July 9, 2020 3:16:37 am
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court Tuesday said information supplied by the agricultural department indicated that its officials were more inclined towards favouring seed companies and vendors in connection with the sale of spurious soybean seeds to thousands of farmers in rural Maharashtra. The court also warned of action against the chairman and directors of Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation Limited, also known as MAHABEEJ, if its top officials were found to have joined hands with private companies.
A division bench of Justice Tanaji V Nalawade and Justice Shrikant D Kulkarni was Tuesday hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) which took cognizance of news reports that no action had been initiated against seed vendors and companies, despite complaints by nearly 2,000 farmers in districts such as Nanded, Parbhani, Hingoli and Ahmednagar, who recently purchased soybean seeds that failed to germinate.
On Tuesday, public prosecutor D R Kale submitted that show-cause notices were issued to various seed companies regarding non-germination of seeds and as many as 23 crimes had been registered on the basis of complaints received from farmers.
Noting that more than 22,000 farmers had approached the authority under the Seeds Act, but had not approached the police, the court said, “If the officers of the authority are not acting, farmers are at liberty to approach police, who can register the crime under section 420 (punishment for cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Seeds Act.”
It also observed that “there is every possibility that officers are hand in glove with the traders and the companies producing such seeds and that is why the actions are not being taken. Even when 22,381 complaints were received, only 23 FIRs were registered and that gives strength to that possibility”.
The bench further noted that police and officers should not hesitate to take stern action against companies and vendors under the Seeds Act.
After amicus curiae, advocate P P More, submitted that seeds could not have been disbursed in the market without random testing of samples, the court said after examining records it will identify officers who have “shirked the responsibility and avoided to take action against the companies and vendors”. On More’s submission that MAHABEEJ officials will be made a respondent in the case, the bench observed, “This court is making it clear that action will be taken against the chairman and directors [of MAHABEEJ], if it is found that they have joined hands with the private companies.”
The bench also said that careful perusal of information supplied by the agricultural department indicated that the officials were interested more to save the companies, vendors and tried to blame the farmers.
The court directed D L Jadhav, Divisional Joint Director of the agricultural department, Aurangabad, to remain present during the next hearing on July 13. “If he does not remain present, the Court will see that he is arrested and brought before this court. This court intends to take severe action against the officers who are acting against the farmers,” it said. The court also directed the police to take actions on complaints made by farmers and seeking responses from other authorities.
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