Baby Powder Licence Cancellation: Bombay HC Asks Maharashtra To Give Report To J&J

Mumbai : The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to hand over to Johnson & Johnson Pvt Ltd a report of the Central Drug Laboratory, Kolkata, based on which the state had cancelled the company’s cosmetic manufacturing licence for its Mulund facility for its baby powder.

A vacation bench of Justices N J Jamadar and Sharmila Deshmukh passed the decision on Wednesday while hearing a petition filed by the company challenging two orders of the state government – one dated September 15 cancelling the license and the second dated September 20 ordering to immediately stop manufacturing and sale of the company’s baby powder product.

The orders were passed by the Joint Commissioner and Licensing Authority of the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The government based its orders on the report of the Central Drug Laboratory, which found the powder containing higher pH level than prescribed.

The company challenged the orders first before the Maharashtra Minister for Food and Drug Administration, who is the appellate authority.

The minister on October 19 upheld the cancellation order, following which the company approached the high court.

The company in its petition said the orders were passed by violating the principles of natural justice.

It added that with its manufacturing unit at suburban Mulund closed, the company was suffering huge financial loss.

On Wednesday, when the matter came up for hearing, the company’s counsel Ravi Kadam told the court that it is yet to be provided with the CDL report, based on which the orders were passed.

The court then directed the state government to make available to the company the report. The court while posting the matter for further hearing on November 10 directed the government to file its affidavit.

Kadam had sought an interim order permitting the company to reopen the manufacturing unit. But it was opposed by additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan.

The bench said the company can seek the interim relief on the next date of hearing by when courts would have resumed after Diwali vacation.

The company in its plea said 14 random batches of February, March and September 2022 were tested by an independent public testing laboratory and all found to be well within the prescribed pH value.

The leading Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) manufacturer said it has been making the baby powder in its Mulund plant for the last 57 years and its license was renewed in January 2020.

The company also said due to the licence revocation, it suffered a daily loss of Rs 2.5 crore based on market value of goods sold.

It said it even volunteered to release the powder for sale only after samples from relevant batches are tested for pH in front of the Maharashtra FDA officer in the Mulund facility, if directed.

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