The Essential Commodities Act, 1955

The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (Act no. 10 of 1955) received assent of President on the 1st April, 1955 and extends to whole of India with the purpose to provide control of the production, supply and distribution and trade and commerce of essential commodities.

Section 2 of the Act defines and provides for list of commodities called Essential commodities. Moreover it defines certain other terms used in the Act. Section 3 of the Act empowers Central Government to control production, supply and distribution, etc. of essential commodities. Similarly, Central Government also exercise certain powers in respect of list of matters provided under the same section. Section 3(3A) of the Act provides for Central Government to control the rise in prices of any foodstuff in any locality. Section 3(4) of the Act empowers Central Government to make an order for maintaining or increasing the production and supply of essential commodity. This section empowers Central Government to authorize any person named Controller, to exercise function of such control and all other functions as provided under the list of matters under said section.

Section 4 of the Act makes provisions as to imposition of powers and duties up on Central and State Governments by order made under previous Section i.e. Section 3 of the Act. Section 5 of the Act requires Central Government to direct delegation of power to make order, issue notification under Section 3 of the Act to any such officer or authorities subordinate to Central Government. Moreover, such delegation could also be made in favour of State Government. Hon’ble Calcutta High Court held constitutional validity of this power of delegation. Any such order made under Section 3 of the Act should survive even though it is violative of or inconsistent of any enactment, as per Section 6 of the Act.

Section 6-A of the Act provides for procedure as to seizure of any essential commodities. On such seizure the commodities to be produced before Collector of the District within reasonable time. Under the same section if Collector deems that the order made under Section 3 of the Act was breached then he can order confiscation of such commodities. Section 6-B of the Act provides for issuance of show cause notice before any such confiscation made by Collector.

The important section relating to penalty under this Act is Section 7 of the Act where, punishment for breaching the order passed under Section 3 is given which includes both imprisonment and fine too. Hon’ble Calcutta High Court observed that, since the mens rea is not essential element in proving offence under the Act, want of knowledge of notification containing order could not be treated as defence. However, non-compliance of order under Section 3 of the Act not always amount to offence under this Act.

The Section 8 of the Act describes attempts to breach or contravene or even abatement thereof of Section 3’s order should be treated breach of original order itself. Making of false statement by any person who is required by order of Section 3 of the Act to furnish any information or to give any statement, is prohibited under Section 9 of the Act and also punishable with both imprisonment and fine. Section 10 of the Act describes offences by Companies and persons liable to be punished therein. Before taking cognizance of any offence under the Act, it is required from public servant to submit a written report of facts as per section 11 of the Act. Section 12-A of the Act provides for power of Central Government to direct trail of any such offence under the said Act summarily.

Civil Court is prohibited from granting any injunction or passing any order for any relief against the Central Government under this Act. Further Sections make provisions for presumptions as to order made under Section 3, burden of proving authority, permit, etc. Section 15 says that anything which is done in good faith should not be suited or prosecuted under the Act.  Finally, Annexure annexed with the Act provides for list of commodities called Essential Commodities for the purpose of

The Essential Commodities (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2009 was enacted to amend original Act and to provide for certain important matters which the parent Act did not proved for. Similarly, many judgments of Hon’ble Judiciary pronounced for enlarging and clearing scope of the Act.

by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan