|Top officials fined in India in Bt cotton-related case (14/6/2006)|
There's been an important development in relation to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that's currently before the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court in India.
The PIL relates to the plight of the 540 poor cotton farmers in the State of Maharashtra who took their lives during the last cotton growing season, the vast majority of whom were growers of GM (Bt) cotton.
As the following press release notes, the court has now come down heavily on the state government and its bureaucrats for their negligence and failure to comply with the orders of the court to file a reply to the PIL.
The Divisional Bench of the High Court has imposed costs and fines on the Chief Secretary & 12 other leading state officials to be paid out of their salaries. If they fail to pay the fines, they'll face proceedings for contempt of court.
According to the press release, the raft of issues the PIL probes includes:
* "the role of State Officers in promoting B.T. Cotton which resulted in the failure of [the] crop"
* the involvement of State officials "in inducing the poor farmers" to cultivate Bt cotton
The PIL also asks for the State to be directed to "take appropriate action against the B.T. Cotton Seeds companies" to force them to compensate the poor farmers who took their lives.
LANDMARK ORDER ON P.I.L. [Public Interest Litigation] IN THE MATTER OF FARMERS SUICIDE DEATHS:
Taking the serious cognizance of continued negligence and failure to comply with the orders passed by the Hon'ble High Court to file reply - affidavit in the matter of 540 Farmers Suicide Deaths which rocked entire State of which Public Interest Litigation is filed by Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, President, Shri Kishore Tiwari, today while hearing the case Division Bench headed by Justice J.N. Patel and Justice S.R. Dongaonkar at Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court came down heavily on the respondents state & its bureaucrats and by its order Division Bench of High Court has imposed cost / fine of Rs. 1,000/- each to be recovered & paid from the Chief Secretary & 12 Other Top I.A.S. Bureaucrats officials of the rank of Principal Secretary, Secretaries, Divisional Commissioners and Director General of Police to be paid within 2 weeks otherwise the reply - affidavit will not be considered and High Court will proceed to pass further orders on the prayer made by the P.I.L. Petitioner Shri Kishore Tiwari.
The Division Bench at Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court today was hearing the P.I.L. pertaining to continued suicide deaths of the Farmers in the Cotton Cultivating Western Vidarbha Region toll of which has now crossed 555 this year. Though the Writ Petition was filed by the petitioner way back in the month of February, 2006, the respondents State Officials have failed to comply with the orders of the Hon'ble High Court passed from time to time directing them to file reply - affidavits immediately. But no steps have been taken by the Chief Secretary and Other Top I.A.S. Bureaucrats of the State & their continued apathy to deal with such a serious issue of Farmers Suicides has today [been] noticed by the Hon'ble High Court which took serious cognizance of such lapses on the part of State Officials and resulted in passing of the landmark order imposing the cost of Rs. 1,000/- each to be recovered from the Chief Secretary & 12 Other top officials of the State, perhaps this may be the first time in the history of High Court that such an enmass fine / cost is imposed on 13 Top I.A.S. Officials of the State which they need to pay from their salaries and to deposit in the High Court to avoid further action of Contempt of Court which may follow in the event they failed to pay the cost / fine ordered by the Hon'ble High Court today. The top officials upon whom the cost is imposed by the Hon'ble High Court are Principal Secretary-Home Affairs, Principal Secretary Agriculture, Principal Secretary Marketing, Secretary Co-operation, Commissioner of Agriculture at Pune, Director General of Police, Divisional Commissioners of Revenue Divisions at Amravati & Nagpur, Director General of Specially Formed Shri Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlamban Mission having office at Amravati & National Commission for Farmers, appointed by Ministry of Agriculture headed by Shri Sharad Pawar at New Delhi, who all are named as respondent parties by the P.I.L. Petitioner Shri Kishore Tiwari on whom the cost / fine of Rs. 1,000/- each has been imposed by the Hon'ble High Court.
The Public Interest Litigation ¨C Writ Petition was filed by Shri Kishore Tiwari with the wide prayers in the interest of Cotton Cultivating Farmers community at large. The prayers are as under that -
i) the Hon'ble High Court to take cognizance of the plight of poor Farmers who were compelled to commit suicide due to wrongful policies of the State,
ii) to order necessary probe / enquiry in the role of State Officers in promoting B.T. Cotton which resulted in the failure of crop,
iii) to direct investigation through C.B.I., Vigilance Commission, C.I.D. or any other independent agency in the matter of sale of bogus and duplicate B.T. Cotton seeds by the companies and involvement of the officials of the State in inducing the poor farmers for cultivating the B.T. Cotton,
iv) to order prosecution of the guilty officials for the offences punishable under Section 306, 409, 420 & 120 (B) of Indian Penal Code and their overacts causing series of suicides of farmers,
v) to direct the State to compensate the families of the farmers who have compelled to commit suicide by the negligence of the State by providing Rs. 5,00,000/- each without any disparity or choose & pick policy,
vi) to direct the State to take immediate measures for granting financial assistance to the Cotton Growing Farmers & to take further steps to protect the farmers from the coercive recovery at the hands of banks & private money lenders,
vii) to direct the State to place Action Taken Report on the recommendations of Swaminathan Committee,
viii) to direct the State to take appropriate action against the B.T. Cotton Seeds companies for compensating the poor farmers died untimely &
ix) other reliefs which High Court may find suitable in the facts and circumstances.
The petition will be taken up for further hearing after 2 weeks at the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. Advocate Firdos Mirza & Advocate Vinod Tiwari appeared for the petitioner and State was represented by Asstt. Govt. Pleader Smt. Tejaswini Khade.
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