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K. Venkataratnam Vs. the District Revenue Officer, Guntur and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 5968 of 1974
Judge
Reported inAIR1975AP359
ActsEssential Commodities Act, 1955 - Sections 3 and 6A; Constitution of India - Articles 19(1) and 31(2); Andhra Pradesh Food Grains Dealers Licensing Order, 1964
AppellantK. Venkataratnam
RespondentThe District Revenue Officer, Guntur and ors.
Advocates:P.A. Chowdary, Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
constitution - seizure of food grains - sections 3 and 6-a of essential commodities act, 1955 and articles 19 (1) (f) and (g) and 31 (2) of constitution of india - sale of seized stock of food grains without notice to petitioner - enquiry pending for alleged contravention of control order -writ petition filed against sale of seized goods on grounds of infringement of fundamental rights - alleged that notice as to seizure not given - fundamental rights of petitioner unaffected as notice not required - writ not maintainable. - - where any essential commodity is seized in pursuance of an order made under section 3 in relation thereto, it may be produced without any unreasonable delay, before the collector to the district or the presidency town in which such essential commodity is seized.....s. obul reddi, c.j.1. the seizure of foodgrain stocks by the 1st respondent (district revenue officer) guntur on 9-8-1974 from the business premises of the petitioner at ponnur, guntur district has led to the filing of the writ petition.2. the petitioner is a holder of two licences under the andhra pradesh food grains dealers licensing order, 1964 (hereinafter referred to as 'the licensing order') and has been doing business in foodgrains at ponnur, guntur district. the seizure of the foodgrains of different varieties was made on the ground that the petitioner had violated clause 7-a of the licensing order inasmuch as there was no stock book kept in the business premises or his house. the report of the inspector of police vigilance cell, civil supplies, guntur (2nd respondent), to the 1st.....
Judgment:

S. Obul Reddi, C.J.

1. The seizure of foodgrain stocks by the 1st respondent (District Revenue Officer) Guntur on 9-8-1974 from the business premises of the petitioner at Ponnur, Guntur District has led to the filing of the writ petition.

2. The petitioner is a holder of two licences under the Andhra Pradesh Food Grains Dealers Licensing Order, 1964 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Licensing Order') and has been doing business in foodgrains at Ponnur, Guntur District. The seizure of the foodgrains of different varieties was made on the ground that the petitioner had violated Clause 7-A of the Licensing Order inasmuch as there was no stock book kept in the business premises or his house. The report of the Inspector of Police Vigilance Cell, Civil Supplies, Guntur (2nd respondent), to the 1st respondent was that the petitioner admitted before him that such a stock book was not maintained. The petitioner denies having made any such admission. It is his case that he has been maintaining a regular stock register, which is being inspected by the Grain Purchasing Assistant, Bapatla and which he has been signing in token of his having inspected the stocks with reference to the stock register. It is further claimed that he not only maintains the stocks register, but also a day book and Ledger and as such, there was no violation of Clause 7-A of the Licensing Order. On the report of the Inspector of Police. Vigilance Cell, the District Revenue Officer issued a notice under Section 6B of the Essential Commodities Act (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') to show cause why the seized commodities should not be confiscated. The enquiry was posted to 17-9-1974. The petitioner attended the office of the 1st respondent on that day; but the enquiry was adjourned to 15-10-1974 and again to 19-11-1974. Meanwhile, the 1st respondent by his order dated 15-10-1974, directed the sale of the foodgrain stocks which were seized on 9-8-1974. It is this order directing the sale of the seized stocks that is challenged in this writ petition.

3. Mr. Chowdary, the Learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner, contended that the District Revenue Officer has no power to sell, under the Lincensing order, the stocks seized by the Inspector of Police Vigilance Cell, before an order is made under Section 6A of the Act, that, even assuming that there is such a power, it cannot be exercised without notice to the petitioner denying him an opportunity of being heard; that the Licensing Order does not provide for acquisition or requisition of foodgrain stocks; and that, therefore, the sale of the seized stocks directed to be sold by the 1st respondent is violative of Article 31(2) of the Constitution.

