There is no specific definition of essential commodities in The EC Act. Section 2(A) of the act states that an “essential commodity” means a commodity specified in the “Schedule” of this Act.
The Act gives powers to the central government to add or remove a commodity in the “Schedule.” The Centre, if it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in public interest, can notify an item as essential, in consultation with state governments.
At present, the “Schedule” contains 9 commodities — drugs; fertilisers, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs, including edible oils; hank yarn made wholly from cotton; petroleum and petroleum products; raw jute and jute textiles; seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables, seeds of cattle fodder, jute seed, cotton seed; face masks; and hand sanitisers.
The latest items added to this schedule are face masks and hand sanitisers, which were declared essential commodities with effect from March 13, 2020 in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.
By declaring a commodity as essential, the government can control the production, supply, and distribution of that commodity, and impose a stock limit.