The Supreme Court on January 24, 2019, in the case of Britannia Industries Ltd v. Bombay Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee & Anr. has held that "edible oil", "Vanaspati" and "sugar" are 'agricultural produce' within the meaning of Section 2(1)(a) of the Maharashtra Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1963.
A Bench comprising of Justices R. Banumathi and R. Subhash Reddy was hearing an appeal filed by Britannia against the judgment passed by the Bombay High Court wherein the court dismissed the contention raised by the company that the Marketing Regulation Act is not applicable to sugar, cashew nuts, refined oil, vanaspati and dry fruits purchased by it.
In regard to the sugar, the Bench agreed with the view laid down by the High Court that sugar is a produce of agriculture coming into being in a processed form from sugarcane and the absence of the word "manufacture" in the definition of "agricultural produce" under Section 2(1)(a) of the Act would not in any way affect the status of sugar as being an agricultural produce under the Act.
Further, even in regard to vanaspati, the Bench approved the High Court’s conclusion and said that “So far as "Vanaspati" is concerned, the High Court referred to entire process as to how "Vanaspati" is produced from "edible oils" and that "edible oils" are subject to various processes and the end product of all these processes is "Vanaspati". The High Court held that the production of dalda or Vanaspati from edible oils is thus the result of the edible oils undergoing all these processes which convert edible oils to a new entity called "Vanaspati". Thus, the High Court concluded that "Vanaspati" is nothing but Hydro Generated Refined Edible Oil and is an agricultural produce within the meaning of Section 2(1)(a) of the Marketing Act.”
Thus in view of the observations made, the Bench said that "We fully agree with the conclusion of the High Court that "edible oil", "Vanaspati" and "sugar" would fall within the meaning of Section 2(1)(a) of the Marketing Act – agricultural produce. We do not find any good ground warranting interference with the findings of the High Court that "edible oil", "Vanaspati" and "sugar" are agricultural produce within the meaning of Section 2(1)(a) of the Marketing Act."