The Essential Commodities Act was enacted by the Central Government in 1955. Main purpose of the act was to control the price and trade for commodities which are essential for public at large. This act gives the power to governments at the center and state to control the price, supply, production, trade etc. when the chance of price rise is present. Various measures are provided to the governments in order to effectively discharge the functioned assigned in the act. Government can impose stock limit, can issue license and distribute the commodity. Government can also impose penalties in case of stock keeping of essential commodity. Commodities which are covered under the act are provided in the essential commodities act, 1955 and new commodities are added to it through various amendments. Original text of the Act says; “essential commodity” means any of the following Classes of commodities:
(i) cattle fodder, including oilcakes and other concentrates;.
(ii) coal, including coke and other derivatives;
(iii) component parts and accessories of automobiles;
(iv) cotton and woollen textiles;
(v) foodstuffs, including edible oilseeds and oils;
(vi) iron and steel, including manufactured products of iron and steel;
(vii) paper, including newsprint, paperboard -and straw board;
(viii)petroleum and petroleum products;
(ix) raw cotton;
(x) raw jute:,
(xi) any other class of commodity which the Central Government may, by notified order, declare to be an essential commodity for the purposes of this Act, being a commodity with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws by virtue of Entry 33, in List III in the Seventh Schedule;. to the Constitution;
Government has made various amendments in the past either to remove or add some commodities within the purview of the act. Herbicides, fungicides and exercise books have been removed from the purview of the act while new commodities like steel etc were added in order to keep in tap with the changing time.The Act is again in the news, as the Centre government is trying to bring onions and potatoes under its purview. Inflation in both these commodities has been a headache for the government and public at large for last few years. So by bringing these commodities with the purview of the act government is hoping that prices of these commodities will be controlled. Various agencies are involved in the execution of the act, but act authorises Food and civil supply authorities to execute the Act. They have been given the power to raid a premises of anyone in case of suspision of hoarding of any of the essential commodity. In case of price rise in any of the essential commodity, central government can prescribe the stock limit. Generally the Centre specifies upper limits in the case of stock holding and states prescribe specific limits.Sometimes we see the difference between centre and state government emerge, in those situations the order of centre government has overriding power. At present, minor offences related to violations of provisions of this act attract a punishment of jail term between three months and a year. While major offences attract the punishment up to seven years in jail. Major offences under the Act are nonbailable as Criminal Procedure Code says offences attracting a jail term beyond three years are non-bailable. The Central Government is of the opinion that violation of the act should be made Non-bailable.