Ernakulam, June 23, 2022: While dismissing the appeal instituted against the common judgment passed by the Single Judge whereby the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 47 C and 47 F of the Kerala Forest Act, 1961 were rejected, the Kerala High Court has opined that Article 302 of the Constitution empowers the Parliament by law to impose such restrictions on the freedom of trade, commerce or intercourse between one State and another or within any part of the territory of India as may be required in the public interest.
The Division bench of Chief Justice S.Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly was of the opinion that the Legislature of the State is vested with ample powers to make laws reasonably and to impose restrictions in the freedom of trade, commerce or intercourse with other States or within that State in public interest. Thus, the impugned Sections were incorporated in public interest, observed the bench.
Factual matrix of the case was such that the appellant was the Managing Partner of a firm, which according to him was of the largest dealers/ suppliers of sandalwood, sandal oil and related products to different perfumery and cosmetic industries in India as well as abroad. The 1961 Act was amended by the Kerala Forest Amendment Act, 2010 and consequential Rules were framed namely the Kerala Forest (Restriction on cutting and selling of sandal trees and grant of license for possession and transport of sandalwood and sandalwood oil), Rules, 2012. The said amendment introduced Sections 47C and 47F into the Act, 1961.
It was the case of the appellant that for giving effect to the said provisions, in the Rules 2012, Rules 6 and 7 were introduced. The crux of the contention of the appellant was that the binding effect of the said provisions of the Act and the Rules shall prohibit the private players from entering into the field of handling sandalwood and its products in the State, including a total prohibition of trade in such products, including inter-State trade. In view of the same the validity of the aforesaid provisions was assailed, as the same were in contradiction with the provisions of Article 304 (b) of the Indian Constitution.
The appellant further contended that no prior sanction of the President was secured before amending the Act, 1961 and introducing Sections 47 C, 47 F into the Act of 1961, which indeed created restrictions on the freedom of trade, commerce or intercourse within or outside the State. It was thus contended that the provisions and the relevant rules of 2012 were arbitrary and unconstitutional in nature. The bench of Single Judge however, dismissed the writ petitions. In pursuance of the same the appellant by way of present appeal assailed the impugned order passed by the Single Judge and questioned the legality and correctness of the same.
After hearing the rival contentions of both the parties at length, the Court noted that there was no iota of doubt with respect to the fact that the Legislature of the State is vested with ample powers to make laws reasonably and to impose restrictions in the freedom of trade commerce or intercourse with other States or within that State in public interest. Thus, there was weight age in the contention of the State Pleader that Sections 47C and 47F were incorporated in the Act, 1961 in public interest, remarked the Bench.
Taking into account the value, importance and relevance of sandalwood, the Court was of the view that the contention of the State that the provisions under challenge are only reasonable restrictions under Article 19(6) of the Constitution, appeared to be correct.On the issue of whether any previous sanction was secured from the President in contemplation of Article 304 (b) of the Constitution of India, which appeared to be mandatory in nature, the Court observed that Government Pleader had produced the gazette notification dated May 4, 2010, along with the assent so granted by the President of India, as per order dated July 7, 2006. Thus the contention raised by the appellant pertaining to the assent was rejected by the present Court.
Thus, the Court was of the view that the amendment of the Forest Act was in accordance with law and as contemplated under Article 304(b) of the Constitution of India. In light of the aforesaid findings, the Court concluded the matter by observing that the writ appeals had no substance, either legally or factually. Accordingly the instant appeal arising from the same was dismissed.