Wednesday, Nov 12, 2003
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By Our Legal Correspondent
A Bench, comprising Justice R.C. Lahoti and Justice Ashok Bhan, observed that it was clear that in common parlance `food' "is something that is eaten. In a wider sense `food' may include not only solid substances but also a drink. Still the fact remains that whether a solid or a liquid, the substance called `food' should possess the quality to maintain life and its growth; it must have nutritive or nourishing value to enable the growth, repair or maintenance of the body." The Bench said, "coffee and tea by themselves are of no nutritive value, except that coffee contains some niacin and tea contains fluoride and manganese, but they may be a vehicle for intakes of sugar, milk or lemon." It must be noted that tea was not taken for nourishment, but as a stimulant and was therefore not food.
The Bench was allowing an appeal challenging the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Scheduled Articles (Prescription of Standards) Order, 1977 under which `tea' was included within the meaning of `foodstuff' in the EC Act.
The order provided for prohibition of supply or sale of `tea' not according to the prescribed standards, prohibition from possession of adulterants and any attempt to contrive the order would result in forfeiture of `tea' or the adulterant.
S. Samuel, M.D., Harrisons Malayalam and another filed writ petitions in the Madras High Court challenging the 1977 order and the court dismissed the petitions. The appeals were directed against this judgment. Allowing the appeals, the Bench said that it was a wrong assumption made by the High Court that many a poor man in the country consumed tea more as a food. The High Court had confused a mere stimulant with an article of food or foodstuffs.
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