FSSAI under obligation to ensure imported food are inspected with due expedition and promptitude: Delhi High Court In a recent judgement, the Delhi High Court observed that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have an obligation to ensure that all imported articles of food are inspected with due expedition and promptitude, therefore it would not be prudent for the court...
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FSSAI under obligation to ensure imported food are inspected with due expedition and promptitude: Delhi High Court
In a recent judgement, the Delhi High Court observed that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have an obligation to ensure that all imported articles of food are inspected with due expedition and promptitude, therefore it would not be prudent for the court to prescribe or stipulate a particular timeframe within which such exercise of inspection, taking samples and clearance has to be completed.
"This since it would be impossible for the Court to predict the vagaries of a particular situation as well as the volume of imported articles of food that may be pending for inspection at any particular point of time by FSSAI," said the court.
It was further added that FSSAI cannot refuse inspection of imported food articles merely on the ground that the goods are stored in a public warehouse.
The Court was considering a plea filed by Aromatrix Flora Private Limited seeking directions on FSSAI to collect the samples of imported food articles and issue test reports within 48 hours of goods being stored at the custodian warehouse at the airport.
The company was involved in importing a product called hops, which is an ingredient used for providing a bitter flavor to beer. The article had to be duly inspected and cleared by FSSAI before it could be released for home consumption.
The company was aggrieved by the delay on the part of FSSAI in granting NOC clearance of imported goods resulting in levy of prohibitive demurrage charges. The plea thus sought direction on the authority to take a sample for grant of NOC from a Public warehouse as provided under Section 49 of the Customs Act, pending clearance of the goods.
It was argued by the petitioner company that as per Section 47(5) of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, FSSAI was obliged to duly inspect the imported food articles and give clearance within a period of 5 days of taking the requisite samples.
Perusing relevant provisions, the Court noted where a clearance of imported articles by the statutory authorities is pending, it would be permissible for an importer to apply to custom authority for granting the permission to move such articles from a custodian warehouse to a public warehouse.
"This would thus enable the importer to move the goods out of the airport or the cargo terminal and to store the same in a public warehouse. The movement of those goods would however necessarily have to be regulated by the Customs authorities since the goods while transiting from the custodian warehouse to the public warehouse are still to be cleared for the purposes of home consumption," the court said.
The court also observed that an importer of food articles cannot argue that the goods be cleared for home consumption even before they have been duly inspected by the authorities of FSSAI.
"Bearing in mind the provisions which are made in the Act as well as the Import Regulations all that may be observed is that the authorities of FSSAI would be liable to be recognized as being placed under the obligation of ensuring that all imported articles of food are inspected with due expedition and promptitude," the court observed.
The plea was disposed of taking note of the fact that the issues raised were duly addressed after authorities' stand that the transportation of imported articles from the custodian warehouse to a public warehouse is not prohibited under the provisions of the 1962 Act.
"This would enable the authorities of FSSAI to inspect imported articles of food and draw samples for analysis thereof irrespective of whether the imported articles of food are stored in a custodian warehouse or a public warehouse," the court added.