Interpreting Livestock Regulations: Ghee as a Product of Livestock

Andhra Pradesh HC and SC affirm ghee as a livestock product, dismissing objections. Livestock laws apply to ghee under Andhra Pradesh Act.

The question of whether ghee can be considered a "product of livestock" for regulatory purposes arose in a legal dispute originating from a notification issued by the government of (undivided) Andhra Pradesh on July 15, 1994. This notification listed ghee as a livestock product and aimed to regulate its purchase and sale in notified market areas under The Andhra Pradesh (Agricultural Produce and Livestock) Markets Act, 1966. However, a group of livestock producers challenged this notification on two main grounds: firstly, they argued that ghee is not a direct product of livestock and therefore should not be subject to regulation, and secondly, they contended that the government had not followed the prescribed procedure for issuing the notification as outlined in Section 3 of the 1966 Act.

The legal dispute centered around the interpretation of key provisions of the Andhra Pradesh (Agricultural Produce and Livestock) Markets Act, 1966. Section 2(v) of the Act defines "livestock" to include cows, buffaloes, bullocks, bulls, goats, sheep, poultry, fish, and other animals as may be declared by the government as livestock for the purposes of the Act. Furthermore, Section 2(xv) allows the government to declare certain products as "products of livestock" for the purposes of the Act through notification.

The High Court of Andhra Pradesh, in a ruling delivered in 2009 by a three-judge bench, upheld the government's notification and rejected the challenges raised by the petitioners. The court reasoned that while ghee may not be directly obtained from milk, which is undoubtedly a product of cows or buffaloes, it is nonetheless a derivative product obtained from milk, which is itself a product of livestock. Therefore, the court concluded that ghee falls within the definition of "products of livestock" as defined in Section 2(xv) of the Act. Additionally, the court found that the 1994 notification was issued under Section 4 of the Act, which deals with the constitution of market committees and the declaration of notified market areas, and not under Section 3 as claimed by the petitioners.

However, the legal dispute did not end there, as the ruling of the High Court was subsequently challenged before the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court was tasked with determining whether ghee could indeed be considered a "product of livestock" under the provisions of the 1966 Act and whether the 1994 notification complied with the prescribed legal procedure.

In its judgment delivered on March 5, a Bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and SVN Bhatti upheld the validity of the 1994 notification, thereby affirming the power of market committees to levy fees on the sale and purchase of ghee. The court dismissed the argument that ghee is not a product of livestock, emphasizing that ghee is derived from milk, which is unquestionably a product of cows or buffaloes, thus satisfying the definition of livestock under the Act. Additionally, the court relied on its previous ruling in the 2001 case of 'Park Leather Industry Ltd. v. State of UP' to establish that all animal husbandry products, including ghee, fall within the ambit of "products of livestock" as defined in the Act.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court rejected the contention that the procedural requirements under Section 3 of the Act had not been followed in issuing the 1994 notification. In doing so, the court reiterated its interpretation of the legislative intent behind the Act and emphasized the importance of adhering to established legal procedures.

In conclusion, the legal dispute surrounding the classification of ghee as a "product of livestock" highlights the complexities involved in interpreting statutory provisions and applying them to specific factual scenarios. The judgments delivered by both the High Court and the Supreme Court provide clarity on the matter, affirming the inclusion of ghee within the regulatory framework governing agricultural produce and livestock markets in Andhra Pradesh.