A week after PepsiCo declared that the company will withdraw the case against four potato farmers of Gujarat, one of the three cases was unconditionally withdrawn by the company in local court of Deesa, Banaskantha district of Gujarat.
PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd made a submission in the matter before the court of Principal Senior Civil and Commercial Court of Judge SB Rahatkar.
“The plaintiff wishes to withdraw the captioned matter relying on its discussions with the government to find a long-term and an amicable solution of the issues around its seed protection,” PepsiCo told the court.
Notably, the US-based company had filed a suit against potato farmers Fulchand Kachchawa and his brother Suresh Kachhawa at the Deesa court for growing FC-5 variety of potato which the company uses for making Lays potato chips and which, as the company claimed to have obtained plant variety protection for (PVP).
In all, 11 farmers were slapped with a lawsuit that dragged them to different courts in Gujarat. Apart from Banaskantha, farmers of Sabarkantha and Aravalli were charged of infringement of rights of the particular variety of potato and were asked to pay damage amount of Rs one crore each to the company.
While the other cases are yet to come up for hearing, this is first of the three lawsuits for which PepsiCo has made a formal move for withdrawal.
The announcement has come after the representatives of the company met with the state government officials in Gandhinagar.
However, Advocate Anand Yagnik, the lawyer representing the farmers maintained that the withdrawal of the case appeared “malicious and motivated”.
“PepsiCo had withdrawn the suit on the basis of the what had transpired behind the curtain between the PepsiCo and the State of Gujarat in the context of ongoing parliamentary election as it is reflected from its withdrawal. Therefore, this withdrawal is not unconditional but appears to be motivated and malicious. Unless Gujarat government makes it clear in writing about what transpired between and PepsiCo and gives assurance that it shall not allow Multinational Companies to litigate its own farmers, the future may not be very bright for the farmers and ultimately farmers will have to resort to Section 39 of the Act against Section 64 and seek justice and protection under the Act itself (sic),” Yagnik said in a statement.
Last month, after PepsiCo filed the suit against the farmers, over 190 activists across the country had come out in support of the farmers, and had requested the central government to ask the company to withdraw its “false” cases.
In a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, 194 signatories had sought financial aid and protection of rights of farmers sued for growing and selling FC-5 potato variety for which PepsiCo claimed to have “exclusive rights in the country”.
Meanwhile, the sued farmers, who held a press conference along with RSS-backed farmers’ rights organisation Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), have demanded compensation for harassment, and have called for the boycott of the products of PepsiCo.
“PepsiCo should not only withdraw cases unconditionally, but should also pay compensation for the harassment we were put through even though law is very clear on the matter,” said Bipin Patel, one of the four potato farmers PepsiCo had sued.