Delhi HC orders vehicles carrying pulses to be exempted from levy of Environment Compensation Charge 

High Court of Delhi: In a writ filed by the petitioner under Article 226 of the Constitution, the question for consideration was whether ‘pulses’ fall within the scope of the term ‘grains’ with respect to ‘foodstuffs’ before a Single Judge Bench comprising Vibhu Bakhru, J.

By virtue of an order dated 9.10.2015 passed by the Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India in IA No. 365/2015 in IA No. 345 inWrit Petition (Civil) No. 13029/1985, wherein the Court had directed the respondents to impose Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) on light and heavy duty commercial vehicles, but excluding (a) passenger vehicles and ambulances and (b) on vehicles carrying essential commodities, i.e., foodstuffs and oil tankers.

After deliberation, it was notified that foodstuffs included raw vegetables, fruits grains, milk, eggs, ice and in total 22 commodities to be considered under “foodstuffs” but pulses would not be exempt from levy of ECC. The respondent questioned the maintainability of the petition and also relied on the Delhi Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1998 to contend that ‘grains’ and ‘cereals’ being used interchangeably, it did not include ‘pulses’. The petitioner, on the other hand relied on the definition provided by the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 which gives an inclusive list of commodities falling under ‘food stuffs’ and also includes ‘pulses’.

The Court dismissed the contention that the petition was not maintainable and held that the argument of the respondent suffered from a formal fallacy: ‘illicit major’ and that “it is correct that cereals are food grains, however, that does not mean that pulses are not. Food grains, is a larger group and would include both cereals and pulses”. Referring to other statutes that include pulses in the definition of food grains and also on the statistics usually published by the Government of India on its website, the Court concluded that vehicles carrying pulses would not be subject to levy of ECC. [Narela Food Processing Industries Welfare Association v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 9165, decided on 17.07.2017]

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