The Bombay High Court quashed an order of the Food Safety Appellate Tribunal (FSAT) against TATA Chemicals Limited over substandard iodized salt.

TATA Chemicals preferred an appeal before the Nagpur Bench under Section 71(6) of the Food Safety And Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA) against the order of FSAT by which it dismissed the appeal and upheld the order of the Adjudicating Officer and Joint Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration.

A Single Bench of Justice Anil L. Pansare observed, “In the present case, the RFL has apparently not followed the time limit stipulated in the Rules of 2011. The Report, thus, suffers from non-compliance of mandatory provisions. The penalty cannot be imposed on the basis of such report. The Adjudicating Officer as also the Tribunal have rendered unsustainable finding.”

The Bench agreed with the submission of the counsel for the appellants that the exposure of sample to the environmental factors would affect its quality, which may result into deteriorating its standard and would become substandard.

Advocate A.K. Somani appeared on behalf of the appellants while AGP Bhagwan M. Lonare appeared on behalf of the respondent.

In this case, the Adjudicating Officer found that the appellants, who were the non-applicants before it, contravened the provisions of Sections 26(2) (ii) and 27(1) of FSSA by manufacturing and selling substandard Iodized Salt TATA to the respondent and accordingly under Section 51 of FSSA, imposed penalty of Rs. 2,00,000/- on each appellant. Neither the Adjudicating Officer nor the Tribunal assigned any reason for imposing the said penalty.

The Adjudicating Officer discharged the non-applicants before it, who were sellers and distributors on the ground that they sold the product i.e., Iodized Salt in the same condition as was brought, and therefore, were not responsible for sale of substandard product. The appellants, who were manufacturers, were held guilty of manufacturing and selling substandard Iodized Salt.

The High Court after hearing the arguments of the counsel noted, “The learned Counsel for Appellants submits, which appears to be correct, that the Iodized Salt can lose its iodine due to the environmental factors, such as heat, light, moisture etc.. The heat and light would decrease iodine contents of both packaged and open salt brands. The high humidity will result in rapid loss of iodine from salt iodized with potassium iodate, ranging from 30% to 98% of the original iodine content.”

The Court said that there is every reason to believe that the sample, if not analysed within the stipulated time, its quality will deteriorate and would become substandard. It added that the report of the RFL, which is otherwise final, loses its significance, if it is not in compliance with the Rules of 2011.

“Neither the Adjudicating Officer nor the Tribunal has considered this defence put-forth by the Appellants nor is there any finding on the same. The Adjudicating Officer as also the Tribunal has, by relying upon the RFL’s Report, opined that the Appellants have contravened the provisions of Section 26(2)(ii) and 27(1) of the Act of 2006. This finding is contrary to the established procedure of analysis of sample. The provisions of the Act of 2006 are penal in nature, and therefore, adherence to the time limit for analysis must be scrupulously followed”, it added.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the appeal and quashed the order of the Tribunal.

Cause Title- TATA Chemicals Limited & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra (Neutral Citation: 2024:BHC-NAG:5692)

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