PepsiCo’s Lawsuits Against Farmers: HC tells Deesa court to check cold storages too

Not satisfied with the Deesa court's order, PepsiCo India moved the High Court

Accepting the contention of the PepsiCo India Holdings, which has slapped lawsuits against farmers in Gujarat for producing and selling a trademark variety of potato, the Gujarat High Court has directed a commercial court of Deesa to expand its inquiry to include the cold storages where the two accused farmers from Banaskantha have been storing their produce.

Pepsico India had filed lawsuits against Fulchand Kachchhawa and Suresh Kachchhawa of Malgadh village in Deesa taluka of Banaskantha on April 11 for "illegally" growing and selling potato variety FL-2027, for which the company is the registered breeder. On the company's plea, the Deesa court had appointed a senior clerk as the court commissioner to inquire into the dispute by visiting the premises of the two farmers at their village and file a report.

However, not satisfied with the Deesa court's order, PepsiCo India moved the High Court, seeking visit by the court commissioner to Tirupati Balaji Cold Storage at Deesa and Tirupati Balaji Cold Storage at Ranasan in Sabarkantha where the two farmers store their potato produce. The company also asked for "taking stock and inventorise the infringing products".

The HC in its order issued last week, directed the lower court to appoint two court commissioners, instead of one, to

probe PepsiCo India's claims, reasoning that "prima facie (it) appears that the (Deesa) Court was not justified in restricting the relief qua visiting the premises at village Malgadh alone and further, not directing the court commissioner to take stock and inventorize the infringing products stored by…the two farmers".

The Bench of Justice Harsha Devnani and Justice Bhargav Karia, thereby modified the April 11 order of Deesa court to specifically mention that the court commissioner also visit the cold storages. The Bench added that the court commisioner "take samples of infringing products" as well their photographs. Additionally, the High Court instructed that a separate court commissioner be appointed by the Deesa court to visit the premises of Tirupati Balaji Cold

Storage in Sabarkantha and follow the same procedure of taking samples. The bench further noted that "both the court commissioners shall conduct the commission work simultaneously on the same day and without prior notice to the farmers".

The Deesa court is set to hear the case next on April 29.

Several farmers in Gujarat have been sued by the US-based multi-national company's Indian subsidiary, for alleged violation of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001. On Friday, a commercial court in Ahmedabad is expected to decide on PepsiCo's lawsuits against four farmers from Aravalli district who were barred from growing and selling FL-2027 potatoes.