4. It may be stated at the outset that the validity of the action of the District Revenue Officer in selling the food grains seized under the Licensing Order, pending enquiry into the alleged contravention of the Licensing Order under Sections 6-B and 6-A of the Act came up for consideration before a Division Bench of this Court, to which one of us (Obul Reddi, C.J.) was a party, in Writ Appeal No. 658 of 1974. D/- 9-9-1974 (Andh Pra) and again before another Division Bench in Writ Petns. Nos. 1501 of 1974 and 5483 of 1973, D/- 17-9-1974 (Andh Pra) and the action of the District Revenue Officer in selling the seized commodities before the completion of the enquiry under Section 6-A pursuant to a notice issued under Section 6-B was upheld.

5. Mr. Chowdary, however, contended that the constitutional validity of the seizure as contravening Articles 31(2) and 19(1) (f) and (g) of the Constitution was not raised before the Division Bench which decided Writ Appeal No. 658 of 1974 (Andh pra.) and therefore, requested us to permit him to argue the points raised by him. The learned counsel invited our attention to the judgment of the Division Bench consisting of Lakshmaiah and Madhava Rao, JJ., in Writ Petn. Nos. 1501 of 1974 and 5483 of 1973 (Andh Pra) to canvass the correctness of the finding of the learned Judges that the sale of the foodgrains before an order of confiscation is made under Section 6-A of the Act is valid. The passage relied upon by the learned counsel in that judgment reads:

'But the power to give any interim disposal to such an essential commodity before the passing of the order of confiscation, the Act does not provide for, at any rate expressly. There is a gap in the law. The Court shall have to fill up the gap.'

The learned counsel laid down very great stress on the above observation to contend that it is not open to the court, when there is a lacuna or gap, to fill up that gap, more so when the fundamental rights of a citizen, are involved.

6. We may, therefore, in the first instance, deal with the question whether the Act and the licensing order, either expressly or impliedly, clothe the licensing authority or the Collector with the power to make interim orders for the disposal of essential commodities by way of sale or otherwise without notice to the dealer pending enquiry. Though the validity of the sale of the commodities seized under the interim directions was not challenged as offending Articles 31(2) and 19(1)(g) before the Division Bench, which decidfd Writ Appeal No. 658 of 1974 (Andh Pra), yet the question whether he had power to make interim arrangements for the disposal of the stocks seized came up for consideration. It was observed by that Division Bench that when the Legislature clothes a particular authority with power to make an enquiry, it irnpliedly grants that authority, the power to do all such acts or employ all such means as may be essentially necessary in exercise of that power It does not appear, from a reading of the judgment of the other Division Bench in Writ Petitions Nos. 1501 of 1974 and 5483 of 1973 (Andh Pra) that the view expressed by the Division Bench in the earlier case (Writ Appeal No. 658 of 1974) was brought to the learned Judges' notice.

7. The Licensing Order is issued with the prior concurrence of the Central Government. This order lays down that no person shall carry on business as a dealer except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence issued by the licensing authority. An application for licence or renewal thereof has to be made to the licensing authority in the prescribed form. It is open to the licensing authority, for reasons to be recorded in writing, to refuse to grant or renew a licence. The Licensing Order also makes it obligatory on the part of the dealer or his agent or servant or any other person acting on his behalf to maintain a register of daily accounts for each variety of foodgrains in respect of which he has been licensed to deal. That register should show the opening stocks on each day, the quantities received on each day showing the source and places from which they were received, the quantities delivered or otherwise disposed of on each day showing the places of destination and closing stock on each day. The dealer is bound to complete his accounts for each day on the day to which they relate. There is also prohibition to enter into any transaction involving purchase, sale or storage for sale of foodgrains in speculative manner, prejudicial to the maintenance and easy availability of supplies of foodgrains in the market. The dealer is also under an obligation to make foodgrains available in his business premises for sales. There is also a prohibition from storing foodgrains at any place other than the one he is permitted by the licensing authority to store. If there is contravention of the terms and conditions of the licence, then, without prejudice to any other action that may be taken against him by the licensing authority, his licence may be cancelled or suspended by order in writing, the only limitation on the exercise of that power by the licensing authority being that no order cancelling or suspending the licence shall be made unless the licensee has been given a reasonable opportunity of stating his case against the proposed cancellation or suspension. When a licence issued to a dealer is can-celled or suspended or renewal of the licence is refused, the stocks of foodgrains available with the licensee at the time of such cancellation or suspension or refusal to renew the licence shall be disposed of in accordance with the directions of the licensing authority. The security deposited is also liable for forfeiture for contravention of the conditions of licence. The licensing authority is also invested with the powers of entry, search and seizure. He has the power to seize or authorise the seizure of any foodgrains in respect of which he has reason to believe that any of the provisions of the Licensing Order or of the conditions of the Licence has been, is being or is about to be contravened after following the procedure laid down in the Criminal Procedure Code relating to search and seizure. Any person, aggrieved by an order of the licensing authority, is entitled to prefer an appeal to the authorities named in the Licensing Order. That is what the provisions of the Licensing Order lay down.

