Delhi High Court issues notice to authorities over sale of repackaged expired food [11.1.2024]

The Delhi High Court initiated a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue of the sale of expired food products being repackaged and sold with fresh expiry dates printed. The matter has been scheduled for a hearing on February 8.

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora issued notice on the matter to the Union Government, Delhi Government, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Delhi Police. The court has also appointed Advocate Shwetasree Mazumdar as Amicus Curiae in the case.

The Hershey Company vs Atul Jalan

The suo motu PIL was issued following an order passed by a single-bench judge last month, who ordered a detailed investigation into the repackaging of expired food items and its sale in the national capital. Justice Prathiba Singh had been presiding over a civil suit filed by leading chocolate company Hershey, which was seeking an injunction against Atul Jalan (trading as Akshat Online Traders) from selling repackaged expired chocolates during the Diwali period in 2023.

In this case, Justice Singh found the defendant (Atul Jalan) to be a "rank counterfeit" who had blatantly copied and misrepresented the expired and counterfeit chocolates as the plaintiff's (The Hershey Company) products. Justice Singh then referred the matter to the acting chief justice, so that it could be taken up on the judicial side.

In December, Justice Singh also directed the Delhi Police's crime branch to initiate investigations into the matter. Justice Singh also noted that reselling of expired food products was especially found in large quantities on e-commerce websites. These products not only change the date of expiry but also the manufacturing dates in order to sell products to unassuming customers.

The division bench initiating the PIL, found that this was an "extraordinary situation" which heavily concerned public health and required "urgent consideration".

"It is apparent that there is a coordinated and systematic mechanism in place by which the expired products are being repackaged/re-branded with new expiry dates and are being introduced into the markets," the court said.

12 Jan 2024