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In a hearing that has always been keenly watched, consumer food giant Nestle India today sought an urgent hearing over the issue of banning their 2-minute instant noodles by the Government. Senior Counsel Arvind Kumar Nigam who was briefed by Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas for Nestle submitted before the Bench that the company was running into massive losses every day that ‘the litigation was kept pending’.
“From June (time from which the ban was imposed), 9000 vendors who supply through me are out of business. 10000-15000 distributors are out of business. I have a huge blot on my reputation till this issue is not decided. The government is seeking to initiate a class action suit against me and does not take any action on other manufacturers, who also produce products containing glutamate. There are some of them who even go to the extent of saying that their product is ‘free from MSG’.”
ASG Sanjay Jain appearing for the complainant i.e. Union of India submitted before the Bench of Justice VK Jain and Dr. BC Gupta that Nestle had failed in filing its reply on time, citing minor issues. He further argued,
“On August 20, they were served. Yet, they are filing an application seeking extension of time only on September 18. It is inconceivable that they were aware of certain lines missing in our documents and chose not to respond earlier. Is the light of wisdom dawning upon a party that is smarting under the pressure of competitors, so late? This is just an eyewash and shark practice.”
This comment from Jain visibly riled Nestle’s counsels and Nigam retorted saying that the reply had not yet been filed by the company because ‘incomplete papers were served on them’ and the Court’s record was incomplete as well.
The Government had also moved an application seeking to implead the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in the case.
On the issue of ordering fresh tests over the noodle samples, Nigam raised his objections and stated that the issue was already settled by the Bombay High Court when it held that the ‘accreditation of the labs (where the noodles were sent for testing) was questionable.’ However, during the course of proceedings he agreed to file his reply to this application seeking fresh testing that filed by the Government.
Taking into consideration submissions made by both sides and also the request for impleadment sought for by a Mumbai based consumer organization, the Bench listed the matter for October 8. Nestle was granted time to file its reply before this date and after the relevant records have been filed, final hearing over the matter will happen on October 30 as per the orders of the Court.
The Bench also stated that the impleadment application of the consumer organization ‘shall be considered during final hearing.’