Violation of Article 14 or 21 required for judicial review in non-statutory matters – Patna HC

In the case of Mahendra Yadav Vs State of Bihar & Ors. [Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.6901 of 2020] Patna High Court held that pricing and procurement of food-grains for public distribution system, as also fixing Minimum Support Price is a policy decision which cannot be interfered with by the Court, unless of course, such policy is arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or violative of Article 14/21 of the Constitution of India.

Petitioner, had filed the instant petition in public interest, desiring that the State fixes a Minimum Support Price for procuring the agricultural crop, i.e. maize, which is lying in abundance in the State of Bihar. The petitioner prayed for issuance of a writ in the nature of mandamus or any writ/ order/ direction to direct the Respondents to henceforth immediately & expeditiously procure the ready & harvested crop of maize grains from the farmers of State and accordingly, pay such beneficiaries at the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) fixed by the Government of India.

The issue before the court was that whether the Court can issue a mandamus directing the State to pay a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for an agricultural crop.

The respondents submitted that procurement of particular crop is a policy matter and since the Go-downs of the Food Corporation of India are likely to be filled up with other category of food-grains to be procured, any decision for fixing the Minimum Support Price would be contrary to the public interest and against the policy.

Court referred the case of Shri Sitaram Sugar Co. Ltd. v. Union of India, (1990) 3 SCC 223 where the apex court held that, “The true position, therefore, is that any act of the repository of power, whether legislative or administrative or quasi-judicial, is open to challenge if it is in conflict with the Constitution or the governing Act or the general principles of the law of the land or it is so arbitrary or unreasonable that no fair-minded authority could ever have made it.”

Court further relied on the case of Rayalaseema Paper Mills Ltd. v. Govt. of A.P., (2003) 1 SCC 341 where it was held, “Where the legislature has prescribed the factors which should be taken into consideration and which should guide the determination of price, the courts would examine whether the considerations for fixing the price mentioned in the statute or the statutory order have been kept in mind while fixing the price and whether these factors have guided the determination. The courts would not go beyond that point.”

The High Court observed that, “The Hon’ble Apex Court in Bihar SEB v. Pulak Enterprises, (2009) 5 SCC 641 held that in the absence of any provision in that regard the principles of natural justice would not be applicable and the scope of judicial review would also be limited to plea of discrimination i.e. violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. As a general proposition, the law on the point is settled.”

Court held that, “Nothing is brought to our notice indicating the policy or the action of the respondents to be violative of Article 14/21 of the Constitution of India. Only for the reason that this year in the State of Bihar, the crop of maize is in excess than the previous year, cannot be a reason for this Court to issue a mandamus directing the State to procure the food-grains i.e. maize under the Minimum Support Price, so fixed with respect to other items of food-grains.”

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