Mumbai: Farmers in the country are facing “all kinds of problems” but none of the “systems” display any sensitivity towards them, the Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad Bench lamented refusing to quash criminal proceedings against two persons accused of duping farmers in Jalgaon, Maharashtra.
A Division Bench comprising Justices TV Nalawade and MG Sewlikar also took exception to the fact that the State did not file appeal against anticipatory bail granted by the Sessions court to the accused.
“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 into litigation,” the Court said.
It, therefore, refused to quash proceedings against applicants – MK Khandelwal and his father KD Khandelwal, owners of Khandelwal Transporters accused of duping farmers by taking their produce for sale and not handing over their share in the sale proceeds to them.
“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. The suicides of farmers are increasing day by day as farmers are facing all kinds of problems and present problem of cheating is 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,” the order stated.
By way of background, Saniya Kadri who was a broker for agricultural produce was approached by the Khandelwal Transporters to hand over the banana produce collected from farmers to them so that they can find the traders who will give better price to her and she can make more profit.
As there was the promise of higher price, Kadri entered into an agreement with the Khandelwal Transporters.
Kadri told the Court that she promised the farmers to give them their share in the sale proceeds within a few days. However, due to non-payment from the transporters, she could not give money to the farmers.
When farmers were pressing hard for their demand, Kadri insisted the transporters to make the payment of the amount but they suggested that she should accept 50 percent of the amount due for satisfaction of entire dues.
It was Kadri’s submission that at this point, she realised that she was duped and approached the police who then registered FIR for offences punishable under Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code.
Khandelwal Transporters did not admit to the agreement, nor did they admit to the produce being handed over to them. They claimed that they were in the business of transport and were supplying trucks to Kadri who was selling the banana produce to the traders directly.
The Court, however, said that from the records submitted before it, there was material to show that offences of misappropriation and cheating against the transporters were made out.
They noted that the transporters had, in fact, collected money as sale proceeds from the produce of the farmers but did not pass on the amount to Kadri.
“The representations were made to give higher price and to make payment immediately and due to that the farmers were attracted, and they handed over banana to the informant and informant handed over banana to the applicants. In such cases, inference of conspiracy can also be drawn based on aforesaid circumstances,” the Court observed.
The Court, thus, concluded that Khandelwal transporters made money from the transactions and the farmers ended up being duped. For this reason, the Court refused to quash the case against the Khandelwal transporters.
Earlier, a co-ordinate Bench of the High Court had refused relief to Kadri who had also drawn the ire of the farmers as she was collecting banana produce from them and was supposed to handover the sale proceeds back to the farmers. An FIR had been registered against Kadri based on the report given by her business partner, Sheikh Mohinoddin.
A co-ordinate bench of the High Court had refused to quash the FIR against her on the ground that the farmers were the true victims and not Mohinoddin. But Kadri and Khandelwal Transporters were granted protection from arrest by the Sessions Court in the offences registered against them.
The High Court expressed its surprise at the fact that this protection was not challenged by the State even though the amount due to the farmers had not been recovered yet.
“Though some accounts are shown to be seized by the police, that action is not going to help the farmers. This happened only due to relief of anticipatory bail granted in favour of the accused. Thus, the applicants and informant have made money and the farmers are duped. It is surprising that the orders of anticipatory bail made by the Sessions Court were not challenged by the State” the Court said dismissing the applications.