The complainant in this case, Mr. M. Madhusudhan Reddy is a farmer in village Brahmanakotkur of Kurnool District in Andhra Pradesh. He purchased 8 kg black gram T-9 variety seeds from Andhra Pradesh State Seeds Development Corporation Ltd. (APSSDC), on 27.06.2006. He claims tohave spent Rs. 15,987/- in levelling the land for cultivation, Rs. 11,100/- for manual labour and Rs. 8,645/- in purchase of fertilizers and pesticides, for the purpose of sowing the seeds which he purchased from APSSDC. The grievance of the complainant is that despite his having taken due care, the crop failed as there was no flowering in the plants which grew in the land in which the seeds were sown.
(2) On the request made by the complainant, to the Assistant Director of Agriculture, a team comprising of a Scientist from DATT Centre, Kurnool, the Mandal Agricultural Officer and the Assistant Executive Officer visited his field on 17.08.2006 and noticed that there was no flowering though there was growth of plants in the field. At the time of inspection, the age of the crop was opined to be about 50-60 days, whereas the flowering is expected in about 40-50 days of sowing. They were of the view that the non-flowering in the plant was due to sterility of the seeds. The complainant, therefore, filed a complaint before the District Forum Kurnool claiming compensation from APSSDC as well as the proprietor of M/s. Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Seedswho is amongst various suppliers of seeds to APSSDC. The District Forum directed the opposite parties no. 1 and 2 i.e. APSSDC and its Managing Director to pay to the complainant value of 51.16 black gram per acre at the rate of 3,500/- per quintal besides Rs. 10,000/- as compensation towards mental agony and Rs. 5,000/- as cost of litigation. Interest at the rate of 9% was also awarded to the complainant.
(3) The complaint was resisted by APSSDC, inter-alia, on the ground that the failure of the crop was not due to any defect in the seeds and the reason for non-flowering could be attributed to water stress, nutrient stress etc. Failure on the part of the complainant to manage to crop was also alleged. The opposite party, APSSDC also denied having given any assurance to the complainant as regards the yield of six quintal per acre claimed by him. It was also stated in the reply filed by APSSDC that they had been procuring seeds from various suppliers and the supplier M/s. Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Seeds is responsible for all the consequences arising out of any complaint alleging defects in the seeds supplied by them. It was also stated in the reply that APSSDCwas getting the seeds certified from seed certification agency which had been conducting grow cut tests for genetic productivity and a tag of purity issued by the certification agency was attached to the seed bag.
(4) M/s. Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Seeds was impleaded as a party in the complaint. The said opposite party denied the allegation made in the complaint and also claimed that it was not liable for the alleged loss to the complainant. It was claimed that there was no privity of contract between the complainant and the aforesaid opposite party and there was no defect in the seeds which it had supplied to APSSDC.
(5) A perusal of the order passed by the District Forum would show that the scientist of DATT Centre, Kurnool, namely Mr. M. V. Krishnaji, the Mandal Agricultural Officer, Nandikotkur Mr. Mahaboob Basha and Mr. Raghoba Rao, Joint Director of Agriculture were examined by the complainant. The AEO, Mr. Mahboob Basha stated that at the time of field visit they observed non-flowering which was due to sterility of the seeds. The Scientist, Mr. M. V. Krishnaji from District Agriculture Advisory and Transfer of Technology Centre (DATT) Kurnool also corroborated the statement of the AEO and stated that there was failure of the T-9 variety of black gram due to non-flowering and admixture of seeds even though the plant growth was satisfactory and no pest was found on it. He also opined that non-flowering and non-budding could not be attributed to heavy rains or any agro environmental conditions. In his opinion also, non-flowering of the plants was due to sterile seeds. On the other hand, neither the petitioner/opposite party APSSDC nor the opposite party M/s. Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Seeds produced any scientific evidence before the District Forum. It was also noticed by the District Forum that the opposite party did not invoke its power under Section 13(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act to get the residuary sample of the seeds tested to establish the genuineness of the seeds and to show that the same were free from any defect.
