SC notice on plea claiming mills owe Rs 18K crore to cane farmers


The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a fresh matter seeking direction to states to bring on record pending dues of sugarcane farmers and also action taken against mill owners.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, representing former Lok Sabha MP Raju Anna Shetti, submitted an identical matter has already been admitted for consideration by the court and emphasised that dues of the farmers are over Rs 18,000 crore as on January 1, 2021.

The petitioner claimed in the 2020-21 sugar season, sugar cane growers supplied sugar cane worth Rs 14,000 crore to the sugar mills but have only received Rs 4,448 crore towards payment. “On February 12, 2021, the Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs, in a reply to a query in the Rajya Sabha, mentioned that sugar mills owe Rs 18,084 crore to cane farmers as on January 1, 2021,” said the plea.

The plea said on September 15, 2019, cane price arrears totalled Rs 9,444 crore and on September 30, 2019, the arrears were Rs 7,796 crore.

“Uttar Pradesh accounted for 63.4 per cent, Gujarat accounted for 8.5 per cent and Punjab accounted for 6.2 percent of total cane arrears. As of April 8, 2020, the sugar mills had purchased sugarcane worth Rs 28,000 crore, but paid only Rs 15,430 crore,” added the plea.

The petitioner recommended states should set up strict mechanism by which price of sugarcane produce is paid to cane farmers as per law in order to avoid accumulation of such dues and to prevent cane farmers from the vicious cycle when a sugar mill is declared sick.

“Their dues of sugarcane produce remained unpaid during the process of resolution or liquidation of the sugar mills/factories leading to deteriorating financial condition of cane farmers, violating their fundamental rights enshrined in articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” said the plea.

The PIL urged the apex court to direct the governments to release some ad hoc payment to the sugarcane growers against their outstanding dues.

After hearing arguments in the matter, a bench comprising Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Surya Kant issued notice to the Centre and various states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and a number of sugar mills. The top court it will put the matter for consideration after three weeks.