DEHRADUN: The Congress criticised the Cabinet nod to amend the Uttarakhand Agricultural Produce Act, saying the “unconstitutional” move was intended to remove the 16 chairpersons of Mandi Samitis.

On Wednesday, the Cabinet gave nod to the government proposal to annul section 19 of the Agricultural Produce Act. Under that section, the government cannot directly remove the elected heads of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (Mandi Samitis). They can only be removed after the government sends notices for removal to the chairperson of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Board.

Once section 19 of the Agricultural Produce Act is repealed, the government will have full powers to remove all the 16 heads of the Mandi Samitis.

“This (BJP) government’s proposed move to amend the said law has been taken in a brazen violation of the constitutional provisions,” Congress leader Surendra Kumar told HT. “It is intended to remove the 16 chairpersons of the Mandi Samitis because they belong to our party.”

Parliamentary affairs minister Prakash Pant rebutted the charge, saying the move to amend the Uttarakhand Agricultural Produce Act was legal.

Of the total 21 chairpersons of the Mandi Samitis, 16 are from the opposition Congress. They were removed weeks after the BJP replaced the Congress government in March.

All the expelled mandi samiti chairpersons moved the court against the BJP government’s order on the plea that they were removed in violation of Section 19 of the Uttarakhand Agricultural Produce Act. Accepting their plea, the court ordered the state government to reinstate all the 16 heads of the Mandi samitis.

“It is a clear violation of the constitutional provisions…Our party (Congress) workers have full constitutional right to continue as the chairpersons of the Mandi Samitis until they complete their term,” Kumar said.

But Pant contended that the constitutional propriety “demands” that all heads of the Mandi Samitis from the Congress should have resigned soon after the party lost in the assembly polls. “That was what the heads of the Mandi Samitis belonging to our party did when we lost election to the Congress in 2007.”

The proposal to annul the section 19 of the Agriculture Produce Act came from the agriculture department, he said. “It will stand repealed only after the law in question is amended in the next session of the assembly.”