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Atmakuri Venkatratnam Vs. District Magistrate, Prakasam District, Ongole - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 3654 of 1982
Judge
Reported in1982CriLJ2024
ActsPrevention of Blackmarketing Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 - Sections 3(1) and 3(2); Maintenance of Internal Security Act; Essential Commodities Act, 1955
AppellantAtmakuri Venkatratnam
RespondentDistrict Magistrate, Prakasam District, Ongole
Appellant AdvocateV. Ramana Reddy, Adv.
Respondent AdvocatePublic Prosecutor
Excerpt:
.....illegal stock of levy sugar found - petitioner challenged detention on ground that his licence of fair price shop dealer has been terminated and he is not subject to act of 1980 - object of act is to prevent blackmarketing - petitioner indulged in activities prejudicial to maintenance of supplies of essential commodity - held, detention order valid. - motor vehicles act (59 of 1988)section 149 (2): [v. gopala gowda & jawad rahim, jj] insurers entitlement to defend the action joint appeal by insured and insurer - held, the language employed in enacting sub-section (2) of section 149 appears to be plain and simple and there is no ambiguity in it. it shows that when an insurer is impleaded and has been given notice of the case, it is entitled to defend the action only on grounds..........as follows :- 'you are a resident of martur village, addanki taluk of prakasam district. you are a fair price shop dealer in martur village dealing with the distribution of essential commodities under public distribution system your fair price shop is located at door no. 3-235 of martur village. on credible information that you are indulging in clandestine business in levy sugar, the district supply officer, ongole surprised your fair price shop at 4.00 p.m. on 22-4-1982. you were not available. the following commodities are available in your shop. wheat 6 quintals (six) sugar q. 8-12-800 grams. cement 194 bags. your son sri atmakuri seetaramanjaneyulu was present and he produced the accounts relating to distribution of wheat only. the stock of wheat available tallied with the.....
Judgment:

Gangadhara Rao, J.

1. This petition, for a writ of habeas corpus, is filed to release the petitioner Sri Atmakuri Venkataratnam. The District Magistrate, Prakasam District, Ongole, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3(2) of the Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) passed an order of detention on the petitioner under section 3(1)(b)(i) of the said Act on 18th May, 1982, Grounds of detention were served upon him. He is now lodged in Central Jail, Visakapatnam.

2. The grounds of detention read as follows :-

'You are a resident of Martur village, Addanki Taluk of Prakasam District. You are a fair price shop dealer in Martur village dealing with the distribution of essential commodities under public distribution system Your fair price shop is located at Door No. 3-235 of Martur village.

On credible information that you are indulging in clandestine business in levy sugar, the District Supply Officer, Ongole surprised your fair price shop at 4.00 p.m. on 22-4-1982. You were not available. The following commodities are available in your shop.

Wheat 6 Quintals (six)

Sugar Q. 8-12-800 grams.

Cement 194 bags.

Your son Sri Atmakuri Seetaramanjaneyulu was present and he produced the accounts relating to distribution of wheat only. The stock of wheat available tallied with the book-balance. Simultaneously, your residential house-cum-retail shop located in Door No. 7-160 was also checked by the District Supply Officer, Ongole and it was found that a quantity of 32 quintals of sugar was stocked therein. As per retail levy sugar licence bearing No. 44/ADK/77 held by you, you shall carry on the sugar business at Door No. 3/70 of Martur village. But actually you are carrying on business as Fair Price Shop dealer at Door No. 3-235 of Martur and retail business at Door No. 7-160 of Martur village. Both these places where stocks of sugar are found are not authorised places and that you have violated Clause 3 (1) of A.P. Sugar Dealers Licensing Order 1963. Further your son Sri Seetharamanjaneyulu did not either produce the accounts or give satisfactory explanation for the said stock. The District Supply Officer, Ongole, believed that the stocks relate to levy sugar and that they are kept there for blackmarketing. Hence the District Supply Officer seized the said stocks of sugar under the cover of a mediatornama and handed over the stocks to the Revenue Inspector, Martur for safe custody.

In order to ascertain the factual position from you, the District Supply Officer, Ongole, again visited Martur on the next day i.e., 23-4-1982 and checked your shop. You were present and you have produced the register showing the distribution of sugar. According to the stock books produced, the entire levy sugar was distributed by 31-3-1982. But a check of the residence-cum-retail shop by District Supply Officer Ongole revealed that there is still as stock of 4 quintals and 22 kgs. of sugar unaccounted for in the residential house-cum-retail shop. When enquired you have stated that you have purchased the said stock of 4 quintals and 22 kgs. from the adjoining village fair price shop dealers. When questioned about the particulars of the fair price shop dealers who sold the said stocks to you, you have stated that their identity is not known. You did not produce the bills for the sugar in question. Hence believing that you are indulging in illegal purchase and black marketing of levy sugar, the District Supply Officer, Ongole seized the said stock and handed it over to the Revenue Inspector, Martur for safe custody.

