Restrains Centre from giving effect to nearly 25 provisions of the Legislation

The Madras High Court Bench here has restrained the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the Commissioner of Food Safety in Chennai from giving effect to certain provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and the regulations framed under it with respect to members of Madurai Managar Anaiththu Vanigargal Nala Sangam (MMAVNS), Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association (TNFMA), and Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TNCCI).

Justice K. Venkataraman granted the interim orders in individual writ petitions filed by the three associations. In so far as the case filed by MMAVNS was concerned, the judge had stayed the operation of certain provisions of Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011, Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011; and Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011.

He also restrained the Commissioner of Food Safety from enforcing the Regulations against members of the association and directed a Central Government Standing Counsel to take notice returnable by June 5. In the cases filed by TNFMA and TNCCI, the judge had restrained the Union Ministry from giving effect to about 25 provisions in the 2006-Act with respect to their members. In these cases too, the judge ordered notices to the Ministry and adjourned the matters to June.

The judge stated that he was inclined to pass such orders as the High Court had already granted similar interim orders on November 8 last year in two other writ petitions. The provisions that were stayed included Sections 3(1)(a), (za), (zf), 5(1)(a), 13, 14, 23, 31, 40, 50 to 65 and 77 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. According to the petitioners, the Legislation enacted in 2006 and implemented from August 5 last year severely affected those engaged in food business.

While the first three Sections that were challenged related to the definitions of adulterant, licence, and misbranded food, the other provisions related to composition of Food Authority, scientific panels, and scientific committees for implementing the Act. The Sections dealing with packaging and labelling of foods and licensing and registration of food business were also under challenge. The petitioners were also aggrieved against provisions imposing penalties, which they termed as very high.

Sections 50 to 65 of the Act stipulated the penalties and punishments that could be imposed for manufacturing and selling sub-standard food, misbranded food, food containing extraneous matter and for issuing misleading advertisements.

They also impose punishments for failure to comply with the directions of Food Safety Officer, providing false information, carrying out a business without licence, interfering with seized items and for obstructing or impersonating a Food Safety Officer.

Keywords: Food Safety Act