In a petition moved by M/s Narela Food Processing Industries Welfare Association (Regd.), the Delhi High Court held that vehicles carrying pulses would not be subject to levy of Environment Compensation Cess (ECC) since pulses would clearly fall within the definition of foodstuffs as included in the notification dated 20.10.2015 issued by the Environment Department.
The Single bench, while allowing the petition, clarified that “food grains, is a larger group and would include both cereals and pulses.”
Earlier, the Supreme Court in M. C. Mehta v. Union of India & Ors, ruled that ECC ought to be imposed by the Government of NCT at the rates as indicated in the said order. However, the Court had also directed that ECC shall not be imposed on “(a) passenger vehicles and ambulances (b) on vehicles carrying essential commodities, that is, food stuffs and oil tankers”.
Following the above order, the Environment Department, GNCTD issued a notification dated 20.10.2015, levying ECC on light and heavy duty commercial vehicles.
Subsequently, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority exempted the vehicles carrying essential commodities, food stuffs and oil tankers from the levy of ECC. Later, the Government also vehicles carrying eggs and ice, from the levy of ECC by amending the earlier notification.
The petitioner approached the Court aggrieved by the action of the toll collecting agencies who also collected ECC from vehicles carrying pulses. They contended that such exemption be granted to pulses as both cereals and pulses fall within the category of ‘grains’.
Justice Vibhu Bhakru refused to accept the contention of the respondents that cereals are food grains, pulses are not. “In terms of logic, this is akin to a fallacy of “illicit major”: a formal fallacy in categorical syllogism that arises because a major term is undistributed in the major premise but distributed in the conclusion,” he said.
The bench further said that “It was made explicit that vehicles carrying raw vegetables, fruits, grains and milk would be exempt from ECC. Essential commodities other than those specified under the notification dated 30.10.2015, even though falling within the broad definition of the word „foodstuffs‟, stood excluded. However, there is no reason to limit the scope of the word “grains‟ to exclude any essential commodity falling within that classification. The word „grains‟ in the context of food stuffs would obviously imply „food grains‟ and the said term plainly includes pulses.”
“The term “food grains” as is commonly understood includes pulses. The Government of India also treats pulses as a part of food grains in the data published in this regard. On the website of the Government of India – data.gov.in, the statistics pertaining to the “Agricultural production of different food grains from year 2003 to 2014 at all India level” includes data pertaining to production of pulses.”
Read the full text of the Judgment below.