Regarding the stocks of 40 quintals 12 kgs. and 800 grams of sugar seized on the previous day i.e. 22-4-1982, you have stated that it is the March, 1982, you have stated that it is the March, 1982, quota of Konidena and Martur village which you took delivery from the super bazar Addanki on 22-4-1982 at 8.30 a.m. and transported it in lorry AAK-41. You have further stated that as against the total quantity of 55 quintals of sugar taken delivery by you from super bazar, Addanki and transported through lorry No. AAK-41, you have unloaded a quantity of 7 quintals of sugar at the Fair Price Shop of Sri. Y. Venkataramiah at Jannatali village in the first instance and thereafter unloaded 40 quintals of sugar at Martur out of which 24 quintals relate to Martur village and 16 quintals relate to Konidena village. You have stated that you kept 16 quintals of sugar intended for Konidena at your residence as the lorry could not go to Konidena village and that the lorry proceeded to Gannavaram (V) to deliver the remaining stock of 8 quintals to the fair price shop dealer at Gannavaram village. In support of your contention that you lifted the stocks to Martur on 22-4-1982 you cited Sri D. V. Koteswara Rao Section Writer, Taluk Office, Addanki as having followed the lorry along with you and delivered the stock to you under acknowledgment at 10-00 a.m. on 22-4-1982.

In order to verify the genuineness of your statement, the District Supply Officer, Ongole made further enquiries into the matter. Sri D. V. Koteswara Rao Section Writer, Taluk Office, Addanki who was cited by you as the person who accompanied the lorry stated that he delivered sugar stocks to Jonnatali and Gannavaram villages on 23-4-1982 and that he did not go to Martur on 22-4-1982 to deliver the sugar stock to you at Martur and that he simply took acknowledgment from you on 23-4-1982 in token of having delivered sugar stock on 22-4-1982 of which he had no idea whatsoever.

The District Supply Officer, Ongole, enquired Sri N. Varaprasadarao, son of Subrahmanyam, President Addanki Super Bazar to ascertain the actual lifting of sugar from Super Bazar Godown, Addanki. He stated that you come to his super bazar on the affection of 22-4-1982 to take delivery of 55 quintals of sugar intended to Gannavaram, Konidena, Martur and Jannathali and that you left he godown of Super Bazar with 55 quintals of sugar by the lorry No. AAK-41 around 5-30 p.m. on 22-4-1982. He stated that you returned with the lorry to Addanki on the same day at about 7-00 p.m. and kept out of 25 bags of sugar in his personal godown and out of 25 bags out sold away 10 bags of sugar at Addanki itself and proceeded around 7-30 p.m. towards Medarametla on the same lorry with 30 bags of sugar. He further stated that you came alone with Sri Koteswara Rao from Taluk Office, Addanki on 23-4-1982 and took delivery of 15 bags of sugar from his personal godown and proceeded to Jonnatali and Gannavaram villages.

Thus it is evident from the statements of the President Super Bazar, Addanki and Sri Koteswara Rao, Section Writer of Taluk Office that you did not take the sugar stocks to Martur village on 22-4-1982 as contended by you and as regards the stocks of Jonnatali and Gannavaram the stocks were actually delivered at village points on 23-4-1982.

The District Supply Officer, Ongole, also enquired Sri S. Meeravali son of S. Mastan, lorry driver of AAK 41 of Addanki who stated that you contracted him at 4-00 p.m. on 22-4-1982 to hire his lorry for transport of sugar bags to Martur and other 3 villages and took lorry to godown of Super Bazar, Addanki. He stated that no member of Taluk Office staff was available at the time of loading sugar bags into lorry at super bazar godown and 55 bags of sugar was loaded into his lorry. Thus, it is evidence from the statement of the driver of the lorry that the contention of you that Sri D. Koteswara Rao accompanied the lorry and delivered the stock at Martur on 22-4-1982 is totally false. The driver of the lorry further stated that you wrote trip sheet from Addanki to Martur. The lorry driver stated that the lorry bound for Martur left at about 5-30 p.m. on 22-4-1982 but after proceeding 1 km. from Addanki Super Bazar, you have asked him to stop the lorry and went to Taluk Office and came back to lorry around 7-00 p.m. The driver stated that he was asked by you to get back to Addanki and accordingly you unloaded some sugar stock at the private godowns of the President, Super Bazar and then proceeded to Medarametla. At Medarametla village 10 bags of sugar was unloaded and from Medarametla village the lorry proceeded to Ravinutala village and unloaded some sugar stock and returned to medarametla where you left the lorry perhaps left for Martur. The driver further stated that the lorry covered the following trips.

