State excise department seeks clarification from Central govt over the classification of alcoholic drinks as 'food' under a new amendment
After the Parliament's decision to classify alcoholic drinks as 'food' under the amended Food and Safety Standards Regulations (FASS) 2011, the State Excise department has written to the Central government seeking clarification over the 'weird' law, exposing Centre's double standard over laws related to alcohol consumption.
As per the recent notification issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, liquor has now been included under the food category. Hence, the Distillers Association of Maharashtra (DAOM) has moved the court stating that liquor is already covered under state laws: manufacturing, storage, distribution, sale and import of liquor and that the Centre is conflicting with and encroaching upon the territory of state jurisdiction.
Moreover, the Central government cannot make new rules that may run counter or parallel to state rules, for example the Bombay Prohibition Act.
A B Ghatol, joint commissioner, excise department, said, "We had written to the government seeking clarification over the same. However, we are yet to hear from them. We will once again bring the issue to the Centre's notice, because we as state employees cannot do anything as the order has been issued by the Central government."
Meanwhile, the DAOM has also moved court. Lawyers S G Aney and Vaibhav Joglekar, representing the distilleries said, "Since the last few years, we had brought the issue to excise department's notice." However, they stated that not much could be done, as the rule has been passed by the Central government. "Soon after the rule came into effect, we decided to move court."
A source in FDA said, "The FDA is confused over the law about incorporating various departments under this act. Even in this case, the production, manufacturing, possession, transport, purchase and sale of liquors/alcoholic drinks and all related matters are governed in the State of Maharashtra under the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949, and the rules have been framed accordingly. The amended act is confusing and has brought in various objections."
Law full of loopholes
A source from the department pointed out that the new FASS law is fraught with loopholes. It may be noted that Mid-Day in its earlier report dated September 21, 'Your street food just got healthy' had published that even the health ministry has asked Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue licenses to roadside vendors as well as posh eateries, if they met the benchmark of cleanliness. However, those against the proposal, citing Supreme Court's order that roadside cooking was banned in Mumbai, opposed it.