and the rights of farmers in India. This article examines the constitutional validity of these laws, analyzing their provisions in light of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which delineates the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States. It explores the arguments for and against the laws’ validity, considering aspects such as the impact on state autonomy, market regulations, and farmers’ rights. The article also discusses the legal implications of the farmers’ protest movement, including the right to peaceful assembly and the government’s response. By examining relevant case laws and constitutional provisions, this analysis aims to provide a comprehensive legal perspective on one of the most significant political and legal controversies in recent Indian history.

Case Laws:

  1. I.T.C. Limited v. Agricultural Produce Market Committee (2002) 9 SCC 232: This case is relevant for understanding the scope of state powers in regulating agricultural markets. The Supreme Court held that states have the authority to regulate markets for agricultural produce under Entry 28 of the State List.
  2. S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) 3 SCC 1: This landmark case emphasized the importance of federalism as a basic feature of the Indian Constitution. It is pertinent to the discussion on whether the Farm Laws encroach upon state powers.
  3. Rustom Cavasjee Cooper v. Union of India AIR 1970 SC 564: Also known as the Bank Nationalisation case, this judgment is significant for its interpretation of Article 31C of the Constitution, which is relevant to understanding the relationship between Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Rights in the context of agricultural reforms.
  4. Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union of India (2012) 5 SCC 1: This case is crucial for understanding the legal boundaries of protest movements and the right to peaceful assembly under Article 19 of the Constitution.
  5. Kerala State Beverages (M&M) Corporation Limited v. P.P. Suresh (2019) 9 SCC 710: This recent judgment discusses the concept of cooperative federalism and the balance of power between the Centre and States, which is relevant to the debate surrounding the Farm Laws.


The legal analysis of the Farm Laws and the farmers’ protest reveals a complex interplay of constitutional provisions, federal principles, and fundamental rights. While the Union government argued that the laws were intended to benefit farmers and were within its legislative competence under Entry 33 of the Concurrent List, opponents contended that they encroached upon state powers and potentially violated farmers’ rights.

The constitutional validity of the Farm Laws hinged on several key points:

  1. Legislative Competence: The primary question was whether the Union government had the authority to legislate on agriculture, traditionally a state subject. The government’s argument relied on Entries 33 and 42 of the Concurrent List, while opponents cited Entry 14, 18, and 28 of the State List.
  2. Federalism: The laws raised concerns about the erosion of state powers and the principle of cooperative federalism. The S.R. Bommai case emphasized federalism as a basic feature of the Constitution, suggesting that any legislation significantly altering the federal structure could be subject to judicial scrutiny.
  3. Fundamental Rights: Opponents argued that the laws potentially violated farmers’ rights under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution. The right to fair compensation and the potential for exploitation in contract farming were key concerns.
  4. Market Regulation: The I.T.C. Limited case affirmed states’ power to regulate agricultural markets, raising questions about the Union government’s authority to create alternative market structures.

The farmers’ protest, while exercising the fundamental right to peaceful assembly, also raised legal questions about the limits of such rights and the government’s response. The Ramlila Maidan case provided guidelines on balancing the right to protest with public order concerns.

Ultimately, the repeal of the Farm Laws in late 2021 rendered many of these legal questions moot. However, the controversy highlighted the need for a more consultative approach in agricultural reforms and a careful consideration of federal principles in legislation affecting state subjects.

The legal discourse surrounding the Farm Laws and protests has significant implications for future agricultural reforms, center-state relations, and the interpretation of legislative powers under the Constitution. It underscores the importance of balancing economic reforms with federal principles and fundamental rights, and the need for inclusive policy-making in a diverse democracy like India.


Q: Were the Farm Laws unconstitutional? 

A: The constitutional validity of the Farm Laws was a matter of debate. While they were repealed before a definitive judicial pronouncement, there were significant arguments both for and against their constitutionality based on legislative competence and impact on federalism.

Q: Did the farmers’ protest violate any laws? 

A: Peaceful protest is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. However, specific actions during the protest may have violated certain laws, such as those related to public order or property damage. The legality of specific protest actions would need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Can the Union government legislate on agriculture? 

A: While agriculture is primarily a state subject, the Union government can legislate on certain aspects of agriculture under entries in the Concurrent List. The extent of this power is subject to interpretation and has been a matter of legal debate.

Q: What is the significance of the I.T.C. Limited case in this context? 

A: The I.T.C. Limited case affirmed states’ power to regulate agricultural markets. It is significant in understanding the division of powers between the Union and States in matters related to agriculture and market regulation.

Q: How does the concept of cooperative federalism apply to the Farm Laws controversy? 

A: Cooperative federalism emphasizes collaboration between the Union and States. The Farm Laws controversy highlighted tensions in this relationship, with some arguing that the laws undermined state autonomy in agricultural matters.

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