Del HC| Seeds Act not concerned with where and how the seeds are used; Scope explained

Delhi High Court: Dealing with the scope and ambit of the Seeds Act, 1966, Vibhu Bakhru, J held that the Seeds Act is not concerned with where and how the seeds are used. He said,

“Once a person dealing with notified variety of seeds conforms to the requirement of Section 7 of the Seeds Act, there is no restriction as to where and how the crop is to be grown. The Seeds Act is limited to ensuring that the seeds available to farmers conform to the minimum limits of germination and purity and the marks or label affixed thereon correctly indicate so.”

The Court was hearing the petition filed by State of Madhya Pradesh challenging 2 Office Memorandums (OMs)

  • By OM-I, Ministry has set forth the standards of the “Basmati” variety of rice. Apart from setting forth the characteristics of Basmati Rice, OM-I also expressly provides that it would be necessary to ensure the linkage between the variety and the Geographical Indication and only Basmati varieties with prescribed characteristic grown in Indo-Gangetic region would qualify for such description.
  • By OM-II, Ministry had issued a direction to ensure that the registration of Basmati varieties for certified and foundation seeds is not undertaken outside geographical area detailed under the Geographical Indication (GI)for Basmati rice.
  • By the impugned letter, Ministry has withdrawn the allocation of seeds for Basmati allotted during the Kharif-2016, pursuant to the decision that production of Basmati variety seeds would not be taken outside the GI defined areas (areas included in the State of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Western Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kathua District of Jammu and Kashmir).

State had challenged the OMs on the grounds that:

  • it is outside the scope of the Seeds Act
  • the OMs encroach upon State’s power to pass laws in relation to agriculture, which is a state subject;
  • it ventures into the statutory field of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

Noticing that the Ministry has sought to ascribe the advice or recommendations made by the Central Seeds Committee to Rule 3(c) of the Seeds Rules, the Court said that this is, obviously, without merit as Rule 3(c) only pertains to sending recommendations concerning records to the Central Government.

“the Central Seed Committee is a Committee constituted under the Seeds Act, and the provisions of the Seeds Act and the Rules made therein circumscribe its role and functions. Clearly, the Central Seeds Committee cannot exercise any other function. Its role to act in an advisory capacity to the Central Government and the State Governments is also limited only to the matters arising out of the administration of the Seeds Act and/or other functions that are specified under the Seeds Act. Any advice or recommendation made by the Central Seeds Committee outside the scope of its functions, and role as specified under the Seeds Act and the Rules made thereunder, would be wholly without jurisdiction and the authority of law.”

Restricting Basmati production to only regions in the Indo-Gangetic plain was also outside the scope of the Seeds Act, the Court said,

“The import of the OMs is not to ensure that the quality of seeds produced is maintained, but to restrict the area where the seeds could be used for production of crops. The effect of the impugned notifications is that breeder seeds would not be available for production outside the specified areas. The clear object is to ensure that the crop of Basmati rice is only grown in specified areas. This would not only be outside the scope of the Seeds Act but ? …  ? relates to the field of agriculture, which is a state subject.”

The Court said that the legislative competence for enacting the Seeds Act is traceable to Entry 33 of List III of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. It is, perhaps, for this reason that the Seeds Act also incorporates due participation by the State Government.

The Court, hence, set aside the impugned OM-I and OM-II (the Office Memorandum dated 29.05.2008 and Office Memorandum No.3- 35/2014-SD-IV dated 07.02.2014) along with the impugned Notification.

[State Govt. of Madhya Pradesh v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8259, decided on 25.04.2019]

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