The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to list the steps it has taken to protect the interests of kirana stores.
The top court wondered whether the government has “got any investments or it’s just a political gimmick? Has the FDI policy borne some fruits?” a bench of Justices RM Lodha and SJ Mukhopadhaya asked attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati, who had sought rejection of a PIL filed by Manohar Lal Sharma seeking restrain on the FDI policy.
“What are the checks placed by the Centre to secure the interests of small traders?” the judges asked, as Sharma contended that the small traders fear that they will perish once FDI investors like Wal-Mart set up their shops in the country.
“If big companies adopt unfair trade practices and bring down the prices, what will happen to small traders?” the judges asked the AG.
Responding to a spate of queries, Vahanvati said Parliament had taken into account all such fears and concerns while rejecting the motions against the FDI policy. “It is not a political gimmick but part of serious reforms. It is a government policy,” Vahanvati said.
Not satisfied with the AG’s reply, the judges said, “Policy is one thing, apprehension is another. The apprehension is a serious threat. There is apprehension in the minds of people that it will affect free trade.”
“We have seen big traders bring down the prices to the detriment of the small traders and eliminate them from the market,” the bench remarked, adding, “After some time, they increase the prices. They resort to such unfair trade practices.”
“What have you done to prevent this?” it asked the AG. “Reforms can go on but that should not close the doors for small traders. We are not policy makers, but a policy has to be within the constitutional parameters. We do not substitute policies but we can examine whether it is reasonable or violates the constitution,” the bench added.