(6) The bill/invoice of purchase of seeds by the complainant establishes the purchase of T-9 variety of seeds by him from APSSDC. A farmer purchases the seeds only for the purpose of sowing them in his fields. Therefore, the complainant on purchasing the said seeds must necessarily have sown them in his fields. Hence, it can not be said that the seeds which the complainant had sown in his field could be different from the seeds which he had purchased from APSSDC. Even otherwise, no test was got conducted by the opposite party to show that the seeds sown in the field of the complainant were different from T-9 seeds of the variety sold by it. It was very easy for the APSSDC to establish the potency and efficacy of the seeds sold to the complainant, by getting the seeds of that very lot tested in a laboratory. That course, however was not adopted.
(7) Though, the case of APSSDC is that the crop failure can be attributed to several reasons such as poor crop management, including not using appropriate fertilizers and pesticides, failure to water the fields in time and damage caused by the pests, there is no evidence of any such possibility having actually arisen in this case. There is no evidence of any drought in the area at the relevant time. There is no evidence of any failure on the part of the complainant to manage the crop. As rightly observed by the State Commission, a farmer purchasing and sowing seeds in his fields would take all possible care to ensure that there is no failure of the crop in his fields. He would, therefore, not only use the fertilizers but also the necessary pesticides, besides watering them well in time. The deposition of the Scientist, Assistant Executive Officer and the Mandal Agricultural Officer also shows that the non-flowering could not be attributed to heavy rains or any other agro environmental conditions. Since the opposite party did not produce any expert evidence to prove either that the seeds sown in the fields of the complainant were different from the seeds which he had purchased from them or that the crop failure could be due to reasons other than the defects in the seeds, there would be no good reason to reject the positive evidence produced by the complainant in the form of the deposition of the Scientist from DATT, Kurnool, Mandal Agricultural Officer and the Assistant Executive Officer.
(8) In any case, a finding of the facts has been returned both by the District Forum as well as by the State Commission that the non-flowering in the plants was attributable solely to the defect in the seeds which the complainant had purchased from APSSDC and sown in his fields. The scope of a revision petition being limited, we can not interfere with the aforesaid finding of facts unless it is shown to be perverse, in the sense that no reasonable person, acting on the bases of the material available to him, could have recorded such a finding. Considering the evidence produced by the complainant with the District Forum coupled with the fact that no expert opinion was produced by the opposite party nor did it invoke the jurisdiction of the District Forum under Section 13(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, we find no ground to interfere with the finding of fact returned by the District Forum and confirmed by the State Commission.
(9) The learned counsel for the petitioner refers to the judgment of this Commission in Jain Irrigation System Ltd. vs. M. B. Malipatil & Anr. 2011 (3) (CPR) 269 NC. In the aforesaid case, it was noted by this Commission that the report relied upon by the complainant did not statethat the seedlings was defective and in fact one of the report clearly listed various deficiency on the part of the complainant in tending to the crop. The report of the Sr. Asstt. Director (Horticulture) in that case only stated that the crop development and growth was not satisfactory and some plants were disease infected. It neither quantified the disease and unsatisfactory growth nor it had recorded a finding that the unsatisfactory growth was due to any defect in the tissue culture banana seedlings. The report also indicated the adoption of poor agro manic planting of virus infected watermelon crops, alongside banana padding deficiency in irrigation as well as use of fertilizer and soil with low fertilizer which was not conducive for banana seedlings. It was in these circumstances that this Commission held that the complainant had filed to prove that the seedlings were defective.
