Food and beverages giant PepsiCo India on Friday withdrew the two lawsuits it had filed against nine Gujarat farmers for allegedly growing a variety of potato on which it claimed exclusive rights. Anand Yagnik, the lawyer for the farmers, said there was no pending litigation after these withdrawals. A week earlier, PepsiCo had withdrawn its case at Deesa Commercial Court against two farmers hailing from Banaskantha district in the state.
Now, the two remaining cases against nine farmers, comprising four of Sabarkantha and five from Arvalli, have been withdrawn by the MNC, Mr Yagnik said at a press conference here.
In all, 11 farmers of Banaskantha, Sabarkantha and Arvalli districts were sued by PepsiCo in three different courts in Gujarat for alleged infringement of rights over the particular variety of potato.
The multinational giant had sought damages ranging from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1 crore from these farmers.
While four farmers of Sabarkantha were sued in a commercial court in Ahmedabad, five farmers of Arvalli were sued in Modasa Commercial Court of that district.
"Advocates appearing for PepsiCo on Friday informed both the courts today that the company wants to withdraw the cases unconditionally. PepsiCo's pleas have been approved by both the courts today. With this, all the three suits against farmers stand withdrawn and no case is pending now," Mr Yagnik said.
The US-based firm had filed the suits against potato farmers for allegedly growing FC-5 variety of potato for which the company had claimed to have obtained Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.
However, activists had claimed the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers'' Rights Authority Act, 2011 exempts farmers from PVP rights.
In its statement after the withdrawal of cases Friday, PepsiCo said it was "compelled to take the judicial recourse" to protect its registered variety in order to "safeguard the larger interest of farmers".
"PepsiCo India's submission in the court today is in sync with its publicly stated position... To safeguard the larger interest of farmers, PepsiCo India was compelled to take judicial recourse to protect its registered variety," it said.
"PepsiCo from the very start had also offered an amicable settlement to farmers. After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw cases against farmers. We are relying on the said discussions to find a long term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection" the statement added.
Though all three cases have been withdrawn by the MNC, Mr Yagnik said farmers who were sued by PepsiCo now want an apology from the company for the harassment and bringing disrepute to them.
"Farmers want an apology from PepsiCo. If the company does not tender an apology, we will send it a legal notice and will file a legal suit against the firm demanding a token compensation of Rs 1," Mr Yagnik said.
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