The Bombay High Court has recently validated the Thane Rationing authority’s action of confiscating more than 750 quintals of groundnut, gram, lobis and sesame oil seeds from two cold storages in Navi Mumbai for violating licence conditions for storing food grains.
Personnel from the civil supplies department had raided two cold storages in Navi Mumbai — Savla Food and Cold Storage and Sanfood and Cold Storage — in January. During the raids, authorities found 151 quintals of groundnut, 337 quintals of lobis, 197.5 quintals of gram, 221.70 quintals of sesame oil seeds along with huge quantity of matki and waal.
The Controller of Rationing then issued orders confiscating all the food grains because the traders owned stocks that had violated provisions of the Maharashtra Scheduled Commodities Wholesale Dealer’s Licensing Order, 1998.
All the 11 traders had challenged the Controller's order before the Thane sessions court.
The court had set aside the confiscation orders saying that the violations were too technical, and did not justify the seizure. The state challenged the order in the high court.
Public Prosecutor Pandurang Pol said that strict compliance was essential for regulating stocking and distribution of food grains, and non-compliance would result in artificially shooting up prices of essential commodities.
Counsel for the traders, Munir Ahmed, on the other hand submitted that mere violation of some license conditions was not enough for confiscation.
Ahmed said the authorities could have issued confiscation and seizure orders only for violation of provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
Justice J. H. Bhatia, however, held that both the contraventions were one and the same. The judge noted that the licensing order was issued under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act and therefore contention raised on behalf of the traders could not be accepted.
The court has, however, upheld the sessions court order to the extent of certain other food grains, which were not included in the list of essential commodities.
The court has, also given liberty to the traders to redeem their respective stock by paying its current wholesale market price to the state authorities.