|High Court says such powers are vested with the Union Government only|
KOCHI: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday held that the State Government had no powers to pass orders prohibiting the manufacture and sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice V. K. Bali and Justice M. Ramachandran made the observation while quashing the ban orders by the State Government.
Allowing writ petitions filed by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited and PepsiCo India Holdings Private Limited challenging the ban orders, the court held that powers to prohibit the manufacture and sale of products under the provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act were vested with the Union Government. The Bench pointed out that if State legislatures and Parliament had concurrent powers on a matter, the executive power of the State Government was subject to the executive power of the Centre.
The Bench observed that provisions of the Maharashtra Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules gave powers to the Government to prohibit food articles in emergency situation. In the absence of such a rule here, the State Government did not have such powers. Besides, it was not the case of the Government that the level of pesticide residues found in samples tested by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) or the Public Analysts of the Government could have resulted in an epidemic-like situation. The Government had contended only that such level of pesticides would be injurious to health. The judges pointed out that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had not prescribed any standard for testing pesticide residues in finished products.
The court found that the orders were passed without observing the principle of natural justice such as issuing notice to the companies and hearing them. It also observed that the samples analysed by the CSE, even if its report was to be accepted, would not be adulterated ones. The State had no powers to ban their manufacture and sale.
As for the contention of the Government that the ban orders were passed on the basis of a letter from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the court observed that there was no hint in the letter of the Ministry that the CSE report required an order of prohibition. If the very basis of the ban order was the letter, the State should have reversed the ban orders on clarification by the Ministry on the floor of Parliament that the CSE report did not provide "any details required for confirmatory interpretation" of the results.
The court said that once the Government of India did not accept the report it was not fair on the part of the State Government to have continued the prohibition of the products.
The Bench also pointed out that it was conceded that the report of the Central Food Laboratory would supersede the report of the Public Analyst of the Government.
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Date:23/09/2006 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2006/09/23/stories/2006092313060100.htm