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HC permits Johnson & Johnson to manufacture and sell its baby powder; quashes Maha govt order revoking license

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The Bombay High Court on Wednesday quashed two orders passed by the Maharashtra government revoking the license of Johnson & Johnson company to manufacture, sell and distribute its baby powder products, terming them as “stringent, unreasonable and unfair”.

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and S G Dige permitted the company to manufacture, sell and distribute the products.

The bench passed its order on a petition filed by the company challenging two orders of the state government – one dated September 15, 2022 cancelling the license and the second dated September 20, 2022 ordering it to immediately stop the manufacturing and sale of the baby powder product.

The bench noted that while maintaining standards of quality and safety are of utmost importance for cosmetic products, at the same time it does not seem reasonable to shut down the whole manufacturing process when there is a slight deviation in one of the products.

“The executive cannot use a hammer to kill an ant. Is it always inevitable that when there is a single case of deviation or non-compliance (to prescribed norms) by a product the only option left with the regulatory authority is to cancel or revoke the license of the manufacturing company?” the court said in its order.

“This seems to us as an extreme approach. There seems to be an unfairness and unreasonableness in the executive action. There is also nothing to show that the FDA (state Food and Drug Administration) has adopted such a stringent approach for any other product of the petitioner company or any other company,” it added.

Noting that the government orders cannot sustain, the HC quashed them and permitted the company to manufacture, distribute and sell its baby powder products.

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