Essential Commodities Act

The government has declared face masks and hand sanitizers as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act to prevent profiteering from the demand created by COVID-19 pandemic.

About the Act

The Essential Commodities Act was passed in 1955 to control the ‘production, supply and distribution of, and trade and commerce, in certain commodities’ in the public interest. It seeks to protect the public from unreasonable increase in price during times of extraordinary demand.

Powers of the Government

Under this act, the government can control the production, supply and distribution of the essential commodities. It can also fix the MRP (maximum retail price) for the packaged products. The stock holding limits can be set by the government and the violators will be named black marketers/ illegal hoarders. They can be imprisoned for up to 7 years. The government can conduct raids, confiscate the stocks of such violators and auction them.

Commodities Covered

The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 covers a wide range of products. The act defines an essential commodity as simply ‘a commodity specified in the Schedule’. The government can add or remove commodities to/ from the list as it sees fit. Commodities like drugs, fertilisers, cereals, pulses, sugar, edible oils, petroleum and petroleum products, and certain crops have been designated in the past.


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