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Calcutta High Court: Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya, J., dismissed a writ petition which, inter alia, sought to challenge the shifting of Sheoraphuli Market following the containment strategy of spreading COVID-19.

Petitioner 1 namely Sheoraphuli Kancha Sabzee Basayee Samity is a registered society whose members had been running a wholesale business of vegetables situated for quite a long time.

Petitioner 2 is the secretary of petitioner 1 – Society.

Respondent 5 vide a memo intimated the Assistant Commission of Police that as per the direction of the competent authority, the Sheoraphuli market would be shifted to Sheoraphuli Regulated Market, following containment strategy of spreading COVID-19.

Further, by another Memo, respondent 5 requested the Secretary, Hooghly Zilla R.M.C to take necessary action for the facilitation of the trader concerned/commission agents regarding clearing of due taxes as per existing law in force, regarding renewal of R.M.C licence operation of the Sheoraphuli ‘Haat’ (market).

The above-stated memoranda have been challenged in the instant petition.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that vide Gazette Notification No. 1366-AM/P/5A-17/2013 dated October 17, 2014, the entire market area under the Sheoraphuli Regulated Market Committee (including the site of the Sheoraphuli ‘Hat’) ceased to be a market area and the Market Committee stood dissolved, thus denuding the business, run by the members of the petitioner 1 at the said location, of legal sanction under the West Bengal Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1972.

Since the whole Hooghly District had been declared vide a notification to be a market area, there was no legal bar for the authorities concerned to re-locate the Sheoraphuli ‘Hat’ to some other area after it ceased to be a market area. But when the said notifications was read in conjunction with the above notification it excluded the Sheoraphuli market and certain other specific locations from the designated ‘market area’.

Even from the materials on record, it could be seen that a new location is far superior to the previous site.

Further, the Bench observed that the act of purchasing plots of land in the Sheoraphuli area and investing therein by some individual vendors does not ipso facto validate the running of the wholesale vegetable business from there.

As per the scheme of the 1972 Act, “market” includes private market yards, thus subjecting such yards to the provisions of the Act as well. Hence, to trade in wholesale agricultural produce, vendors of private markets must also hold licences under Section 13 of the 1972 Act.

In the present case, members of petitioner 1 had been carrying on wholesale business in agricultural produce, thus coming with the purview of the 1972 Act.

In the decision of Prabhat v. Barkatulla University it was clearly laid down that, unless the members of the suing association are clearly determinate and identifiable, the result of the litigation does not bind all members of the association. The said decision has much persuasive value in the present matter.

Bench held that in the present case, petitioners have no locus standi to represent the interest of other traders/agents, who are not the members of petitioner 1 but still hold, or are eligible to get, valid licenses to carry on such business at the new location of the market.

Hence, the petitioners cannot be said to represent the interest of the entire trading community which is eligible to run business at the shifted site of the market.

With regard to the renewal of licence, the right of such renewal is subject to compliance with Section 13 (4) of the 1972 Act. Such renewal is not a blanket right but circumscribed by discretion of the respondent- authorities, to be exercised in accordance with law.

Lastly, Bench directed the respondents shall, however, ensure that the pending applications for renewal of licence under Section 13(4) of the West Bengal Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1972, if any, made by the members of the petitioner 1-society, are decided in accordance with law as expeditiously as possible. [Sheoraphuli Kancha Sabzee Babsayee Samity v. State of W.B., 2021 SCC OnLine Cal 420, decided on 19-02-2021]