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Emperor Vs. Amrit Banaspati Co., Ltd. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal Nos. 192 and 426 of 1946
Judge
Reported inAIR1947Bom306; (1947)49BOMLR47
AppellantEmperor
RespondentAmrit Banaspati Co., Ltd.
Excerpt:
defence of india rules, 1939, rule 81(4)-notification issued under-'dispose of,' meaning of-crushing of groundnuts-emergency legislation-construction of.;the words 'dispose of' appearing in a notification, about conservation of groundnuts, issued under rule 81(4) of the defence of india rules, 1939, do not mean a technical transfer of the property in stocks of groundnuts, but mean their preservation from the point of view that they be not got rid of.;hence, a merchant, who has got stocks of groundnuts, and who under a licence to crush a smaller quantity of groundnuts crushes a much larger quantity of the commodity, is guilty of having 'disposed of' the excess quantity so crushed within the meaning of the notification.;in india, where emergency legislation is in english, it is essential..........no. 1, which is a company, of rs. 10,000 and on appellant no. 2, who is the branch manager of the company in bombay, of rs. 1,000 and in default two months' simple imprisonment.2. the question involved is an extremely short one, though it is by no means free from difficulty. the notification which it is alleged has been infringed is dated may 21, 1943, and it bears the no. 48-iv, and it is in these terms:in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-rule (2) of rule 81 of the defence of india rules, the government of bombay is pleased to direct that no person holding on his own account, or on account of, or in partnership with any other person, any stocks of groundnuts (in shell) and groundnut seeds exceeding 5 bengal maunds in quantity at any godown or other place of storage in the city.....
Judgment:

Leonard Stone, Kt., C.J.

1. This is an appeal from a judgment of the learned Presidency Magistrate, Second Additional Court, Mazagaon, delivered on February 27, 1946, whereby he convicted both the appellants of an offence under one of the notifications with regard to supplies made under Rule 81(4) of the Defence of India Rules, 1939, and he imposed a fine on appellant No. 1, which is a company, of Rs. 10,000 and on appellant No. 2, who is the branch manager of the company in Bombay, of Rs. 1,000 and in default two months' simple imprisonment.

2. The question involved is an extremely short one, though it is by no means free from difficulty. The notification which it is alleged has been infringed is dated May 21, 1943, and it bears the No. 48-IV, and it is in these terms:

In exercise of the powers conferred by Sub-rule (2) of Rule 81 of the Defence of India Rules, the Government of Bombay is pleased to direct that no person holding on his own account, or on account of, or in partnership with any other person, any stocks of groundnuts (in shell) and groundnut seeds exceeding 5 Bengal Maunds in quantity at any godown or other place of storage in the City of Bombay or in the Bombay Suburban District, shall remove from the said godown or place or dispose of the said stocks or any portion thereof, without the written permission of the Government of Bombay.

3. What happened was that in the month of March, 1945, this company, which held large stocks of groundnuts, having got a permit, to which 1 will presently refer, to crush 3,200 bags of groundnuts, in fact crushed an additional 12,595 bays, and it is alleged thereby committed an offence under this notification.

4. Now the effect of crushing groundnuts is to separate the oil from the solid matter and it results in two commodities with no residual waste, that is to say oil and what are known as 'seed cakes.' It is alleged by the learned Advocate General on behalf of Government that the appellant, thereby 'disposed of' these 12,595 bags of groundnuts, We have had the advantage of an extremely able argument on both sides during the course of which we have been referred to various dictionary meanings of the expression 'dispose of', from which it appears that the primary meaning is 'to alienate', 'to sell'' or 'to transfer', whereas the secondary meaning of 'dispose of' is 'to get rid of' or 'to part with', in the sense of bringing something to an end or causing it to cease to exist.

5. Quite clearly if the words in this notifiaction are to be construed in the sense of their primary meaning 'to alienate' or 'to sell' or 'to transfer', no offence has been committed; on the other hand, if they are to be construed in the sense of 'getting rid of', then it could not be said that the appellants, after they had crushed these 12,595 bags, still had in stock 12,595 bags of groundnuts in shell.

6. Dealing with the construction of emergency legislation, Viscount Maughan in the well known case of Liversidge v. Sir John Anderson [1942] A.C. 206 said this (p. 219) :

My Lords, I think we should approach the construction of reg. 18B of the Defence (General) Regulations without any general presumption as to its meaning except the universal presumption, applicable to Orders in Council and other like instruments, that, if there is a reasonable doubt as to the meaning of the words used, we should prefer a construction which will carry into effect the plain intention of those responsible for the Order in Council rather than which will defeat that intention.

7. Applying that principle to this case, the question must, be asked, what was the intention of Government in passing this regulation? The Notification has no preamble and on its face the only indication of any intention is to be found in the fact that it is made under Rule 81 (2) of the Defence of India Rules. Turning to that sub-rule it is to be found that the only sub-heading under which it would have been made is that which provides for the making of orders and rules in order to maintain supplies essential to the life of the community, and so it must be presumed that that was the intention in passing this notification. That being so, it lends support to the view that the words 'dispose of' do not mean a technical transfer of the property in these stocks of groundnuts but mean their preservation from the point of view that they be not got rid of, and accordingly we give to the expression 'dispose of' its secondary meaning, with the result that in our opinion an offence has been committed and the conviction must be upheld.

8. But before considering the question of sentence we desire to add that in this country, where emergency legislation is in English, it is essential that it should be clear and unambiguous in its terms, since many persons who are governed by it do not understand or do not understand perfectly the English language and no official translation into the vernacular is now made. So that the merchant who has to know what he may do and what he may not do must rely on some free and unofficial translation of a penal notification made under the Defence of India Rules. In this respect we feel that the appellants are entitled to some indulgence and sympathy.

9. On the other hand, the learned Advocate General has drawn our attention to a license dated March 14, 1945, which was made under this very notification and which empowers the appellant company to crush 3,200 bags of groundnuts in seed during the month of March 1945, and it is said that as the appellants sought this permission under this notification, they must have realised that it would be an offence to act without such a. license. But Mr. Thakore on behalf of the appellants points out that the appellant company is a Government Contractor and that all business men or merchants to whom Government send 'B' forms in order to get a license are prepared to comply with them because it is the easiest way of getting on With their business, and be it observed that the form of license itself does not follow the wording of the notification. It reads, that 'Government of Bombay is hereby pleased to permit' and then is set out the name of the appellant company 'to use 3,200 bags of groundnuts for crushing'. There is nothing in the notification about user.

10. Having taken all these circumstances into consideration and being of the opinion as we are that the words in the notification are extremely ambiguous, though we have put the construction upon them which I have stated, and further considering the fact that there is no suggestion that any unlawful profit or any black marketing has been committed in this particular case, we are of opinion that the offence can be treated as being one of a technical nature and therefore we take the view that the fines must be reduced.

11. Accordingly in the case of the appellant company we reduce the fine from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 1,000 and in the case of the personal appellant we reduce the fine from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 100. In the review for enhancement of sentence the rule is discharged. The balance of fines, if paid, will be refunded.


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