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Report No. 159

3.4. Ministry of Commerce.-

The Ministry of Commerce, in their letter dated March 16, 1998 have stated that they are administering ten Acts, namely,

1. The Spices Board Act, 1986 (No. 10 of 1986)

2. The Rubber Act, 1947 (No. 24 of 1947)

3. The Tea Act, 1953 (No. 29 of 1953)

4. The Coffee Act, 1942 (No. 7 of 1942)

5. The Marine Products Export Development Authority Act, 1972 (No. 13 of 1972)

6. The Tobacco Board Act, 1975 (No. 4 of 1975)

7. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act, 1985 (No. 2 of 1986)

8. The Enemy Property Act, 1968 (No. 34 of 1968)

9. The Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act, 1963 (No. 22 of 1963)

10. The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 (No. 22 of 1992)

Barring the last two enactments, extensive amendments to other enactments are said to have been suggested by the Expert Committee constituted by the Ministry under the Chairmanship of Shri D.P. Bagchi, Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor, Ministry of Commerce. It is also stated that the concerned administrative sections have been advised to prepare Cabinet Note in respect of the said proposals for amendment wherever required and take further necessary action. A copy of the amendments suggested by the Expert Committee has also been forwarded to the Commission with the said letter. As stated above, the amendments are extensive and wide-ranging.

The amendments are mainly directed to achieve the goal of liberalised and market-friendly economy. The object is to remove all restrictions and allow the relevant industries to grow and function on their own. Neither is it possible nor desirable - much less the function of the Law Commission - to examine and pronounce upon the desirability of each and every amendment suggested by the Expert Committee. According to the terms of reference constituting the present Commission (15th Law Commission), it is required to examine proposals so received in a wider perspective. Para. 4.1(d) of the Order constituting the present Law Commission, in so far as it is relevant, reads thus.-

"To consider in a wider perspective the suggestions for revision/ amendment given by Expert Groups in various Ministries/Departments with a view to coordinating and harmonizing them."

The wider perspective contemplated in the above clause, the Law Commission presumes is to be understood in the light of and on a comprehensive reading of its first term of reference quoted under para 1.1, supra which means to examine the amendments in the light of the existing climate of economic liberalisation. Examined from the above standpoint, the Law Commission does not find any of the proposed amendments undesirable. The Commission, however, seeks to reiterate its comments (made under para. 3.1, supra, of this Report) that while the lifting of restrictions may be all right, regulation should continue.

In other words, a distinction should be made between restrictions and regulation. Even in a market economy, the Government cannot afford to abdicate its function of regulating the economy. It may not impose restrictions but the overall control and regulation of the entire economy including industrial sector should be in the hands of the Government. To protect and promote the national interest, the Government ought to exercise overall control over industrial and commercial establishments, their establishment and functioning.

This is what may be called the regulatory function of the Government. The Law Commission, however, wishes to draw attention of Government of India to section 19 of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act, 1985 read with the items 1, 2, 4 and 9 of the Schedule to the Act. Section 19 and aforesaid items of the schedule read as follows:-

"19 (1) The Central Government may, by order published in the Official Gazette, make provision for prohibiting, restricting or otherwise controlling the import or export of the Scheduled products, either generally or in specified classes of cases.

(2) All Scheduled products to which any order under sub-section (1) applies, shall be deemed to be goods of which the export has been prohibited under section 11 of the Customs Act, 1962, and all the provisions of that Act shall have effect accordingly.

(3) If any person contravenes any order made under sub-sectiOn (1), he shall, without prejudice to any confiscation or penalty to which he may be liable under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962, as applied by sub¬section (2), be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both."

"The Schedule

1. Fruits, vegetables and their products,

2. Meat and meat products

.............

4. Dairy products.

.............

9. Cereal products."

In view of the acute scarcity and sky-rocketing prices of vegetables, meat and fruits all over the country, driving away these products from the reach of the common man, it would be appropriate that the Government issues notification prohibiting the exports of vegetables, meat (excluding beef) and fruits altogether. Such prohibition would ensure availability of these products at reasonable rates which alone would enable the poorer sections of the society to purchase and consume them. A separate report on this subject will be submitted in due course.



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