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M/s. Maa Bhawani Rice Mill & Another v/s State of U.P. & Others

    C.M. Writ-C Nos. 35296, 36934, 38886, 38972, 39558, 39587, 39589, 39597, 39599, 39600, 39601, 39618, 39936, 39940, 39949, 39973, 39977, 39978, 39979, 39980, 39981, 39982, 40223, 40224, 40226, 40611, 40618, 40619, 40740, 40741, 40859, 40861, 40862, 41167, 41169, 41220, 41224, 41251, 41253, 41267, 42122, 42160, 42184, 42186, 42188, 42190, 42198, 42355, 42638, 42640, 42641, 42644, 42764, 42889, 43078, 43142, 43175, 43374, 43784, 44520, 44521, 44523, 44816, 45636, 46112, 46118, 70135 of 2013

    Decided On, 24 February 2014

    At, High Court of Judicature at Allahabad

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE VINEET SARAN & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE MANOJ MISRA

    For the Appellants: Mayank Agrawal, Manish Goel, Ankit Kumar Gaur, Ramendra Ashthana, Anupam Kulsreshta, Gyanendra Prakash Srivastava, Sri Kant Shukla, Indrasen Singh Tomar, Anil Kumar Singh, Rahul Agrawal, J.J. Munir, Advocates. For the Respondents: N. Mishra, N.P. Singh, P.K. Singh, R.K. Singh, A.K. Srivastava, V.B. Mishra, R.G. Tripathi, Advocates, C.B. Yadav, Addl. Advocate General, S.S. Singh, Addl. C.S.C.



Judgment Text

Vineet Saran & Manoj Kumar Gupta, JJ.

1. The Central Government, in order to fulfil its constitutional commitment of ensuring equitable distribution of material resources, eliminating inequalities and preventing exploitation of farmers and the poor, at the hands of rich and the affluent, has been purchasing food-grain from farmers at a price called "minimum support price". The food-grain so purchased is harnessed into the central pool for distribution through Public Distribution System (P.D.S.) and other welfare schemes. For achieving the aforesaid avowed objective, the Government has framed various Control Orders, under the provisions of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and also issues notifications/executive instructions, from time to time. In case of paddy, it is purchased from farmers at minimum support price, notified every year. Thereafter, it is given for milling to licensed rice-millers (for short, "miller"). In the process, the husk and bran layers are removed from paddy, resulting in the production of rice. The miller has to return the rice, of the specified quality and quantity to the Government. The miller is paid predetermined sum as hulling charges. This is called "Custom Milling of Rice" (hereinafter, for short, such 'rice' will be referred as "C.M.R."). The other source of procuring rice for central pool is by compelling the millers and dealers to sell a specified quantity of the same to the Government at a specified price. This is done under the statutory levy system. Rice so procured is called 'levy rice'.

2. The dispute in this bunch of writ petitions is between the Government and the millers on account of alleged non-delivery of C.M.R. by the millers. The stand of the Government is that the millers have failed to carry out their statutory and contractual obligations, by either not delivering the C.M.R. within, the specified time or making available C.M.R. which was of inferior quality, not according to the prescribed specifications, thus, compelling the Government to recover the value of the deficit C.M.R. from the millers by coercive measures and further debar/blacklist them from carrying milling operations, in future.

3. On the other hand, the rice millers have their own tale of woes. According to them, they have already supplied substantial part of C.M.R., but at later stages, since there was shortage of storage space in F.C.I. godowns, therefore either movement challans were not issued despite request or where the millers offered the C.M.R. at F.C.I. godowns, it was rejected on pretext of it being of inferior quality. It is submitted that the millers have always been and are still ready and willing to supply the C.M.R., but the action of the Government in adopting coercive measures, without any adjudication by any independent arbiter or Court of law as to who is at fault, is ex facie illegal, arbitrary and capricious. It is a death knell to the industry as a whole and will not only ruin the millers, but will also not be in larger public interest.

4. Thus, the bone of contention between the parties is that who is at fault. Whether it is the miller, who have failed to supply the C.M.R. or the Government which had refused to accept the C.M.R. because of shortage of storage space in F.C.I. godowns, and is now passing the buck on the millers? Several other ancillary issues also arise between the parties, which will be dealt at appropriate place.

5. Since, common issues of fact and law arise for consideration in this bunch of writ petitions, therefore, these were heard together and are being decided by this common judgment. Writ petition No. 35296 of 2013 Maa Bhawani Rice Mill and another v. State of U.P. and others is treated to be leading petition and generally, the pleadings and material therein have been referred in this judgment. Wherever required, pleadings and evidence have also been referred; from other petitions.

6. The power to direct a rice miller to convert paddy into rice emanates from the provisions of The Uttar Pradesh Rice and Paddy (Levy and Regulation of Trade) Order, 1985, framed in exercise of powers u/s 3 of the Essential Commodities Act. Some of its provisions, relevant for resolving the controversy between the parties, are reproduced below:

2. (c) 'Custom Milling' means milling of Paddy, not belonging to the miller, into rice in his rice mill on payment of milling charge