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The State had assured the Court that it was taking necessary steps and abiding by orders of passed by a competent authority under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 qua the disposal of the seized essential commodities.
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to make all possible endeavours to ensure that stocks of essential protective equipment seized by investigating agencies in Maharashtra reach workers working on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.
The Court made the observation while disposing of a plea seeking the distribution of seized sanitizers, face masks and PPE kits to doctors, medical staff, police officials and other 'Corona Warriors' such as sweepers, cleaners etc.
A Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice SS Shinde disposed of the PIL filed by Mohan Joshi after the State assured the Court that it was taking necessary steps and abiding by orders of passed by a competent authority under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 qua disposal of the seized essential commodities.
In view of this submission, the Court opted to dispose of the plea adding that,
"...so long the orders of the Competent Authority are not disturbed in judicial proceedings, the State shall make all possible endeavour to implement such orders and ensure that in these trying times the seized properties do reach the end-users for combating COVID-19."
Bombay High Court
The Court was informed by the State government that interim orders had been passed by the Competent Authority under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 in which the procedure for disposal of such seized properties has been envisaged. However, it was further stated that such arrangement would be subject to the orders of the criminal Court in pending proceedings.
Advocate Vishal Kanade, appearing for Joshi submitted before the Court that while the interim orders are under challenge, they have not been stayed. As long as the orders of the Competent Authority are in force, the Government could be directed to implement the interim orders of the Competent Authority, Kanade submitted.
Appearing for the State, Government Pleader H Kantharia argued that action was being taken in terms of the orders of the Competent Authority. Further, it was stated that a part of the seized properties have been handed over to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
Considering the stand taken by the State government, the Court directed the State to ensure that the seized properties reach the front-line workers for combating COVID-19 and proceeded to dispose of the matter.
The Court further clarified it has not expressed any opinion on the the correctness of the orders passed the Competent Authority as the same was not challenged in the plea.
"We make it clear that since we have not been called upon to examine the correctness of the orders of the Competent Authority, we have refrained from expressing our opinion in that regard and the forum seized of the challenge thereto shall proceed to decide the proceedings before it without in any manner being influenced by this order", it observed.