Chandurkar, J. -
(1.) This petition raises questions relating to the constitutional validity of sections 18(1) and (2), 22 including the proviso, 25, 27 and 36 of the Maharashtra Raw Cotton (Procurement, Processing and Marketing) Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Procurement Act). The petitioner No. 1 claims to be an agriculturist possessing about 150 acres of land from which the principal agricultural produce which he raises is cotton. The petitioner No. 2 is a partnership firm whose business is of ginning and pressing cotton and cotton bales respectively, and according to it, the production capacity of its factory is approximately 15,700 bales of ginned cotton per year for pressing and approximately 10,000 bozas for ginning of raw cotton. The petitioner No. 3 claims to be an agricultural labourer who works on agricultural lands and receives wages in the shape of raw cotton which he used to sell in the open market and get cash amount in return. On 13-12-1971 the Procurement Act was published by the State Government after it had received the assent of the President of India. It is not disputed that the Procurement Act received the assent of the President on 4 12-1971, and though Chapters I and II thereof came into force immediately on the date of its publication, the remaining provisions came into force on 1-8-1972. Under section 1(4) of this Act, the Act is contemplated to remain in force up to and inclusive of the 30th June 1960 and it then expires.
(2.) In order to appreciate the nature of the challenge made to the provision mentioned earlier, it is necessary to set out certain important provisions of the Procurement Act. The long title of the Act states that it is an Act to provide for the carrying on for a certain time of all trade in raw cotton by the State in Maharashtra. The preamble of the Act is in three parts. In the first part of the preamble reference is made to the fact that ginned and pressed cotton has been commanding a high level of prices at the terminal markets in recent years, but it had been brought to the notice of the Government of Maharashtra that because of too many intermediaries and also defects in the marketing system, growers of cotton in the State do not get a fair share of the price for their crop. The second part of the preamble refers to the necessity of supplying unadulterated cotton to consumers at a reasonable price, and to guarantee the purity of cotton and honest trade practices at processing centres. The last part of the preamble recites that "the Government of Maharashtra has decided that all trade in raw cotton should be carried on by the State for a certain time; and for that purpose to take power for acquiring kapas from the growers and other persons having stocks of cotton, getting it ginned and pressed into bales, selling it in that form to consumers and others on behalf of the tenderers and paying compensation to the tenderers; and provide for matters relating to the purposes aforesaid." "Cotton" is defined in section 2(g) of the Procurement Act as meaning raw cotton, whether ginned or unginned. Section 2(m) defines "kapas" as meaning unginned cotton. If necessary, we shall later refer to some other definitions. Section 3 provides far the establishment of a Board by the name of the Maharashtra State Cotton Control Advisory Board, and section 4 refers to the constitution of the Board which consists of 20 persons as designated in that section. We are not concerned with the different provisions dealing with the functioning of the Board except section 16 which sets out the duties of the Board. It appears from the duties enumerated in section 16 that the Board is advisory body and it is the duty of the Board to advise the State Government on matters specifically stated in section 16 as also on such matters connected with the administration of the Act in respect of which the Government may consider it necessary to obtain the advice of the Board, and the Board is under a statutory obligation to advice the Government on all other matters to facilitate the proper carrying out of the purposes of the Act. The substantive piece of legislation which is said to create monopoly in the trade of raw cotton is contained in sections 17, 18 and 19 which need to be fully reproduced. They are as follows :
"17. Save as otherwise provided by or under this Act and except with the previous permission of the State Government, no person, other than the State Government or an officer or agent of such Government authorised by it in this behalf, shall purchase, sell or store for sale kapas, or carry on business in kapas.
18. (1) No owner or person in charge of a cotton ginning factory shall, except with the previous permission of the State Government, gin or cause to be ginned in his factory any kapas, other than kapas to be ginned on Government account.
(2) No owner or person in charge of a cotton pressing factory shall, except with the previous permission of the State Government, press or cause to be pressed ginned cotton into bales, other than such cotton to be pressed on Government account.
19. No person, other than the State Government or the Head of any Department authorised by the State Government in this behalf, shall, except with the previous permission of the State Government or such Head of the Department, transport kapas from any place in the State to any place outside the State. Where the State Government or the Head of the Department refuses the previous permission in any case, the reasons therefor shall be recorded in writing."These provisions create prohibitions on trade in and transport of kapas and on cotton ginning and pressing factories.
(3.) Chapter IV of the Act deals with procurement, grading and pooling kapas. Under section 20 every grower of cotton who wishes to dispose of or sell kapas produced by him is under an obligation to sell that kapas to the State Government by tendering it at a collection centre. There is a proviso added to section 20 which enables tho grower in a place where such practice prevails, to pay, the labourers engaged by him wages in kind, i.e. in kapas, and then tender the remaining quantity to the State Government as required by section 20. Section 21 creates a prohibition against the labourers selling kapas to any person other than the State Government and the labourers are required to tender kapas obtained by way of wages either personally or through an agent authorised by the State Government in this behalf, at a collection centre. The collection centres are to be designated by the Marketing Committee which is established under the Maharashtra Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1963, and under section 21A which was added by Act No. 19 of 1972, it is the duty of every Market Committee to designate and maintain one or more convenient places as may be found necessary, for tendering kapas, by the growers and other persons holding stocks thereof. After the kapas is tendered at the collection centre by the growers or the persons holding stocks or on their behalf by the agents for collection authorised by the State Government, it has to be graded and marked with the grade designation marks in accordance with the provisions of the rules made and the kapas then is to be pooled according to the grades. Provision to this effect has been made in sec. 22. However, under the proviso to section 22, any kapas which is tendered at the collection centres by or on behalf of labourers who are paid wages in kind is required to be graded as belonging to the lowest grade of that variety.;