The Madras High Court has directed Tamil Nadu government to waive loans of all farmers in cooperative banks. Earlier, Tamil Nadu government had waived cooperative bank loans of farmers owning upto 5 acres land
The High court direction comes as a slight relief for the farmers who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi for more than two weeks demanding a state drought package of Rs 40,000 crore, waiver of farmer loans and formation of Cauvery management board.
The court noted that the state's financial situation was grim and it was single-handedly shouldering the debt burden in a drought year in which farmers were committing suicide.
A division bench comprising Justices S Nagamuthu and M V Muralidaran, while giving the order, also has suggested that the Centre should come forward to extend financial help to Tamil Nadu "during this difficult situation."
The court today gave the above order of waiving the loans while allowing a petition by National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturists Association.
"We are aware that the state's financial situation is grim. The Chief Secretary in her letter to the Advocate
General also reiterated the same. The government is already single-handedly shouldering the burden of Rs 5,780 crore and it will be an additional burden to bear Rs 1,980.33 crore," said the bench.
The court also directed the cooperation, food and consumer protection department and registrar of cooperative societies to extend the crop loan waiver scheme under two Government Orders of 2016, to all farmers, including those whose landholding was more than five acres.
"We further direct the department to issue necessary consequential order extending the impugned scheme to all farmers. The order shall be issued within three months from today," the bench added.
The National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturists Association also alleged that the government has shown discrimination in classifying farmers as small and medium and sought a direction to quash the GOs as illegal.
The association also urged the court to direct authorities for providing relief to all farmers for loans taken from cooperative societies, irrespective of extent of land owned.
The court, which had heard the petition in Madurai Bench, delivered its judgement today at the principal seat here.
"In view of the foregoing discussions and conclusions arrived therein, we are of the view that the denial of benefit of crop loan to the farmers who had cultivated lands exceeding five acres is a clear discrimination, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
"Consequently, we restrain the respondents from initiating action against the farmers for recovery of crop loans and outstanding dues to cooperative societies/banks, as on March 31, 2016," it said.
(with inputs from agencies)