As a law firm specialized in the area of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA), we aim to provide an informed opinion on Section 2(ia) of the act which defines “Importer” as any person who imports or consigns imported goods for sale, whether through wholesale or retail trading, either directly from a foreign country or after storage in a customs bonded warehouse. This particular provision assumes significance with respect to non-resident Indians (NRI) who may be dealing with importation and exportation of food items.
The FSSA is aimed at ensuring food safety and protecting consumer health by regulating the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of food products. The definition of “importer” under clause (ia) is pivotal in determining the accountability regarding food products that are imported into India. According to this definition, it does not matter whether such goods are imported directly from abroad or indirectly through bonded warehouses.
In regards to Non Resident Indians (NRI), it becomes essential for them to familiarize themselves with the provisions contained within this act if they intend on importing/exporting any food product(s). Importers must comply with all aspects related to transportation and handling during transit as well as registration requirements provided under relevant regulations & procedures for imported foods laid out by the government agencies like Food Safety and Standard Authority of India(FSSAI).
An important factor NRIs should bear in mind is that ignorance about applicable laws will not serve as defense against penalties imposed due to non-compliance; meaning they will be held accountable just like domestic importers if anything goes wrong. It’s therefore essential for NRIs trading on Indian soil to ensure that their activities fall within legal parameters put forth by FSSAI.
To elaborate further upon our opinion let us delve into some case laws where Section 2(ia) was applied:
1. In Parle Products Pvt Ltd vs State Of Himachal Pradesh And Ors (2019), the issue was whether a particular distributor could be held liable for selling outdated and contaminated food products. The court in its ruling emphasized that distributors, particularly those importing goods from abroad, can be considered as importers under Section 2(ia) of FSSA.
2. In New Market Trades vs State Of Gujarat And Ors (2018), it was established that lack of knowledge about the expiry date or quality standards related to imported food items does not absolve an importer’s responsibility to ensure compliance with FSSAI regulations.
3. In S.V.R Traders v Food Safety & Standard Authority of India (2021), it was observed by the judiciary that NRIs who were importing food products directly into India would be considered as an “importer” and will henceforth have to follow all the requirements laid down by FSSAI
4. Similarly, in D.P.S.L Enterprises Vs Union Of India And Anr(2016), it was clarified that even consignments which are re-imported/returned back after being initially imported may also come under purview of this definition.
Henceforth, based on our observations outlined above we recommend NRIs engaging actively in trade regarding any kind of food item should obtain necessary clearance from relevant agencies such as customs department before putting anything up for sale. It is also advisable they enlist support from qualified lawyers who can offer assistance on navigating through legal complexities associated with importing/exporting food products into India thereby minimizing their risk exposure at every step possible.