The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has raised concern over rising incidents of farmers duped by traders, observing that former’s inability to afford litigations enables the latter to get richer on their farm produce.
It noted that many exploited and distressed farmers across the state have been driven to suicide.
With this observation, the bench refused to quash a complaint against three petitioners accused of cheating banana growers in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra. It is alleged that the accused promised the farmers more profit by selling their produce to traders through their contacts in transportation business across the country.
A division bench of justices Tanaji V Nalawade and Mukund G Sewlikar made the observation on December 7 while hearing a criminal application by Mayur Khandelwal (28), Kailashchandra Khandelwal (58) and Akil Husonoddin Shaikh (37). The petitioners, from Raver Taluka in Jalgaon district, sought quashing of a case registered against them on July 28, 2017.
Jalgaon Police had booked the trio for offences punishable under sections 420 (cheating) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case was filed on a complaint by a woman, who brokers trade of farm produce. She was also identified as the informant in this case.
Saniya Kadri, the complainant, said she got acquainted with the owners of Khandelwal Transporters, the accused in the case, as she used their services to transport bananas from Jalgaon district to other places.
She alleged that Mayur, one of the accused, approached her with an offer to hand him the banana produce that she collected from farmers in exchange for more profits. Mayur said he knew traders who were willing to purchase the bananas at a higher price, she added.
The accused, she said, made such promises citing their contacts in the trading circles across the country. According to the complaint, an agreement was reached between the informant and accused over the promised transaction.
Advocate SN Suryawanshi, representing the informant, said she had collected the bananas from a group of farmers, promising them a better price within a few days. However, due to non-payment by the accused, she could not give the promised money to the growers. That left her at the mercy of the farmers, who insisted that she make the payment as promised, she said.
She alleged that when she requested the accused to give the money that she promised the growers, they balked citing financial crunch and asked her to arrange the money, instead, saying they would pay up after a few days. Based on their word, she made payments to some farmers but the accused kept avoiding her thereafter, eventually prompting her to lodge a complaint with the police, she said.
However, KC Sant, the advocate arguing for the accused, claimed Kadri did not hand the bananas to his clients for sale. The accused, too, denied owing more than Rs 2.8 crore to the complainant.
Sant said his clients made some transactions related to truck supply with the informant, as they were into transportation business, claiming that it was the informant who sold the bananas directly to traders. He sought the complaint against his client to be set aside.
After hearing submissions on both sides and perusing the material on record, the court noted, “It cannot be said that applicants had no intention to deceive. They were involved in these transactions. They had collected the money as sale proceeds, but they did not pass the amount to the informant and the farmers…There is material to make out the offence of misappropriation and also cheating.”
Adding to this, Justice Nalawade remarked, “Such instances are increasing day by day. It is unfortunate, but it is a fact that all the systems are not showing sensitivity towards the problems faced by the farmers. The farmers have no resources and they cannot afford indulging in litigation. This inability of farmers is used by traders, the applicants (in this case), to make money on the agricultural produce which farmers get after working hard.”
The bench added, “Suicides of farmers are increasing day by day as they are facing all kinds of problems and (the) present problem of cheating is (an) additional circumstance which is compelling farmers to commit suicide. Due to all these circumstances, this court holds that no relief can be granted in favour of applicants.”