21-4-82 From Addanki to Ganapavaram (with load)

22-4-82 From Gannavaram to Narasaraopet (empty) from Narasaraopet to Jonnalagadda (empty) from Jonnalagadda to Vellampalli (paddy) 9-00 a.m. from Vellampalli to Addanki 2-30 p.m.

The lorry driver stated that you contacted him at 4-00 p.m. on 22-4-1982 for transport of sugar bags only after he returned from Vellampalli to Addanki. Sri Vadigineni Suribabu and 2 other coolies who loaded and unloaded the 55 bags of sugar in lorry AAK 41 on 22-4-1982 have also given their statement which is on record. Sri Madala Subbarao, Managing Partner, Sri Venkata Satyanarayana Rice Mill, Vellampalli gave a statement that the lorry AAK 41 unloaded paddy stock at 1-00 p.m. on 22-4-1982 at his mill.

From the foregoing facts, it is evidence that you actually took delivery of sugar stocks between 4-30 p.m. and 5-30 p.m. on 22-4-1982 but not at 8.30 a.m. as contended by you. Hence the contention that you took the stocks of sugar to Martur and that the stocks available at your shop and residence relate to March 1982 quota is totally false.

Taking a clue from the evidence given by the President Super Bazar, Addanki, the driver of the lorry No. AAK 41, and the hamalis who loaded and unloaded the sugar stocks to District Supply Officer made further investigation at Addanki, Medarametla and Ravinutala villages and unearthed the unauthorised disposal of 40 quintals as against 55 quintals of sugar taken delivery by you from Super Bazar, Addanki.

(i) Seizure of 20 bags of levy sugar at Ravinutala :- Shri Chebrolu Narasambhotlu son of Jagannadham, Ravinutala from whose house the stocks of 20 bags of levy sugar was found stated that around 11-00 p.m. on 22-4-1982, the mutha collies have unloaded the stock of 20 bags of sugar on the pretext that the lorry carrying sugar bags gave trouble. Ascertaining that the stocks were kept there by you for disposing the stocks in black market with a view to derive illegal and huge profits, the District Supply Officer, Ongole seized the stocks on 25-4-1982 and handed over the stocks of the village Munsif Ravinutala for safe custody.

(ii) Seizure of 10 bags of levy sugar at Medarametla : Sri Batchu Anjaneyulu son of Audinarayana of Madarametla village in whose house the stock of 10 bags of levy sugar was found stated that the stock in question was unloaded in his house at 8-00 p.m. on 22-4-1982 from lorry AAK 41. As the explanation given by the house owner is not satisfactory and as per circumstantial evidence, ascertaining that the stocks were kept there by you unauthorisedly for disposing the stocks in black market with a view to derive illegal and huge profits, the District Supply Officer, Ongole, seized the stocks on 27-4-1982 and handed over the stocks to the Village Munsif, Medarametla for safe custody.

(iii) Disposal of 3 bags of sugar in black market to Sri A. Kandaswamy son of Attiyappakounder of Addanki :- Sri A. Kandaswamy son of Attiyappakounder, proprietor of Jaya Sweet Home, addanki, stated that he purchased 3 bags of sugar at Rs. 480/- each from you on 22-4-1982 and utilised the stock for preparation of sweets. The District Supply Officer, Ongole, enquired Sri Kandaswamy on 27-4-1982 and recorded his statement. Thus it is evident that you derived as sum of Rs. 345/- out of this blackmarketing transaction i.e. difference between the black market rate of Rs. 480/- minus the levy sugar rate of Rs. 365/- per quintal.

(iv) Seizure of 6 quintals of levy sugar in Addanki village :- Sri Perla Sahadeva Kumar son of Radhakrishnaiah of Addanki stated that you unloaded the stock of 6 bags of sugar at his house on 22-4-1982 around 7-00 p.m. Ascertaining that you kept the stocks for black marketing, the District Supply Officer, Ongole seized the stock of 6 bags of sugar on 3-5-1982 under the cover of Mediatoranama and handed over the stocks to the Village Munsif of North Addanki for safe custody.

Thus as against the 40 quintals of sugar diverted by you, the District Supply Officer, Ongole investigated into the case and traced out the whereabouts of 39 quintals.

