Judgement of the Delhi High Court regarding Ministry of Agriculture's move restricting Basmati rice cultivation to Indo-Gangetic areas, 25/04/2019
Judgement of the High Court of Delhi in the matter of The State Government of Madhya Pradesh Vs Union of India & Others dated 25/04/2019 regarding Geographical Indication (GI) to Basmati rice grown in Indo-Gangetic region.
History of the Case:
The Ministry of Agriculture through an Office Memorandum (OM) dated 29/05/2008 had set forth the standards of the "Basmati" variety of rice. Apart from setting forth the characteristics of Basmati Rice, OM also stated that it would be necessary to ensure the linkage between the variety and the Geographical Indication and only Basmati varieties with prescribed characteristic grown in Indo-Gangetic region would qualify for such description. Another OM issued by the Ministry had issued a direction to ensure that the registration of Basmati varieties for certified and foundation seeds is not undertaken outside geographical area detailed under the Geographical Indication (GI) for Basmati rice. The Ministry had further through a letter had withdrawn the allocation of seeds for Basmati allotted during the Kharif-2016, pursuant to the decision that production of Basmati variety seeds would not be taken outside the GI defined areas (areas included in the State of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Western Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kathua District of Jammu and Kashmir).
The state of Madhya Pradesh had challenged the directions passed by the Ministry of Agriculture on the ground:
- that it is outside the scope of the Seeds Act 1966 and
- that the Ministry has encroached upon the power to the state to pass laws in relation to agriculture and
- that it relates to Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
The Delhi High Court sets aside the two office memorandums passed by the Ministry of Agriculture restraining production of Basmati rice only to the Indo-Gangetic areas for maintaining the quality and purity of seeds and said that the "Seeds Act incoporates due participation by the state government." The HC said that the objective of the Seeds Act was to regulate the quality of the seeds and not to restrict the area where the seeds could be used for production of crops. Further, agriculture is a state subject.