8. The relevant provisions of the Act may now be noticed. Section 3 empowers the Central Government to provide for regulating or prohibiting the production, supply and distribution of any essential commodity and trade and commerce therein for the purpose of securing equitable distribution of those commodities and making them available at fair price and also for securing them for the defence of India or the efficient conduct of military operations. For that purpose, an order made, in exercise of the Powers under Section 3, can provide for controlling the prices at which any essential commodity may be bought or sold, for regulating the storage, transport, distribution, disposal, acquisition, use or consumption of any essential commodity, lor prohibiting the withholding from the sale of any essential commodity ordinarily kept for sale and for maintenance of books of account and records relating to the business. Section 3 further provides for payment of controlled price, if any fixed or the price agreed upon or the price calculated at the market rate prevailing in the locality at the date of sale, when any essential commodity js sold under the directions of the Government to an officer or agent of the Government or to such other person or class of persons and in such circumstances as may be specified in the order. Section 6-A provides for confiscation of essential commodity and it reads:

'Where any essential commodity is seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 in relation thereto, it may be produced without any unreasonable delay, before the Collector to the district or the Presidency town in which such essential commodity is seized and whither or not a prosecution is instituted for the contravention of such order, the Collector if satisfied that there has been a contravention of the order, may order confiscation of the essential commodity so seized:

Provided that without prejudice to any action which may be taken under any other provision of this Act, no food-grains or edible oil seeds seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 in relation thereto from a producer shall if the seized foodgrains or edible oil seeds have been produced by him, be confiscated under this section.'

Section 6-B deals with the issuance of show cause notice before an order confiscating the essential commodity can be made under Section 6-A. Section 6-C provides for an appeal by any person aggrieved by an order of confiscation under Section 6-A.

9. The above provisions were relied upon by Mr. Chowdary to show that there is no power, express or implied, vested in the licensing authority to put to sale the essential commodities seized, that too without notice to the dealer.

10. In Writ Appeal No. 658 of 1974 (Andh pra) the seizure and sale of 717 bags of fertilizers by the Licensing Authority were questioned and it was held that:

'The mere sale of the fertilizers seized, for that matter any essential commodity, pending enquiry into the alleged contravention of the Control Order, will not in any manner prejudice the rights of the dealer in the property. Essential commodities are sold at a notified or control price and in the event of the proceedings initiated against the dealer being ultimately dropped or there being found no contravention of any order made under Section 3, the dealer will get back the sale proceeds of the commodity seized from him. That way, his rights are protected. We are, therefore unable to say that the District Collector or the District Revenue Officer cannot make an interim ex parte order, for, it will be open to the dealer when notice is given to him in accordance with the requirements of Section 6-B to contend that there was no contravention of the Control Order and that the seizure and sale were not valid.'

The learned counsel, Mr. Chowdary, questions the correctness of this view on the ground that the property belonging to the dealer cannot be disposed of by sale, as that would be an encroachment upon his fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 31(2) of the Constitution. In other words, it is his case that, while interpreting statutes, it is the duty of the Court to enforce the law as enacted by the Legislature; and that when the law --the Essential Commodities Act and the Licensing Order made thereunder -- is not a law for acquisition or requisition of property, it is not open to the Court to deprive the rights of a person in the absence of any law. He quoted from Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes (Twelfth Edition p. 251) to show that statutes which encroach on the rights of the subject, whether as regards person or property, are subject to a strict construction in the same way as penal Acts and that, if there is any ambiguity, the construction which is in favour of the freedom of the individual should be adopted. He also quoted from Geoffrey Marshall's Constitutional Theory (Page 75) what Justice Holmes of the United States Expressed:

'We ask not what this man meant, but what those words would mean in the mouth of a normal speaker of English using them in the circumstances in which they were used. ..... We do not inquire what the Legislature meant; we ask only what the statute means.'