From the foregoing facts, it is evident that you have contravened the Clauses 3(1) and 3(2) of the A.P. Sugar dealers' Licensing Order 1963. The fact that you are indulging in blackmarketing of sugar is clearly seen from the statement given by you on 23-4-1982 before the District Supply Officer; Ongole that you purchased 4 quintals from the adjacent fair price shop dealers which were found in your residence cum retail shop.

Thus, you have acted in the manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community and therefore, you are ordered to be detained under section 3(1)(b)(i) of the Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act 1980 to prevent you from indulging on such acts in the public interest'.

3. The learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner has sent the petition dated 17-6-1982 through his son to the Joint Collector and the District Supply Officer surrendering the sugar licence and the fair price shop dealership on 19th June, 1982, the authorities had received the petition and hence the detention of the petitioner is no longer necessary. In reply to it, it is submitted by the learned Public Prosecutor appearing for the respondents that the Joint Collector had endorsed on the petition to file it before the competent authority and returned it to the Advocate for the petitioner.

4. After the amendment of the Andhra Pradesh Sugar Dealers' Licensing Order, 1963, on 2nd September, 1976, now the Licensing Authority, in relation to a retailer outside the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, is the Tahsildar having jurisdiction over the place of business or storage. according to the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Commodities (Regulation of Distribution by Card System) Order 1973 after its amendment on 26th February, 1981 it is the Revenue Divisional Officer or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in so far as the Districts are concerned that can issue an authorisation to any person being a retail dealer to obtain the supply of scheduled commodities in accordance with the provisions of that order.

5. Therefore the Joint Collector is justified in returning application. In these circumstances it cannot be said that the petitioner has surrendered the sugar licence and the fair price shop dealership, and in future, he cannot act in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supply of commodities essential to the community. Hence this contention is rejected.

6. Next, it was submitted by the learned counsel for the petitioner that after the petitioner was detained, the Tahsildar, Addanki by his proceedings in R.C. No. A/2/3625/82 dated 4th June, 1982 has appointed the President of the Primary Agricultural Co-operative Society, Konanki as fair price shop dealer for Martur village to distribute the essential commodities; thus the detenu's fair price shop dealership has been terminated and the detenu is not concerned with the distribution of essential commodities in future and consequently the detention of the petitioner is no longer necessary. In the counter-affidavit filed by the District Magistrate, it is stated that in order to avoid inconvenience to the consumers the Tahsildar Addanki, has made a temporary arrangement for distribution of essential commodities, since the petitioner had been detained and that the dealership of the detenu had not been suspended or cancelled.

7. The learned counsel for the petitioner has place before us the proceeding of the Tahsildar Addanki Taluk dated 4th June, 1982. He also relied upon K. Ramulu v. State of A.P., (1974-2 APLJ 332) : (1975 Cri LJ 1512). The proceedings of the Tahsildar shows that the Primary Agricultural Co-operative Society, Konanki, is a fair price shop dealer, and 48 quintals of sugar had been allotted to it for Martur for distribution in June 1982. It is true in K. Ramulu v. State of A.P. (supra), Division Bench of this Court dealing with the detention of an authorised fair price shop dealer under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, has stated that subsequent to the order of detention when an order has been passed suspending the authorisation issued to the petitioner therein to run the fair price shop, and directing him to surrender all books and stocks, and the cards of his shop were transferred to other fair price shops, it has rendered him important as it were and even if he is not detained, he cannot any longer indulge in any activity prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies for which he showed a proclivity according to the grounds of detention. Hence the Division Bench allowed the writ petition and directed his release.

8. But, the facts in the present case are different. The sugar licence and the fair price shop dealership of the petitioner have not been suspended, and he was not directed to surrender all the books and stocks. If the Tahsildar has allotted the stocks to another fair price shop in that area, it is because the petitioner who is under detention cannot distribute the sugar and it has still to be distributed to the people; otherwise, they would suffer. Therefore, as a temporary arrangement, it was allotted to another fair price shop in that locality for the month of June and that shop was directed to distribute it to the card-holders. Therefore, the decision has no application to the facts of this case.

9. Here, we may refer to the decision of another Division Bench of this Court in W.P. No. 7832 of 1972 dated 19th January, 1974 where they rejected the contention that the irregularities that were committed by the detenu could be prevented by cancelling or suspending his licence and the detention is unnecessary. In this connection, the learned Judges observed that, if and when the licence of the detenu was cancelled of suspended, the Government may consider the desirability of further continuing the detenu in detention.

10. We may also refer to another Division Bench decision of this Court in W.P. No. 1034 of 1981 dated 17th March, 1981, wherein K. Ramulu v. State of A.P. (1975 Cri LJ 1512) (supra) was distinguished.

