Glass Chatons Importers & Users'
Association Vs. Union of India  INSC 145 (10 April 1961)
GUPTA, K.C. DAS GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B.
AYYANGAR, N. RAJAGOPALA
CITATION: 1961 AIR 1514 1962 SCR (1) 862
CITATOR INFO :
R 1962 SC 386 (27) RF 1962 SC1796 (12,13) R
1963 SC1470 (8) RF 1972 SC 935 (5) F 1973 SC2711 (13,14,15,17) R 1974 SC 366
(96) RF 1975 SC1564 (28) R 1979 SC 314 (12) R 1984 SC1271 (6)
Import and Export--Decision to canalise
import through specialised channel or agency--Constitutional validity--import
and Export Control Act, 1947--(XVII of 1947), s. 3--Imports (Control) Order,
6(h)--Constitution of India, Arts, 14, 19(1)(f) & (g) and 31.
The appellants were importers and users of
glass chatons the import of which was prohibited except under a licence granted
by the licensing authorities under the Import and Export Control Act, 1947, and
the Imports (Control) Order, 1955. The import was totally prohibited for some
time but afterwards it was permitted under the Export Promotion Scheme and
licence was issued in favour of the State Trading Corporation. The appellants
who made no application for licence contended inter alia that the provisions of
6(h) of the Imports (Control) Order, 1955,
that the Central Government or the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports may
refuse to grant a licence or direct any licensing authority not to grant
licence if the licensing authority decided to canalise imports and the distribution
thereof through special or specialised agencies or channels are unreasonable
restrictions on the right to carry on trade 863 and to acquire property and as
such contravene Arts. 14, 19(1) (f) & (g) and 31 of the Constitution.
Held, that the decision that import of a
particular commodity shall be canalised by a selected channel or through
selected agencies is a reasonable restriction in the interest of the general
The provisions of para. 6(h) of the Imports
(Control) Order, 1955 and s. 3 of the Imports and Exports Control Act, 1947,
are valid and do not contravene Arts. 14, 19(1)(f) and (g).
Nor do they contravene Art. 31 of the
Constitution as no question of acquisition of any right arises by the refusal
of a licence.
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Writ Petition No. 65
Petition under Art. 32 of the Constitution of
India for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
B. D. Sharma, for the petitioners.
H. N. Sanyal, Additional Solicitor-General of
India, B. Ganapathy Iyer and P. M. Sen, for the respondents.
1961. April 10. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by DAS GUPTA, J.-This application under Art. 32 of the Constitution
is for the protection of fundamental rights under Art. 19(1)(f) and (g), Art.
31 and Art. 14 of the Constitution. The second and the third applicants are
merchants who used to import considerable quantities of glass chatons upto
1957. The first applicant is an Association of merchants, some of whom were
importers and some the actual users of glass chatons. Import of glass
chatons-which form an important part of the raw materials for the manufacture
of glass bangles and other similar articles of wear could, be made only on
licences granted by licensing authorities. Since 1955 the matter has been regu-
lated by the Imports (Control) Order, 1955. This Order which was made by the
Central Government in exercise of powers conferred by sections 3 and 4-A of the
Import and Export Control Act, 1947, prohibited the import of a large number of
goods including inter alia glass chatons, except under and, in accordance with
a licence, granted on application by the licensing 864 authorities under the
Act. Policy statements are made from time to time by the Government of India,
indicating the policy for the issue of Import licences. The policy as regards
the import of glass chatons for the period January, 1957 to the end of March,
1958 was that the import was totally prohibited.' Since April 1958, the policy
as laid down is that import was permitted only under the Export Promotion
Scheme. It appears that in' view of this policy statement no application was
made at all by the second or third applicants or other merchants for the import
of glass chatons, in 1957 or thereafter and no licence was issued to them.
Licences were however issued in favour of the State Trading Corporation, for
the import of glass chatons of the value of five lakhs of Rupees, for the
period April- September, 1958,and again, for the import of these goods of the
value of Rs. 1,25,000 for the period October, 1958 to March, 1959. The present
application was made on April 27, 1959. The prayer is that respondents 1 and
2-i.e., the Union of India and the Chief Controller, Imports, should be
directed (i) to "forbear from giving the State Trading Corporation any
preference over the petitioners, in the grant of permits", (ii) not to
create a monopoly in favour of the State Trading Corporation, (iii) to cancel
the import permits already granted in favour of respondent No. 3--the State
Trading Corporation and the petitioners also prayed that the. respondent No. 3
should be directed not to import on the basis of import licences already
It has to be mentioned at once that the
periods of the import permit "already granted" as referred to in the
petition has already expired and consequently, the last two prayers mentioned
above cannot possibly be granted. There was no application at all by the second
and the third applicants, or any of the merchants who form the association, the
1st appellant for the issue of any import licences; there can be no question
therefore of respondents 1 and 2 being given any preference over the
petitioners in the grant of permits Nor is there, as far as can be made out,
any scheme to issue fresh licences in favour of the 865 State Trading
Corporation so that apart from what has already happened there is no question
of any future action "to create a monopoly in favour of the State Trading
Corporation". Therefore the petitioners cannot be given any relief on the
Learned Counsel however submitted that so
long as Para. 6(h) of the Imports (Control) Order, 1955, remains it will be
useless for his clients to make any application for licences. Para. 6 lays down
a number of grounds on which the Central Government or the Chief Controller of
Imports and Exports may refuse to grant a licence or direct any other licensing
authority not to grant a licence. The ground mentioned in the clause (h) is
"if the licensing authority decide to canalise imports and the
distribution thereof through special or specialised agencies or channels".