He also quoted from Craies on Statute Law what has been stated in respect of taking statutes regarding the rule of express and unambiguous language.

11. He next placed reliance upon the decision in Hoani Te Heuheu Thukino v. Aotea District Maori Land Board, AIR 1941 PC 109 where the Privy Council held that:

'It is not open to the court to go behind what has been enacted by the Legislature and to enquire how the enactment came to be made, whether it arose out of incorrect information, or indeed, on actual deception by someone on whom reliance was placed by it. The Court must accept the enactment as the law unless and until the Legislature itself alters such enactment, on being persuaded of its error. The Courts of law cannot sit in judgment on the Legislature, but must obey and give effect to its determination.'

So far as the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act and the Licensing Order are concerned, it may be stated that there is no ambiguity at all in the language employed. It is a law conceived and enacted for control, production, supply and distribution of Essential Commodities. The law also provides for making Essential Commodities available at fair prices to the consumers. For the purpose of achieving these objects the legislature has vested the Central or the State Governments power to control the price of any essential commodity, and to regulate the storage, transport, distribution, disposal, acquisition, use or consumption of any Essential commodity. The Government is also empowered to prohibit the withholding from the sale of any essential commodity ordinarily kept for sale, and to require persons engaged in the production, supply or distribution of, trade and commerce in, any essential commodity to maintain and produce for inspection such books, accounts and record relating to their business and to furnish such information relating thereto, as may be specified in the order. The Essential Commodities Act clothes the Central or the State Government with wide powers in the matter of making available essential commodities to the consumers at fair prices, The licensing order defines the expression 'dealer' to mean a person engaged in the business of purchase, sale or storage for sale of any one of the food-grains in quantity of ten quintals or more at any time, or in quantity of twenty-five quintals or more of all foodgrains taken together. A dealer requires a licence under Clause 3 of the Licensing Order. He cannot carry on business as a dealer except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence issued in that behalf by the licensing authority. Clause 3 (2) also brings within the definition of 'dealer' any person who stores in quantity of ten quintals or more of any one of the foodgrains or 25 quintals or more of all the foodgrains taken together, at any time unless the contrary is proved.

12. We have already noticed the scheme of the Act, Contravention of the conditions of licence may lead to cancellation or suspension of the licence in addition to taking any other action under the provisions of the Act. All that is required is that no such order shall be made against a dealer unless he has been given a reasonable opportunity of stating his case against the proposed cancellation or suspension. What Mr. Choudary contends is that the commodities seized from the petitioner are either being sold or in the process of being sold without notice to him and that he cannot be deprived of his property except in accordance with the requirements of Article 31(2) of the Constitution. It may be stated that the stocks of essential commodities with the dealer, which have been seized, are not being acquired or requisitioned. They are seized, as the petitioner has been reasonably suspected of violating the conditions of Licence. The Commodities seized from him are essential commodities in respect of which he has obtained a valid licence. The terms and conditions of licences are such that he shall not contravene any of the terms and conditions thereof. What the learned counsel contends is that the Act only provides for confiscation of any essential commodity if it is established that there is violation of the terms and conditions of licence; but it does not empower the Government to sell the essential Commodities pending decision under Section 6-A. Article 31(2) which has been strongly relied upon by the learned counsel, only declares that no property shall be compulsorily acquired or requisitioned save for a public purpose and save by authority of a law which provides for compensation for the property so acquired or requisitioned. According to the learned counsel, the sale of essential commodities seized amounts to compulsory acquisition without providing for compensation as required under Article 31(2). In support thereof, the learned counsel relied upon Sholapur Spinning and Weaving Co's case : [1954]1SCR674 where it was held that the Ordinance II of 1950 authorised, in effect, a deprivation of the property of the company within the meaning of Article 31 of the Constitution without compensation and was not covered by the exception in Clause 5 (b) (ii) of that Article. The Ordinance was thus held to violate the fundamental right of the company under Article 31(2) and a preference share-holder of the company, who was called upon to pay the moneys unpaid on his shares was entitled to impugn the constitutionality of the Ordinance.