11. The learned counsel for the petitioner also relied upon K. V. S. Prasad v. Government of A.P. (1975 Cri LJ 1514). That case is also distinguishable. In that case, the authorisation of the fair price shop owner under the Andhra Pradesh Foodgrains Dealers' Licensing Order was cancelled and it was no longer possible for him to indulge in an activity contemplated by the grounds of detention. The following observation of the Division Bench is significant :

'Nor is it alleged either in the grounds of the detention or in the counter filed by the detaining authority that the petitioner was receiving or may receive rice or other scheduled commodity from a source other than a government source ........ If the detaining authority had in mind the possibility of the petitioner operating in the black market with or without the facility of the authorisation under the Control Offer, or a licence under the foodgrains Dealers' Licensing Order and if there existed grounds of detention relevant for entertaining such an apprehension an order of detention may well be justified ....... There is no indication even in the counter-affidavit that the detaining authority had in contemplation any activity on the part of the petitioner dehors the authorisation'.

In this case, there is no cancellation of the authorisation of the petitioner. In the reply counter-affidavit filed by the District Collector the respondent, it is stated that, even if the dealership of the petitioner is suspended, he would still acquire undistributed sugar from other fair price shop dealers and sell it in black market at higher price in his retail shop. It was further submitted that the petitioner had stated that 4 quintals and 22 kgs. of sugar found with him by the District Supply Officer represented the sugar procured by him from the adjoining village fair price shop dealers. Thus, the facts of that case are distinguishable. Consequently, we reject this contention.

12. Here, it may be noted that the prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) came into force on 5th October, 1979. The object of the Act was to provide for prevention of black marketing and maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community and for matters connected therewith. Under Section 3(1) of the Act, the State Government may, if satisfied, with respect to any person that with a view to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community, it is necessary so to do, make an order directing that such person be detained. For the purpose of this sub-section, the expression 'acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community' means (a) committing or instigating any person to commit any offence punishable under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, or under any other law for the time being in force relating to the control of the production, supply or distribution of, of trade and commerce in, any commodity essential to the community; (b) dealing in any commodity (i) which is an essential commodity ad defined in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, or (ii) with respect to which provisions have been made in any such other law as is referred to in Clause (a), with a view to making gain in any manner which may directly or indirectly defeat or tend to defeat the provisions of that Act or other law aforesaid.

13. In view of these provisions, it is not necessary that a person should be only a fair price shop dealer dealing in an essential commodity. Even if he is not a fair price shop dealer, still, he may deal in an essential commodity in a manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community in which case he can be detained. Even when a fair price shop dealer surrenders his licence, or when it is cancelled, still, in view of his past conduct and antecedents, if he is likely to indulge in a manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community, he could be detained. The object of the Act is to prevent blackmarketing and to maintain supplies of commodities essential to the community. The provisions of this Act are to some extent different from the provisions of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act.

14. Next, the learned counsel for the petitioner argued on the merits of the case. He submitted that when the detenu took delivery of 40 quintals 12 kgs. and 800 grams of sugar from Super Bazar, Addanki on 22nd April, 1982, he had obtained an acknowledgment from Sri D. V. Koteswara Rao who accompanied the lorry to the effect that he delivered the sugar to the detenu's fair price shop and the fair price shop of Komidana. The learned counsel submitted that the said acknowledgment was not produced before the District Magistrate. He also contended that the statement of Sri D. V. Koteswara Rao that he had delivered sugar stocks to Jonnatavi and Gannavaram villages on 23rd April, 1982 and he did not go to Martur on 22nd April, 1982 to deliver sugar stock to the detenu at Martur and he simply took acknowledgment from the detenu on 23rd April, 1982 in token of having delivered sugar stock on 22nd April, 1982 is false.

15. In this petition, we cannot reappraise the material as if it is an appeal over the order of the District Magistrate and come to our own conclusion. When the Legislature has made the subjective satisfaction of the authority the basis for making the order of detention, it is not for this Court to say whether the grounds given in the order are sufficient or not for the subjective satisfaction of the authority. (See Saraswathi Seshagiri v. State of Kerala, : AIR1982SC1165 .

16. The grounds of detention show that the detenu was purchasing sugar from adjoining village fair price shop dealers meant for distribution in those villages and he was selling it to unauthorised persons. It means that even if his sugar licence or the authorisation for the fair price shop is cancelled, still, he may indulge in that activity.

17. In the result we see no grounds to interfere with the impugned order of detention and we dismiss this writ petition. No costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 250/-.

18. Petition dismissed.


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