The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs on Wednesday authorized the States/ Union Territories to notify orders under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, by relaxing the requirement of "prior concurrence" of the Central Government, up to June 30, 2020.
The decision has been taken to narrow down the chain of command and forthwith ensure smooth supply of essential items in the country.
Intimating the same, Union Home Secretary wrote to all the State Chief Secretaries, asking them to take urgent steps to ensure wide availability of essential goods at fair prices, by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act 1955.
It was highlighted that due to loss of production in face of the lockdown, the menace of hoarding and black marketeering may proliferate. Thus, the state governments have been asked to take apposite measures, including fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions.
"There have been reports of loss of production due to various factors, especially reduction in labour supply. In this situation, there is a possibility of inventory building/hoarding and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading, resulting in price rise of essential goods. The States have been asked to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these commodities at fair prices for public at large," a press release issued in this behalf by the Ministry of Home Affairs states.
The Central government is empowered under Section 2A of the Essential Commodities Act to declare a commodity as an "essential commodity", to ensure its equitable distribution and availability at fair prices. It has the power to regulate the production, supply, distribution, etc., of essential commodities under Section 3 of the Act, or to delegate such powers to the State government under Section 5 (as done in the present case).
Violation of any direction made under the Act is a cognizable offence which may attract a penalty of imprisonment up to 7 years.
It may also be noted that earlier, the Central Government had allowed manufacture/production, transport and other related supply-chain activities in respect of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines and medical equipment.
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