13. It should be remembered that, after that decision, Clause (2) of Article 31 was amended and Clause (2-A) was inserted by the Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act, 1955, which came into effect on 27-4-1955. By reason of insertion of Clause (2-A) the obligation to pay compensation under Clause (21 no longer exists, unless the ownership or right to possession of the individual is transferred to the State or to a Corporation owned or controlled by the State. By reason of the seizure of the essential commodities there is no deprivation of the ownership or right to compensation of the commodities by the State as the seizure is not a compulsory acquisition of the property. The law provides for seizure of the commodities for contravention of the licensing order and the contravention is made punishable and, in addition, provides for confiscation of the essential commodities.

14. M/s. Motibhai Fulabhai Patel and Co.'s case AIR 1970 SC 829 also does not render any assistance to the case of the petitioner. That was a case where a dealer had contravened Rule 40 of the Central Excise Rules by mixing duty paid tobacco with the non-duty paid tobacco. It was, therefore, held that the entire mixture cannot be confiscated, but only so much of the mixture as can reasonably represent the value of the non-duty paid tobacco can be confiscated. What Hegde. J., observed in that case is this:

'Rule 40 relates to forfeiture and is a penal provision. Its scope cannot be extended by reading into it words which are not there. Rule 40 permits the Central Excise authorities to confiscate only those goods on which duty has not been paid. It is not permissible for the Collector to confiscate the entire tobacco mixture. If by the wrongful act of a party he renders it impossible for the authorities to confiscate under Rule 40 the non-duty paid Roods it is open to these authorities to confiscate from out of the goods seized goods only of the value reasonably representing the value of the non-duty paid goods mixed in the goods seized.' It is not as if the Supreme Court did not uphold the right to confiscate under Rule 40. All that it said was, the confiscation could only be to the extent representing the value of the non-duty paid tobacco mixed with the duty paid tobacco. The Supreme Court has been stating time and again that 'the test of reasonableness, wherever prescribed, should be applied to each individual status impugned, and no abstract standard, or general pattern of reasonableness can be laid down as applicable to all cases. The nature of the right alleged to have been infringed, the underlying purpose of the restrictions imposed, the extent and urgency of the evil sought to be remedied thereby, the disproportion pf the imposition, the prevailing conditions at the time, the time, should all enter into the judicial verdict.'

15. The learned counsel invited our attention to a court of Appeal case, Hall & Co. Ltd v. Shoreham By Sea Urban District Council. (1964) 1 WLR 240 to contend that, though the power is vested in the Government to seize foodgrains for violation of the conditions of licence that right cannot be exceeded so as to impinge upon the rights of the dealer to be in possession of the property until the proceedings initiated under Section 6-A go against him. That was a case where it was held that 'although the object sought to be attained by the defendants was a perfectly reasonable one, the terms of the conditions, requiring the plaintiffs to construct an ancillary road at their own expense for the use of persons proceeding to and from adjoining properties and amounting to a requirement that the plaintiffs should in effect dedicate the road to the public without any right to compensation, there being a more regular course available under the Highways Act, 1959, were so unreasonable that they were 'ultra vires. The ultra vires conditions were fundamental to the whole planning permission, which was, accordingly void.'

That case has no bearing on the facts of this case. Here is a specific law dealing with violation of the conditions of licence.

16. The learned counsel next referred us to a passage in the judgment of Lord Parker, C.J., in Regina v. Governor of Brixton Prison, (19691 2 WLR 618, 627 which reads:

'I would only say this finally. This is a thoroughly unmeritorlous application. If even men should be sent back to the country from which they came, it is these men. But to enable that to be done would, in my judgment, mean making bad law. The fact is that nobody contemplated this situation arising when the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, was passed, and it is only right to say that under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. 1968 the loophole here disclosed that at any rate been partially closed, in that the 24 hours allowed for examination has been extended to 28 days.'

The above passage is relied upon to show that there is a lacuna in the law regarding the sale of the seized commodities.

17. Our attention was also invited to the case, Rex v. London Borough of Hillingdon, (1974) 2 All ER 243 to show that the proposed sale of the seized commodities is so unreasonable as to go beyond anything that Parliament could have intended.

