No relief for potato growers sued by PepsiCo

The high court said that the lawyer could either file a review petition or move to supreme court.

The Gujarat High Court on Monday refused to entertain a request from the lawyer of Banaskantha-based potato growers to stay its order allowing to check all their cold storage units, as part of a probe ordered by a local commercial court to ascertain if the farmers were "illegally growing and selling" a particular variety of potato. The high court said that the lawyer could either file a review petition or move to the supreme court.

Earlier this month, the multinational food and beverage firm PepsiCo India Holding moved the high court for modification of an order passed by a commercial court in Deesa taluka of Banaskantha district. The firm requested the court to expand the scope of investigation ordered by the commercial court, which had allowed the firm's application for appointment of a court commissioner to "take stock and inventorise the infringing products." The firm argued that the commercial court had allowed the inspection of only one premise, but two cold storage units of the farmers needed to be probed.

The high court allowed the petition and ordered the Deesa court to appoint another court commissioner. He would have to visit the farm premises of farmers at Malgadh village, and Tirupati Balaji Cold Storage unit, Deesa, to collect the samples of "infringing products" and take their pictures, in order to take stock and inventorise the "infringing product variety FL 2027."

In commercial court, PepsiCo India has filed cases against two farmers, Fulchand Kachchawa and Suresh Kachchawa, seeking "permanent injunction to restrain infringement of plant variety registered under the provisions of Protection of Plant Varieties and farmers' right act, 2001."

PepsiCo India has sued more than ten potato growers in north Gujarat for cultivating the variety of potato registered by the firm. This has resulted in backlash from civil society and political parties including the BJP and the Congress. Last month, the Gujarat government criticised the cases and said that it will support the farmers.

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