Supreme Court sets aside conviction under Food adulteration Act where sufficient attempts were not made to serve report of Public Analyst on accused

Read Time: 08 minutes

On Friday, the Supreme Court set aside a conviction under Section (16)(1)(a)(i)(ii) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 whereby the appellant-accused was convicted for the violation of clauses (i) and (v) of Section 7 of the said Act of 1954.

The appellant, Narayana Prasad Sahu was selling chana daal in a weekly market in Kagpur when the Food Inspector came there and called upon him to show his licence. The Food Inspector had then purchased 750 gms of chana daal from the appellant which was sent for examination to Public Analyst.

The report of Public Analyst showed that the chana daal was adulterated. Accordingly, the Judicial Magistrate First Class on October 12, 2007 convicted the appellant to undergo rigorous imprisonment for six months and to pay fine of Rs.1000/-.

When the Revision Application before the High Court was dismissed, Sahu approached the Supreme Court by way of a Revision Petition.

It was submitted by appellant that as mandatorily required by sub-section (2) of Section 13 of the said Act of 1954, a copy of report of Public Analyst was not supplied to him, as a result of which his valuable right to get the samples analysed by Central Food Laboratory has been defeated.

The prosecution submitted that endorsements on the postal packet containing the report showed that after giving an intimation to the appellant, the Postman unsuccessfully attempted to serve the report to the appellant on six occasions and only thereafter, returned the envelope.

A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S Oka found that under sub-section (2) of Section 13, it was mandatory for the Local (Health) Authority to forward a copy of the report of the Public Analyst to the person from whom the sample of the food has been taken in such a manner as may be prescribed.

“Further mandate of sub-section (2) of Section 13 is that a person to whom the report is forwarded should be informed that if it is so desired, he can make an application to the Court within a period of ten days from the date of receipt of the copy of the report to get the sample analysed by Central Food Laboratory”, the bench noted.

It was further remarked that if a copy of the report of the Public Analyst is not delivered to the accused, his right under sub-section (2) of Section 13 of praying for sending the sample to the Central Food Laboratory will be defeated. This prompted the Court to say,

“Consequently, his right to challenge the report will be defeated. His right to defend himself will be adversely affected”

Moreover, a perusal of the judgments of the Magistrate and Sessions Court showed that the clerk who dispatched the report was examined by the prosecution, but the Postman who has allegedly made the said remarks was admittedly not examined by the prosecution.

Also, as per Rule 9B of Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955, the Court said, more than one mode was prescribed for serving the report of Public Analyst on the accused but, in the present case, after the postal packet was returned, not even an attempt was made to personally serve the report on the appellant.

Accordingly, the Court found that the conviction was obviously erroneous as the endorsements on the postal envelope were not proved by examining the Postman.

“Moreover, the High Court has glossed over the mandatory requirement under sub-section (2) of Section 13 of serving a copy of the report on the accused. Evidence adduced by the prosecution was of mere dispatch of the report. Hence, the mandatory requirement of sub-section (2) of Section 13 was not complied with. Therefore, the conviction and sentence of the appellant cannot be sustained”, held the Bench.