18. The petitioner as a licensed dealer, is bound to sell the commodities at the notified or controlled price. The Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Commodities (Regulation of Distribution by Card System) Order 1973 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Scheduled Commodities Order') defines the expression 'Authorised fair price shop' and it means a retail dealer appointed or authorised or approved by or on behalf of the State Government under Clause 3 for sale of all or any of the Scheduled commodities. 'Scheduled commodity' means any commodity specified in the schedule to this order, which is supplied by the State Government or by an agency appointed by the State Government to any authorised fair price shop or establishment for issue to the consumers Clause 4 of the Scheduled Commodities Order says that no authorised fair nice shop or authorised establishment shall sell or agree to sell or supply or agree to supply scheduled commodities to any person except for household consumption or establishment consumption or for the purposes of an establishment other than establishment consumption, except at such prices as may be specified by the State Government. For proper distribution of scheduled commodities the State Government is empowered to issue cards to any person or class of persons or to the public generally. Among the conditions imposed is the one which lays down that an authorised fair price shop shall not sell scheduled commodities obtained from sources other than the State Government godown or any agency appointed by the Collector, except under and in accordance with the conditions, if any, of a special permission granted by the Collector or any Officer authorised by him from time to time. Among the scheduled commodities are rice, wheat, iowar including milo, baira, maize, sugar. Among the commodities seized from the petitioner are rice, wheat, sugar. It is thus seen that the power to sell scheduled commodities by a dealer is controlled or limited. He can sell only at such price 0s specified by the Government. It is true that some commodities other than those included in the Schedule are also the subject-matter of the seizure. But that, by itself, will not establish that a dealer can sell the essential commodities without regard to the prices fixed by the Government, Section 3(2)(c) of the Act provides for controlling the price at which any essential commodity may be bought or sold. Therefore, it cannot be argued that a dealer can sell the essential commodities scheduled or otherwise at any price he likes. Section 3(3) provides that:

'Where any person sells any essential commodity in compliance with an order made with reference to Clause (f) of Sub-section (2), there shall be paid to him the price therefor as hereinafter provided:

(a) Where the price can, consistently with the controlled price, if any, fixed under this section, be agreed upon the agreed price;

(b) where no such agreement can be reached the price calculated with reference to the controlled price, if any:

(c) where neither Clause (a) nor Clause (b) applies, the price calculated at the market rate prevailing in the locality at the date of sale.'

The Act therefore makes provision for payment of price for the commodities.

19. The sale of the seized commodities before the conclusion of the proceedings under Section 6-A is only an interim arrangement made by the licensing authority in order to safeguard the rights of a dealer in the event of the competent authority ultimately finding that there is no contravention or violation of the Licensing or Control Orders. The sale of essential commodity, as an interim measure, does not in any way affect the rights of the dealer in the property, for the sale proceeds are there in the event of his being found not guilty. It is not as if the enquiry is held by the Licensing Authority or the Collector without affording a reasonable opportunity to the dealer. A notice under Section 6-B is served upon him, as such a notice is necessary before any order of confiscation can be made under Section 6-A. Section 6-B is in these terms:

'No order confiscating any essential commodity shall be made under Section 6-A unless the owner of such essential commodity or the person from whom it is seized

(a) is given a notice in writing informing him of the grounds on which it is proposed to confiscate the essential commodity;

(b) is given an opportunity of making a representation in writing within such reasonable time as may be specified in the notice against the grounds of confiscation; and

(c) is given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in the matter.'

