Farm laws: Can states negate Central acts using Article 254 (2) of the Constitution?

Article 254(2) refers to a scenario where a law made by a state legislature concerning any matter that falls in the Concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law

Published: 29th September 2020 04:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th September 2020 08:52 AM   |  A+A-

People shout anti-government slogans during a protest against farm bills at the Town Hall in Bengaluru, India, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: With Sonia Gandhi advising Congress Chief Ministers to pass laws in their states under Article 254 (2) of the Constitution to negate the three farm laws which got the nod from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the opposition is headed for clashes with the Central government.

Here is the explainer telling the powers of state under this article. 

What is Article 254(2)?

Article 254(2) refers to a scenario where a law made by a state legislature concerning any matter that falls in the Concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law, with respect to that matter.

In such a case, the law made by the state legislature will prevail, provided it is reserved for the consideration of the President of India and receives his assent.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder
Singh stages a protest at
Khatkar Kalam | PTI

How can states use this provision?

Supreme Court lawyer K V Dhananjay says this provision gives flexibility to a state legislature to make a law different from what is applicable in that state due to a parliamentary law already in operation there.

“Of course, this flexibility is only available on matters that are in the concurrent list to Schedule 7 of the Constitution. Under that list both the Parliament and the state legislatures could legislate — subject to the rule that the parliamentary law will prevail over a state law.”

What all is covered under concurrent list?

The concurrent list provides a rich set of topics for the states to take a lead in reform. It covers areas such as criminal law and procedure, marriage, divorce and adoption, bankruptcy and insolvency, social security, education (including technical and medical education) and electricity. Agriculture too comes under this list.

Will this provision help the states?

Though states could come out with their own Bills to some extent to override the statutes of passed by the Parliament, none of those Bills would be effective unless the President accords his consent to such Bills.

What happens if President does not give consent?

According to legal experts, it’s the sole prerogative of the President whether to sign the state Bills or not. It’s a rare circumstance, wherein a state Bill is accepted by the President without the Centre on board. In case, the Centre is opposing the Bill, then the President, who works on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, can refuse to give his consent.   

Can states approach the Supreme Court challenging the central law?

Supreme Court Advocate on Record Sunil Fernandes says states can approach the Supreme Court under Article 131 —  invoking the court’s “original jurisdiction” — that allows a state to file a suit in the Supreme Court in case of any dispute that it may have with the central government. Article 131 could be used to examine the constitutionality of a statute.   


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