Decided on May 17,1995

Ajay Kumar Belel And Others Appellant


Nisith Kumar Batabyal, J. - (1.)The petitioners are Jute and Jute seeds growers of West Bengal living in Hooghly and Burdwan Districts. A lot of people in West Bengal are engaged in cultivating jute to earn their livelihood, as jute industry occupies an important place in the industrial infrastructure of the State. The total requirement of jute seeds in India stands at about 43000 quintals. The major portion of the seeds is required in the State of West Bengal which has a requirement of about 28000 quintals. Out of the total requirement of jute seeds, the National Seeds Corpn. (respondent No. 2) provides only about 25%. It is alleged by the petitioners that the Government of India in the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, has issued a letter No. 31-1/89 CA. 11 dated 4th July, 1989 sanctioning a particular amount for Special Jute Development Programme (S.J.D.P.). The said amount was spent as subsidy for jute seeds through the respective State Governments. Pursuant to a change in the policy, the said subsidy is being paid directly to the respondent No. 2 instead of through the medium of the State Government, i.e. W.B.S. Seeds Corpn. respondent No. 4. The economic cycle of the Jute Agriculture is based on the Jute seeds growers who grow the jute seeds on their respective lands and sale the seeds to the jute seeds dealers who again sale the same to the jute growers. In spite of their best efforts the writ petitioners have not been able to obtain the details of the S.J.D.P. as referred to above but they understand that under the said programme the jute growers were given certain benefits so that they might purchase certified jute seeds at lower rates. By reason of the policy of the Government, some people who were fortunate to purchase the seeds from the National Seeds Corpn. at a subsidies rate, while the rest of the people were compelled to purchase seeds from open market at more than twice the rate, so the benefits did not reach the maximum number of beneficiaries. On the other hand the same had a tendency of creating discrimination among the jute growers.
(2.)It has also been alleged by the writ petitioners that so long as the certified jute seeds under the scheme are available and until such stock is exhausted the other private jute seeds dealers are not able to sell their goods. Such dealers are not aware of the total demand of the market because of the extent to supply by the National Seeds Corporation and therefore suffer great loss and they are to cut down their prices in order to recover the capital expenditure. This results in uncertainty which affects demand of jute seeds in the next season and as a result of which the jute seeds growers are compelled to sell the jute seeds at an uneconomic price. This causes a scarcity of supply of jute seeds in the open market resulting in high prices of jute seeds in the open market but the benefits of the high prices remain outside the reach of the poor jute growers. Thus the grant of subsidy has a vicious effect on the interest of the poor jute growers and jute seeds growers. The petitioners allege that they have suffered in their jute growing industry in the year 1990 because of the policy of the Government. They waited for purchasing jute seeds at subsidised rate but they could not get the same in spite of their long waiting because of non-supply of jute seeds to their area. They were unable to cultivate at the right moment because of the non-availability of jute seeds. Ultimately when they were tired of waiting, they had to purchase jute seeds from open market at an exorbitantly high price. This has resulted in great loss to them. In some cases, the counter parts of the petitioners were able to obtain jute seeds at the subsidised rate and thus they were discriminated against in violation of Art. 14 of the Constitution of India.
(3.)It has been further alleged by the writ petitioners that there is no system of rational distribution of jute seeds enabling the jute growers to get seeds at a fair price as only 7000 quintals of jute seeds are really marketed by the respondent No. 2 leaving the rest of the cultivators to depend on the private traders, therefore, the jute seeds growers and the jute growers fall victim to the artificially created price structure of the private dealers. The respondent No. 2 do not purchase the entire seeds grown by the seeds growers. On the other hand, whoever goes first gets the seeds at subsidies rate so long as the stock lasts; there is no limit of intake by a particular farmer. All areas do not have out-lets for sale of National Seeds Corporations seeds. The seeds are sold through dealers appointed by the NSC but they are not available at all places. Therefore, the policy of the Government, according to the writ petitioners, is thoroughly misconceived.

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