No prohibition on inter-state transport of gutkha, paan masala through Maharashtra: HC
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court has held that a ban on gutkha and paan masala in Maharashtra cannot be extended to prohibit inter-state transport of the banned products through the state.
The division bench of justice Sunil Shukre and Avinash Gharote, however, clarified on Monday that the food and drugs administration (FDA) can examine and seize the consignments being transported across Maharashtra, in order to ensure that they are not offloaded in the state under the guise of inter-state transport.
The court was hearing a petition filed by owner of a truck seized by FDA officials at Jaulka in Washim district on October 3, 2020, and the transporter who had engaged him to ferry the consignment.
FDA officials seized the consignment as it contained paan masala, zarda and scented tobacco products banned in the state under an order issued by the food safety commissioner, Maharashtra, on July 15, 2020.
The truck owner and the transporter said they were merely transporting the consignment from Valsad in Gujarat to two locations in Odisha where there is no ban on betelnut-based products.
They had challenged the July 15, 2020 order, contending that it was unconstitutional and ultra vires the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006, for the enactment does not confer any power on the food safety commissioner to prohibit inter-state transportation of any goods, including gutkha and paan masala.
One of their argument was that inter-state trade and commerce is a subject within the domain of Union of India, and as such, cannot be prohibited by the state.
The HC accepted the contention and the bench said though FSSA is a central enactment, and though the food safety commissioner acts under it as a delegate of the Centre, his jurisdiction is limited to the state and any prohibition to manufacture, storage, distribution or sale, imposed by the commissioner has to operate within the state or such lesser area as may be notified by him.
The bench clarified that this however will not mean that the FDA will be restrained from enforcing the prevailing ban on gutkha and paan masala in the state.
In this regard, HC also took note of the grim reality that though there is a ban on manufacturing, distribution, storage and sale of gutkha and paan masala in Maharashtra, these products are available in the state.
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