The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court (HC) recently rejected the criminal application of three persons against whom farmers had lodged complaints of cheating in Jalgaon district. While elaborating the reasons for rejecting the application which sought to quash the first information report (FIR) against the three, the court said that there was an increase in instances of farmers being duped by traders and observed that the inability of farmers to afford litigation was used by traders to exploit them.
While also observing that this was one of the reasons which compelled farmers to die by suicide, the court refused to quash the FIR wherein the three applicants were accused of cheating banana farmers by taking their produce but not paying them.
On December 7, a division bench of justice TV Nalawade and justice MG Sewlikar, while hearing the application of Mayur Khandelwal, 28, Kailashchandra Khandelwal, 58, and Akil Husonoddin Shaikh, 37, all residents of Raver taluka in Jalgaon district, was informed that the Jalgaon police had registered an FIR against them on July 28, 2017. The three were booked under sections 420 and 406 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), based on the complaint of a woman who is a broker of agricultural produce.
As per the complainant Saniya Kadri, she got in touch with the owners of Khandelwal Transporters whose services she used to transport banana produce from Jalgaon district to other places. She alleged that Mayur approached her and assured her that he could get her better prices for the produce. The applicants claimed that she would get larger profits as he would use his contacts with traders who he was in touch with due to his transport business across the country. Kadri claimed that she had arrived at an agreement with Mayur on the aforesaid terms.
Kadri’s advocate, SN Suryawanshi submitted that thereafter his client collected bananas from the farmers on the promise that they would be paid in a few days. When it was time to pay, the applicants told Kadri to pay the farmers from her own resources as they needed some time due to a financial crunch. Kadri complied, but thereafter, when she pursued the applicants to pay her, they started avoiding her. Hence she lodged the complaint with Jalgaon police.
However, advocate KC Sant for the applicants, said that Kadri had not handed over agricultural produce to his clients for sale. He also submitted that the claim that an amount due to Kadri was more than ₹2.8 crore. Sant added that his clients had only dealt with transport-related transactions with Kadri, and it was she who was actually selling bananas directly to the traders. In light of these submissions, he sought setting aside of the complaint against his clients.
After hearing submissions, the court observed, “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 the cheating.”
The bench further remarked, “Such instances are increasing day by day. It is unfortunate, but it is a fact that all the systems are not showing sensitivity to the problems faced by the farmers. The farmers have no resources, and they cannot afford to indulge in litigation. This inability of farmers is used by the traders like applicants and they make money on the agricultural produce which farmers get after working hard.”
While rejecting the application, the court said, “The suicides of farmers are increasing day by day as farmers are facing all kinds of problems and present problem of cheating is an additional circumstance which is compelling the farmers to commit the suicide. Due to all these circumstances, this court holds that no relief can be granted in favour of applicants.”