Learned Counsel has argued that this provision in clause (h) of Para. 6 is void
being in contravention of Art. 19(1)(f) and (g), and Art. 31 of the
Constitution. He also urged that to the extent s. 3 of the Imports and Exports
Control Act, 1947, permits the Central Government to make an order as in Para.
6(h) s. 3 itself is bad. In view of these submissions the learned Counsel was
permitted to urge his contentions against the validity of Para. 6(h) of the
Imports (Control) Order, 1955, and also his limited attack against the validity
of s. 3 of the Imports and Exports Control Act, 1947.
The requirement as regards any goods that
they cannot be imported except and in accordance with a licence is undoubtedly
a restriction on the right to carry on trade in such goods and also on the
right to acquire property.
Learned Counsel does not however contend that
by itself this requirement of s. 3 of the Imports and Exports Control Act is an
unreasonable restriction. His attack is only against the further restriction
which follows from the provisions in s. 6(h) of the Order that the Central
Government or the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports may refuse to grant a
licence or direct any licensing authority not to grant licences-"if the
licensing authority decides to canalise imports and the distribution thereof
866 through special or specialised agencies or channels". The argument
is-that the further restriction. on the right to carry on trade and the right
to acquire property that results from this provision is totally unreasonable.
It is obvious that if a decision has been
made that imports shall be by particular agencies or channels the granting of
licence to any applicant outside the agency or channel would frustrate the
implementation of that decision. If therefore a canalization of imports is in
the interests of the general public the refusal of imports licences to
applicants outside the agencies or channels decided upon must necessarily be
held also in the interests of the general public. The real question therefore
is: Is the canalization through special or specialized agencies or channels in
the interests of the general public.
A policy as regards imports forms an integral
part of the general economic policy of a country which is to have due regard
not only to its impact on the internal or international trade of the country
but also on monetary policy, the development of agriculture and industries and
even on the political policies of the country involving questions of friendship,
neutrality or hostility with other countries It may be difficult for any court
to have adequate materials to come to a proper decision whether a particular
policy as regards imports is, on a consideration of all the various factors
involved, in the general interests of the public. Even if the necessary
materials were available it is possible that in many cases more than one view
can be taken whether a particular policy as regards imports-whether one of
heavy customs barrier or of total prohibition or of entrustment of imports to
selected agencies or channels-is in the general interests of the public. In
this state of things the burden on the person challenging that the government
of the country is not right in its estimate of the effects of a policy as
regards imports in the general interests of the public will be very heavy
indeed and when the Government decides in respect of any particular commodity
that its import should be by a selected.
867 channel or through selected agencies the
Court would proceed on the assumption that that decision is in the interests of
the general public unless the contrary. is clearly shown.
Consequently, we are unable to accept the
argument that a decision that imports shall be canalised, is per se not a
reasonable restriction in the interests of the general public. We wish to make
it clear that while the decision that import of a particular commodity will be
canalised may be difficult to challenge, the selection of the particular
channel or agency decided upon in implementing the decision of canalisation may
well be Challenged on the ground that it infringes Art. 14 of the Constitution
or some other fundamental rights. No such question has how. ever been raised in
the present case. The attack on the validity of Para. 6(h) of the Imports
Control Order, 1955, therefore, fails. The contention that s. 3 of the Imports
and Exports Control Act, 1947, is bad to the extent that it permits the
government to make an order as in Para. 6(h) of the Imports Control Order,
1955, consequently also fails.
The attack on this provision in Para. 6(h) of
the order that it contravenes Art. 31 is not even plausible. Assuming for the
purpose of this case that the right to carry on trade is itself property, it is
obvious that there is no question here of the acquisition of that right. What
happens if a licence is refused to an applicant under Para. 6(h) is that the
applicant can no longer carry on trade in these goods.
When licence is granted to the agencies or
channels through which imports have been decided to be canalised, these
agencies or channels 'can carry on trade but this is not because of an
acquisition by these agencies or channels of the right to carry on trade which
the unsuccessful applicants for licence had. Article 31 of the Constitution has
therefore no application.
It was next urged that the grant of licences
to the third respondent, the State Trading Corporation of India while none has been granted to the second and the third petitioners has resulted in a
denial of equal protection of laws guaranteed by Art. 14 of the Constitution.
If these petitioners had applied for licences 868 trader the Export Promotion
Scheme and still the State Trading Corporation had been preferred it would
perhaps have been necessary to consider whether the preference accorded to the
Corporation was based on reasonable and rational grounds. It is clear however
that though it was open to these petitioners to apply for licences under the
Export Promotion Scheme they made no application for licence there under. There
is to scope therefore for the argument that they have en discriminated against.
In the result, we are of opinion that the
petitioners are not entitled Iwo any relief under Art. 32 of the Constitution.
The petition is accordingly dismissed with costs.