Bom HC | Validity of “Guidelines for Registration of Sales Contract for Import of Poppy Seeds from Turkey” issued by CBN upheld

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.C. Dharmadhikari and G.S. Patel, JJ. dismissed a criminal writ petition challenging the constitutionality of the Guidelines for Registration of Sales Contract for Import of Poppy Seeds from Turkey, dated 25-06-2019, issued by the Central Bureau of Narcotics (“CBN”).

Poppy Seeds import into India is regulated by the CBN. The petitioners were registered importers. They have the necessary licenses. There is an annual cap or quota on poppy seed import from various points of origin. There is a cap on the quantity that may be imported for each foreign exporter country. Until recently, import permissions were by the sale of lots. On 25-06-2019, CBN issued the impugned Public Notice notifying the Guidelines. The petitioners decried the Guidelines as according to them the Guidelines are an unconstitutional restriction on their right to trade and carry on business.

The High Court disagreed. It was observed: “There is no fundamental right to be an importer. There is no fundamental right to import poppy seeds. There is no fundamental right to import anything without restrictions, or only on terms beneficial to a particular person. In mounting such a challenge, the burden on the petitioner is to show that the notification is manifestly arbitrary, i.e. that a patent arbitrariness exists on the face of it, without requiring any convoluted argumentation. It must, alternatively, be shown to be ex facie discriminatory, and not just discriminatory, but invidiously so. If a classification is challenged, it must be shown that it bears no nexus to the object of the impugned law. The petitioners are able to none of this.”

It was further observed: “The presently impugned Guidelines are but a step towards implementing a policy that has not only been in place in some form for many years previously, but is in furtherance of a policy to promote the larger public interest, then the narrow commercial interests of the Petitioners must yield.”

In such view of the matter, it was held that the writ petition was sans merit, and it was resultantly dismissed.[Chailbihari Trading (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1691, decided on 28-08-2019]

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