(10) The learned counsel for the petitioner also relied upon the decision of Ho’ble Supreme Court in Haryana Seeds Development Corpn. Ltd. vs. Sadhu & Anr. 2005 (1) CPR 169 (SC). In the aforesaid case, the appellant before the Hon’ble Supreme Court had relied upon a report of the expert committee which clearly revealed that the variation to the condition of crop could not be attributed to the quality of seeds but to other factors such as high salt concentration, Brackish water, moisture content at the time of sowing etc. The Hon’ble Apex Court, inter-alia, observed that the report was clear, definite and specific in findings that the variation in condition could not be attributed to the quality of the seeds but it was attributed to other factors. It was on the light of the report of the expert committee that the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed the complaint. However, in the case before us, there is absolutely no expert opinion produced by the petitioner APSSDC either before the District Forum or before any other forum, which would show that the failure of crop was attributable to factors other than the failure of the seeds. On the other hand, the complainant has produced evidence including scientific evidence and statement of public servants, who inspected his field in discharge of their official duty, which would show that it was a case of failure of T-9 variety. Non-flowering was due to the sterility of the seeds and could not be attributed to other factors such as heavy rains or any other agro environmental conditions. Therefore, the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is clearly inapplicable to the factual situation in this case. Even the decision of this Commission in Jain Irrigation System Ltd. (supra)would be inapplicable, considering that the evidence produced by the complainant clearly indicate failure of the seeds which were sown in the fields and the failure of the crop could not be attributed to any other factor. There is no evidence of any deficiency in irrigation, use of fertilizer or use of pesticides etc. and no pests were found on the field at the time they were inspected. The inevitable conclusion, therefore, is that the crop failure occurred only due to some defects on the seeds which the complainant had purchased from APSSDC.
R.P. No. 385/2011
(11) In this case, the complainant had purchased seeds from APSSDC vide two purchase bills and those very seeds were sown in his fields. He claims to have incurred expenditure of Rs. 11,625/- for levelling the land, Rs. 6,243/- towards manual labour and Rs. 12,430/- for fertilizers and pesticides weeding. In this case also, the fields were inspected on 17.08.2006, by Mr. M. V. Krishnaji, Scientist, DATT Centre, Kurnool, Mandal Agricultural Officer and Mr. Mahaboob Basha, AEO. He also examined Mr. Mahaboob Basha, Mr. M. V. Krishnaji and Mr. Raghoba Rao, who were the witnesses examined by the complainant in revision petition no. 384/2011. In this case also the aforesaid witnesses reported, on inspection of the field that the non-flowering was due to sterility in the seeds and could not be attributed to heavy rains or any agro environmental conditions. No expert opinion was produced by any of the opposite party even in this case. The District Forum as well as the State Commission returned finding of fact, holding that the failure of the crop occurred due to defects sterility in the seeds of T-9 variety, which APSSDC had supplied to the complainant.
(12) Therefore, the view taken by us in Revision Petition No. 384/2011 also applies to the present case.
R.P. No. 386/2011
(13) The complainant in this case also purchased T-9 seeds from APSSDC vide purchase bills dated 26.06.2006 and 10.06.2006. The said seeds were later sown by him in his fields and there was failure of flowering in the plants which came up in the fields in which the seeds were sown. He also made a representation to the Mandal Agricultural Officer, alleging loss of sowing and seeking compensation. In his case also the fields were inspected on 17.08.2006 by same team which inspected the fields of the complainant in Revision Petition no. 384/2011 and Revision Petition No. 385/2011. He also examined the same witnesses namely Mr. Mahaboob Basha, Mr. M. V. Krishnaji and Mr. Raghoba Rao, who were examined by the complainant in revision petition no. 384/2011 and revision petition no. 385/2011. All of them stated that the non-flowering was due to sterility of the seeds even though plant growth was satisfactory. No pests were found by them and in their opinion non-flowering and non-budding could not attributed to heavy rains or any agro environmental conditions. In this case also, no expert opinion was produced by the opposite parties, including APSSDC. The District Forum as well as the State Commission returned a finding of facts in favour of the complainant and we see no reason to interfere with the said concurrent finding of the fact recorded by the fora below.
(14) Therefore, the view taken by us in Revision Petition No. 384/2011 also applies to the present case.
For the reasons stated hereinabove, we find no merit in the revision petitions. All the three revision petitions are hereby dismissed.
V. K. JAIN J.
DR. B.C. GUPTA
NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION NEW DELHI