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Bombay HC declines to quash CBN notice regulating import of poppy seeds


Press Trust of India Mumbai
The Bombay High Court has refused to quash a notice issued by the Central Bureau of Narcotics regulating the import of poppy seeds into the country after noting the document provides guidelines and restrains "unfettered discretion".
A division bench of justices S C Dharmadhikari and G S Patel on Wednesday dismissed petitions filed by companies Chailbihari Trading Pvt Ltd and Amrut Impex challenging the June 25 notice issued by the Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN) to regulate the import of poppy seeds into India.
The CBN notice laid down guidelines for registration of sales contract with regard to poppy seeds import from Turkey.
The two companies, which import poppy seeds, believe the guidelines in the notice are an unconstitutional restriction on their right to trade and carry on business.
Poppy plants are cultivated mainly to produce poppy seeds for human consumption, opium for pharmaceutical use, and heroin and other synthetic opioids.
The bench said the petitioner's arguments held no merit.
"There is no fundamental right to be an importer. There is no fundamental right to import poppy seeds. There is no fundamental right to import anything without restrictions, or only on terms beneficial to a particular person," the court observed.
The bench noted that the CBN's notice provides guidelines and restrains the exercise of "unfettered discretion".
"The notification guidelines serve to filter out all but genuine and bona fide importers and prevent cartelisation, artificial blocking of country caps and artificial raising of re-sale prices," the court said in its order.
As per the Union government rules, there is annual cap or quota on poppy seeds import from various points of origin.
There is a cap on the quantity that may be imported for each foreign exporter country.
As per the guidelines, the Turkish exporter is to be registered with the Turkish Grain Board or the Turkish embassy in India. Once that is done, an Indian importer may approach the Narcotics Commissioner for registration of the sales contract.
The petitioners argued that the process of registration will create a monopoly in the hands of big players and that the old system of drawing of lots is preferable.
They further argued that once a Turkish exporter is registered with the Turkish board or the Turkish embassy in India then requirement of the Indian importer having to register itself is arbitrary and unreasonable.
It is a duplication of work and introduces unnecessary red tape, the petitioners said.
They also claimed that earlier an importer could register a maximum of five containers, but the number has been raised to 25 now.
By raising the containers to 25, the rich and powerful importers take all the cake, they alleged.

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First Published: Aug 30 2019 | 3:25 PM IST

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