26 May 2020


Judgments

Supreme Court

Raj Kumar v. The State of Uttar Pradesh

MANU/SC/1384/2019

04.10.2019

Criminal

Person can be convicted under Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 even if there is marginal deviation from prescribed standard

In facts of present case, on 30th October, 1995 a sample of milk was collected from the Appellant by the Food Inspector. The same was sent to the Public Analyst. The sample was analysed and Milk Fat (MF for short) was found to be 4.6% and Milk Solid Non-Fat (MSNF) was 7.7%, against the prescribed standard of 8.5%. The Appellant was prosecuted after obtaining consent of the Chief Medical Officer, and was convicted by trial court, which conviction was upheld by the Sessions Court and the High Court.

Learned counsel for the Appellant raised number of issues. The first was that, there was delay in analysing the sample and, therefore, marginal shortfall in MSNF should be overlooked, since it would have been caused by the delay in testing the sample. This contention is not accepted because there is no material on record to support this assertion. The appellant did not even deem it fit to summon the Public Analyst for cross¬examination for this purpose.

In similar circumstances, where the delay in testing the samples was of 44 days, this Court in Shambhu Dayal vs. State of U. P. held that, since the sample had been preserved by using formalin, as in the present case, the Accused cannot get any benefit.

The second contention raised was that, the provisions of Section 13(2)2 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 were not complied with as the Appellant was not given an opportunity to send his second sample to the Central Food Laboratory (CFL) for analysis. This argument is also without any merit. All the courts have given a finding of fact that, notice under Section 13(2) of the Act was sent to the Appellant on 18.02.1996. The Appellant did not choose to exercise his option to get his sample analysed by the CFL.

Once standards are laid down by the Legislature then those standards have to be followed. In items like milk which is a primary food, under the Act, it is also not necessary to prove that the food item had become unfit for human consumption or injurious to health. In cases of food coming under the Act, it is not required to prove that article of food was injurious to health.

If article fails to comply with the standards then it will have to be treated as an adulterated article even if it is not rendered injurious to health. Even marginal deviation from the prescribed standard cannot be ignored. In view of the above settled law, it is held that, if the standards are not complied with, the Court is not justified in acquitting the accused charged with adulteration only on the ground that the deficiency is marginal.

The power under Article 142 of Constitution of India, 1950 cannot be exercised against the specific provision of law. Section 16(1)(a) of the Act lays down a minimum sentence of six months. Considering the bane of adulteration and the deleterious effect of adulteration and substandard food on the health of the citizens (especially children when milk is involved), the Legislature provided a minimum sentence of six months. Passage of time can be no excuse to award a sentence lower than the minimum.

Furthermore, the power under Article 142, cannot be used in total violation of the law. When a minimum sentence is prescribed by law, this Court cannot, in exercise of its power under Article 142, pass an order totally contrary to law. If such power could be used in a food adulteration case to impose a sentence lower than the minimum prescribed, then even in cases of murder and rape, this Court applying the same principles could impose a sentence less than the minimum. This, is not the purpose of Article 142. Powers under Article 142 cannot be exercised in such a manner that they make a mockery of the law itself. There is no merit in the case and the same is dismissed.

Tags : Adulteration Conviction Legality

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