Socially committed journalists have always been in the forefront of taking up the issues of weaker sections of the society be it; farmers, workers, women or other exploited classes. We are happy to inform that a socially active journalist Jayant Verma, a doyen of the ‘Indian Federation of Working Journalists’ (IFWJ) took the initiative in filing a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court of India for quashing of Section 21 A of the usurious ‘Banking Regulation Act’. The petition was filed by IFWJ Secretary General Parmanand Pandey in the capacity of an Advocate in the Supreme Court, which was exhaustively argued for two days by the brilliant senior lawyer Sanjay Pareek.
One of the petitioners was Dr. B.D. Sharma, who is now no more among us and who was a very senior IAS officer in the Government of Madhya Pradesh. Dr. Sharma was a very sensitive officer who worked tirelessly for improving the living conditions of the tribal of Madhya Pradesh. After his retirement he was made the Vice-Chancellor of North East Hills University (NEHU). He authored more than a dozen books. It may not be out of place to mention here that Dr. Sharma always adhered to traditional Indian dress of Dhoti and Kurta. The other petitioners were the General Secretary of Forward Block Debabrata Biswas, Kissan Leaders Bir Singh Mahato and Dr. Sunilam.
The bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and Naveen Sinha acceding to the prayer of the petitioners and ruled that Banks, although, would be entitled to charge interest from all other kind of debtors except the agricultural debts. A farmer seeking relief on the basis of agricultural indebtedness would be entitled to avail the benfits. Those states, like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which have already made the laws for not charging the interests on the agricultural loans have set good examples for other states to follow. But till the other states make such laws they will have to go by the judgement of the Supreme Court.
This petition attaches special importance particularly at a time when the agrarian crisis in the country is on the peak. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide across the country because of the heavy burden of loans from the different banks and agencies. The quashing of section 21A of the Banking Regulation Act qua farmers will, without doubt, bring huge relief to them.
This Supreme Court of India has used its special power under article 142 of the Constitution of India for doing complete justice. The provision of the section 21 A has till now been outside the purview of judicial scrutiny. The Courts were barred from entertaining any appeal or petition pertaining to section 21 A of the Banking Regulation Act but now this ruling will go a long way in helping the hapless and already suffering farmers of the country.
It is matter of satisfaction for the IFWJ that we are next to none in working for mitigating the sufferings of the poor farmers of the country.