Such a procedure is followed in this case. The question of confiscation has not arisen in this case, for the enquiry under Section 6-A is still pending. It is to be remembered that, under Sub-section (21 of Section 6-C where an order under Section 6-A is modified or annulled on appeal or where, in a prosecution instituted for the contravention of the order in respect of which an order of confiscation has been made under Section 6-A the person concerned is acquitted and in either case it is not possible for any reason to return the essential commodity seized, such person shall be paid the price therefor as if the essential commodity had been sold to the Government with reasonable interest calculated from the day of the seizure of the essential commodity. The manner in which the price should be determined is also laid down in the section. That only goes to show that, in the event of a dealer being found not guilty under Section 6-A or the order of confiscation being modified, he would be entitled to be paid the price therefor with interest. Essential Commodities are essential to the consumer public and they are intended for equitable distribution and availability at fair prices. Section 6-A provides that commodities seized in pursuance of the order made under Section 3 may be produced without any unreasonable delay before the Collector. It is open to the Collector, if he is satisfied, whether the offender is prosecuted or not, that there has been a contravention of the Control Order, to direct confiscation of the commodities seized, the underlying idea being to make such seized commodities available to the public for distribution. It is true that Section 6-B in terms does not provide for making interim orders by the Collector or other competent authority. It does not also provide for issuing a notice in case he proposed to sell an essential commodity seized for contravention of any order, made under Section 3 of the Act. But that clause has no prejudice to the defence of a dealer and does not deprive him of an opportunity to represent against the proposed action of confiscation. It will be open to him to show that the proposed action is illegal and that he had not contravened any of the conditions of the Control or Licensing Order. The power to conduct an enquiry under Section 6-A includes also the power to make incidental or consequential orders. Interim arrangements are made not only in the interests of the consumer public but also in the interests of the dealer.

20. As has been observed by a Division Bench of this Court, of which one of us (Obul Reddi, C.J.) was a member, in Writ Appeal No. 658 of 1974 dated 9-9-1974 (Andh Pra) 'if, in the opinion of the Collector, it was found necessary or expedient to make an interim order for the purpose of maintaining the supplies or increasing the supplies or for securing equitable distribution of the essential commodity or making it available at fair price he will be perfectly within the limits of his authority or power in making such order.' It is also to be remembered that essential commodities cannot be kept in storage for long, as that would defeat the very object of seizure of the essential commodities. The underlying idea in empowering the authorities concerned to seize the essential commodities for contravention of the orders made under Section 3 is to see that the flow of essential commodities to the consumer public is not interrupted. The illustration given by the Division Bench in Writ Appeal No. 658 of 1974 may be usefully quoted:

'Take for instance, seizure of kerosene stocks for contravening the control Order regulating the sale, supply and distribution of kerosene. When there is scarcity of kerosene and if kerosene is not sold and made available to the public more so when there is short supply of that commodity it will, far from achieving the object and purpose of Section 3, destroy its purpose.'

When then is scarcity of rice, sugar and wheat and if these scheduled commodities are to be kept in storage till such time as the proceedings under Section 6-A culminate, there is the danger of these commodities deteriorating in quality, apart from there being short suply of these commodities in a given area or locality. All that has to be seen is whether a dealer, whose commodities have been seized invoking the provisions of the Act and the Orders made there under, has been given a reasonable opportunity before his goods are confiscated. It is not necessary that at every stage he should be given an opportunity, i.e., before his goods are seized and later when the goods are sought to be sold. Section 6-B does not contemplate giving notice at every stage. It is for the licensing authority or the Collector or the Government, as the case may be, to consider, in a given case, whether the essential commodities seized should be sold or kept in stores until the completion of the proceeding under Section 6-A. It depends upon the supply or distribution position of essential commodities to the consumer public in a particular area, locality, village or town. So, this is a matter entirely within the discretion of the competent authority to determine, in a given case, whether the essential commodities seized should be sold so as to make them available to the needy consumer public or whether they should be kept in storage till such time as the proceedings under Section 6-A conclude. It is not for this Court, while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, to interfere with the discretionary power exercised by the competent authority. It may be pointed out that, when the Legislature clothes a particular authority, with power to make an enquiry it impliedly grants that authority the power to do all such acts or employ all such means as may be essentially necessary in exercise of this power (See Income-tax Officer v. Mohd. Kunchi. AIR 1969 SC 430).

21. We are, therefore, of the view that the fundamental rights of the petitioner either under Article 19(1) (f) and (g) or under Article 31(2) of the Constitution are not affected and that he need not be put on notice before the seized commodities are sold, for he has been afforded a reasonable opportunity by serving a notice upon him under Section 6-B of the Act and in the event of his ultimately being found not guilty of the offence by a criminal court or his appeal being allowed or modified, his rights are protected under Section 6C(2) of the Act.

22. In the result, the writ petition fails and is accordingly dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100/-.


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