Agri Business

HC: Don’t take coercive action against HTBT cotton farmers

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on August 07, 2019

File photo of Shetkari Sanghatana members demonstrating against the ban on GM crops at Akot village in Akola district in June A Roy Chowdhury   -  A Roy Chowdhury

Nagpur Bench of Bombay HC also directs Maharashtra to submit report on the matter

The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra police not to take “coercive action” against the farmers who have sowed herbicide-tolerant Bt (HTBT) cotton seeds to protest against the Centre’s ban on GM crops.

Maharashtra farmers under the banner of Shetkari Sanghatana had launched a drive to sow HTBT cotton in June this year. On the basis of complaints filed by agriculture officers, the police registered two FIRs against 30 farmers under Section 420 of IPC, Section 15(1) of Environment Protection Act, 1986 and Seeds Act, 1966. Two farmers, Lalit Bahale and Laxmikant Kauthakar, moved the high court with a plea to quash the FIRs.

Satish Borulkar one of the advocates who appeared on behalf of the farmers told BusinessLine, “The division bench issued notices and prevented the police from taking any coercive action against the farmers. The HC Bench has also asked the State to submit a report on the matter.”

Borulkar added that the police have no right to file cases under the Environment Protection Act. The contention of farmers is that they have not produced any seeds and have sown seeds available in the market, which they had bought in good faith.

The petitions were heard by the division bench of Justice PN Deshmukh and Justice PV Ganediwala. The State contended that HTBT seed is prohibited in India and is hazardous. Therefore, invocation of provisions of Environment Protection Act, 1986 is justified.

Shetkari Sanghatana has already warned that any effort by the State government to destroy HTBT cotton crop will be strongly resisted. There were reports that the State and the Centre might initiate action as laboratory tests confirmed that farmers in Akola district had sowed HTBT cotton. About 25 per cent of the cotton fields in the State have reportedly been put under HTBT cultivation this season.

“This is a major victory for farmers” said Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat who added that farmers would continue to sow and support HTBT crops.

Published on August 07, 2019

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