CHENNAI: The waiver of crop loans, restricted to small and marginal farmers in Tamil Nadu, should be extended to all peasants in the State irrespective of the extent of land they hold, the Madras High Court ruled on Tuesday. A division bench of Justices S Nagamuthu and MV Muralidharan gave the ruling while allowing a PIL by the National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturist Association’s State president P Ayyakannu.
The bench directed the secretary of Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies to extend the crop loan waiver scheme announced in the GOs dated May 23 and June 28, 2016 to all farmers, including those whose land holding is more than five acres. It also directed the secretary to issue necessary consequential orders extending the scheme to all farmers within three months. Consequently, the bench restrained the authorities concerned from initiating penal action against farmers for recovery of crop loans due to co-operative societies/banks as on March 31, 2016. The bench also held that the responsibility of saving farmers is not entirely upon the State, which had already shouldered the burden to the tune of `5,780 crore and it would be an additional burden to bear `1,980.33 crore. The Centre should help and share the burden. So, it is for the State to approach the Central government seeking allocation of funds for this purpose. The bench hoped that the Union government would consider this unprecedented situation in Tamil Nadu and help the State reduce its financial burden.
Farmer loan waiver violates article 14 of the Constitution
Extending the waiver of crop loans to all peasants in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday, the Madras High Court division bench of Justices S Nagamuthu and MV Muralidharan said that denial of the crop loan waiver benefit to the farmers who had cultivated lands exceeding five acres is a clear discrimination violating Article 14 of the Constitution. Earlier, Advocate-General R Muthukumaraswamy told the judges that the issue is a policy decision and the court cannot interfere.
Rejecting this contention, the bench said that it was very conscious that it should not allow itself to enter into the domain of the policy of the State government. But, in the instant case, the waiver scheme was announced by the AIADMK in its manifesto during the May 2016 general elections. Accordingly, the party issued the two GOs after capturing power in May and June, 2016 restricting the benefit to small and marginal farmers. The classification is discriminatory and unconstitutional and if once it is so declared as a corollary, the benefit shall be extended to all the farmers, the bench added.