S. N. Variava, J. -
(1.)Some of these Appeals are filed by the Collector of Central Excise. Other Appeals are filed by Iron or Steel Manufacturing Companies. In all these Appeals common questions of law arise. Therefore all these Appeals are being disposed of by this common Judgment.
(2.)Briefly stated the facts are as follows :
Under Section 2(a)(ii) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 "iron and steel including manufacture of products of iron and steel" are essential commodities. Section 3 of this Act enables the Central Government to control production, supply and distribution of essential commodities. One of the manners of control could be by regulating price at which the essential commodities are to be bought or sold.
(3.)Pursuant to the powers given under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 the Government of India issued the Iron and Steel (Control) Order, 1956. Clauses 15 and 17(b) of the said Order read as follows :
"15. Power to fix price. (1) The Controller may from time to time by notification in the Gazette of India, fix the maximum prices at which any iron or steel may be sold (a) by a producer, (b) by a stockholder including a controlled stockholder and (c) by any other person or class of persons. Such price or prices may differ for iron and steel obtaining from different sources and may include allowances for contribution to and payment from any Equalisation Fund established by the Controller for equalising freight, the concession rates payable to each producer or class of producers under agreements entered into by the Controller with the producers from time to time and any other disadvantages. The Controller may also, by a general or special order in writing, require any person or class of person enumerated above to pay such amount on account of allowances for contribution to any Equalisation Fund, within such period and in such manner as the Controller may direct in this behalf :
Provided that the Controller may, with the approval of the Central Government, fix maximum prices for sale of iron or steel (a) by a producer, (b) by a stockholder including a Controller Stockholder and (c) by any other person or class of persons for export outside India and such prices may be different from the maximum selling prices fixed for sale for other purposes.
Provided further that the Controller may, with the approval of the Central Government, fix maximum controller prices for sale of iron or steel by the Registered Producers and Controlled Stockholders to the manufactures of engineering goods for fabricating products for export, at prices lower than the maximum selling prices fixed for sale for other purposes.
(2) For the purpose of applying the prices notified under sub-clause (1) the Controller may himself classify any iron and steel and may, if no appropriate price has been so notified, fix such price as he considers appropriate:
Provided that where any stocks are required by a special order of the Controller to be moved from one place to another or are to be sold at a place which is not connected with any railhead, the Controller may direct that the maximum prices fixed under sub-clause (1) or (2), shall not apply to such stocks and may, in respect of such stocks, specify the maximum prices at which the iron or steel may be sold.
(3) No producer or stockholder or other person shall sell or offer to sell, and no person shall acquire, any iron or steel at a price exceeding the maximum prices fixed under sub-clause (1) or (2).
17-B. Power of Central Government to set up committees, etc. (1) For the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of this order, with respect to any category of iron or steel, whether such category is subject to or exempt from the operation of all or any such provisions, the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, set up, from time to time, such committees, bodies or authorities as it may consider necessary.
(2) The committee, body or authority set up under sub-clause (1) shall carry out such functions as may be specified in the notification under which such committee, body or authority is set up."
Thus it is to be seen that what could be fixed is the price. The Committees which were to be set up were only to carry out such functions as would be specified in the Notification under which they are set up.