The court will decide if banning Maggi noodles was reasonable, arbitrary or just, the Bombay high court (HC) told the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Wednesday, asking the latter to justify the validity of the ban on the product on Thursday.
A division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice BP Colabawalla was hearing a petition filed by Nestlé India, objecting to the FSSAI ban on all nine variants of Maggi.
The FSSAI has banned Maggi stating it has noted three violations — the presence of lead in excess of the maximum permissible level; misleading label reading ‘No added MSG’, and the release of a non-standardised food product, Maggi Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker, in the market, without risk assessment and product approval.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, counsel for FSSAI, told the court that mere suspicion is enough for them to take action, and suspicion does not require evidence. He also said the lead content in Maggi noodles was beyond the permissible limit.
Responding to the contention raised by Nestle India that the laboratories that tested Maggi were not notified by the nodal body, National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), Singh said it is important for the laboratory to be recognised and authorised, even if it is not notified.
The court asked Singh to clarify his stand on calling Maggi a proprietary product. The HC asked if food categories can’t be manufactured or sold unless they are approved by the FSSAI and if only those items that are notified by the Centre can be banned.
Singh said the risk involved was high as Maggi noodles had a misleading label and was of substandard quality. He said the action was taken based on the available scientific information and the legal provisions.
The court has asked Singh to formulate answers and state the sections under which the decision to ban the noodles was taken. The court went on to say that they could test the executive and legislative actions under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.