PepsiCo, which owns brands like Pepsi, Lays, Gatorade and Quaker Oats, is allegedly seeking damage to 10 million rupees ($ 143,000) from each farmer.
"PepsiCo is India's largest process quality potato buyer and among the first companies to work with thousands of local farmers to grow a particular protected range of potatoes for it," a spokesman from India based on CNN Business said on Thursday. "In this case, we took the courts against people who were illegally trading in our registered committee."
The spokesman did not comment on the damage the company is seeking.
Peasant associations and activists in India urged the Indian government to go in and take the initiative of PepsiCo. In a letter to the government published earlier this week and shared with CNN Business, they said that farmers' rights to grow and sell registered crops are protected under India's agricultural laws.
"We believe it is frightening and legal harassment of the farmers, because the farmers are not fully aware of [their] rights," the letter said. The letter also claims that PepsiCo sent private detectives to the accused farmers who posed as potential buyers, secretly recording video of them and taking samples of potatoes.
PepsiCo did not comment on these claims.
The company's actions are "against the sovereignty of the food" and "sovereignty of the nation," said Kapil Shah of Jonathan, one of the defense groups that helps defend the farmers.
"We want to fight it out, no matter how big the company," Shah said. "Pepsi has made a big mistake."
Correction: An earlier version of this story has confused the nature of the alleged violation.
Swati Gupta contributed to this report.