calcutta high court

Calcutta High Court: In an application under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, where the petitioner, Nandigram Cooperative Marketing Society Limited, sought for cancellation of a notification declaring a vacancy for an MR distributor, a single-judge bench comprising of Jay Sengupta,* J., rejected the petitioner’s request for the cancellation of the notification and found in favor of the State of West Bengal, upholding their actions and declarations related to MR distributorship vacancies.

Factual Matrix

In the instant matter, the petitioner preferred a writ petition seeking the cancellation and withdrawal of a notification dated 01-09-2022, and all related actions and correspondences. The petitioner, a registered Co-operative Society, had been operating as an MR distributor in Nandigram, covering Nandigram I and II Blocks, with a valid license until 31-12-2023.

In 2016, the petitioner had shifted its godown from Nandigram II Block to Nandigram I Block following a directive and with significant expenditure. The relocation had been approved by the Director, District Distribution, Procurement, and Supply. However, the respondents issued a notification on 05-07-2019 declaring a vacancy for Nandigram II Block and invited applications, which led to a writ petition being filed by the petitioner. During the pendency of this petition, the respondents canceled the notification, resulting in the dismissal of the writ petition.

Subsequently, on 01-09-2022, the respondents issued another notification, declaring a vacancy for Nandigram II Block, prompting the petitioner to file the present writ petition. The petitioner challenged the new notification on various grounds, including illegality, irrationality, and procedural impropriety.

Parties’ Contentions

The petitioner contended that the new notification suffered from illegality, irrationality, and procedural impropriety. It was stated that the respondents’ reports mentioned the location of the petitioner’s godown as Amtala, which was 40 kilometers away from Nandigram I Block and this information was contrary to the records. The petitioner also claimed that the respondents did not follow the legal procedure as outlined in the Control Order and that their actions were influenced by higher authorities.

The respondents argued that the vacancy declaration was made to ensure the smooth functioning of the Public Distribution System and was within their administrative discretion. It was contended that the vacancy was declared after taking into account the interests of the beneficiaries of the system and was in accordance with the National Food Security Act, 2013.

Court’s Analysis and Decision

The Court noted that the petitioner’s claim regarding shifting the godown in 2016 and the subsequent vacancy declaration in 2019 are not supported by the records. The Court found that the respondents had cited instances where similar vacancies were declared in other areas, showing that their actions were not arbitrary.

The Court noted that there was no specific right for distributors or dealers to maintain a minimum number of beneficiaries or dealers and that the primary consideration should be the interests of the beneficiaries.

“There is no such vested right to hold or retain a minimum number of dealers in case of distributors/whole sellers or a minimum number of ration card holders in case of dealers. The respondent authorities are to consider the interest of the ultimate beneficiaries, which should be of paramount importance.”

Furthermore, the Court accepted the respondents’ argument that certain provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) were yet to be fully implemented in the state, allowing them to utilize the existing provisions of the State Control Orders of 2013.

The Court found no merit in the petitioner’s claims and disposed of the writ petition.

[Nandigram Cooperative Marketing Society Ltd. v. State of W.B., WPA 22336 of 2022, order dated 02-11-2023]

*Judgment by Justice Jay Sengupta

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Arjun Roy Mukherjee and Ms. Debapriya Mitra, Counsel for the Petitioner

Mr. Susovan Sengupta and Mr. Subir Pal, Counsel for the Respondent/State

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