An interesting question of law as to whether liquor is a food, requiring regulation under the Food Safety Act, cropped up today before the Supreme Court.
A bench of justices Deepak Verma and Ibrahim Kalifulla issued notices to the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Association and others, seeking their stands on the legal poser and their responses to a plea by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSA) for transferring a batch of petitions from the Bombay and the Madhya Pradesh high courts to the apex court.
Appearing for the statutory authority, counsel Sandeep Prabhakar submitted that since the issue involved substantial questions of law and constitutional validity of Section 3(1) (j) of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, it needs to be adjudicated by the apex court.
"So liquor is also a food!," remarked an amused apex court bench, while issuing notices on FSSA's plea.
The FSSA counsel said that in petitions before the two high courts, the alcoholic manufacturers and the organisations representing them have questioned constitutional validity of the section 3(1)(j) of the Act which defines "food" and "alcoholic drink" has been included in its definition.
The manufacturers and dealers have contended that the Act cannot be invoked in the case of alcoholic drinks as they are not food.
"Our aim is to invoke the Act so as to standardise the content as they relate to maintenance of public health and safety," Prabhakar submitted to the bench.
The main contention of the manufacturers is that Parliament does not have legislative competence to enact a law pertaining to "alcoholic drink."
It was contended that inclusion of the subject of "alcoholic drink" in a Parliamentary enactment is violative of the Constitutional prohibition contained in Article 246 (3)
The authorities in their petition before the apex court said, "It is submitted that the definition of "food" under Section 3 (1) (j) is an extremely important and comprehensive provision under the FSSA and is intended to safeguard public health and safety.
The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Association, the Distillers Association of Maharashtra and some individuals have challenged the provisions of the Act in the two high courts.