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Venka Anantha Rao Vs. the State of Andhra Pradesh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1974CriLJ387
AppellantVenka Anantha Rao
RespondentThe State of Andhra Pradesh and ors.
Excerpt:
- - where any essential commodity is seized in pursuance of an order made under section 3 in relation thereto, it may be produced without any unreasonable delay, before the collector of the district or the presidency town in which such essential commodity is seized and whether or not a prosecution is instituted for the contravention of such order, the collector if satisfied that there has been a contravention of the order, may order confiscation of the essential commodity so seized: section 15 protects the acts of those persons who act in good faith in pursuance of any order made under section 3. section 16 provides for repeals and savings. the exclusion of jurisdiction is not to be readily inferred and such exclusion must be either explicitly expressed or clearly implied......is whether the order of the learned additional munsif-magistrate directing the sale of the seized essential commodity is without jurisdiction in view of the provisions of section 6-a of the act. the resolving of the issue raised requires a careful scrutiny of the structure of the act the act itself wag enacted by the parliament in 1955 replacing the provisions of the essential supplies (temporary powers) act, 1946. the act aims at equitable distribution and availability to the public, at a fair price, of essential commodities. the act, therefore, provides for the control of the production, supply and distribution of and trade and commerce in, certain commodities in the interest of the general public. the commodities which were intended to be brought within the purview of the act.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Chennakesav Reddy, J.

1. This revision petition raises a question of law of considerable importance, viz., whether Section 6-A of the Essential Commodities Act. 1955 (10 of 1955). hereinafter referred to as 'the Act', excludes the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court under Sections 516-A and 523 of the Criminal Procedure Code to make an order for the disposal of essential commodity seized and produced before it for contravention of an order made under Section 3 of the Act, For a proper appreciation of the question arising in the case, it is necessary to set out the essential facts.

2. The petitioner is a retail dealer in foodgrains carrying on business at Tuni village in East Godavari District under a licence granted to him by the competent authority. On 13-3-1973 he was transporting 94 bags of rice, each bag weighing 96 Kgs. in a lorry bearing registration No. A. P. A 1411 to Tuni. On the way the lorry was intercepted by the Circle Inspector of Police, Ramachandrapuram, at Ramavaram junction and the the rice bass were seized by him as they were being transported without a permit or licence in contravention of the Andhra Pradesh Rice and Paddy (Restriction on Movement) Order, 1970. The Circle Inspector of Police registered the case as Cri. No. 18 of 1973 of Ramachandrapuram Police Station under Section 7 of the Act. The same day the seized stock was produced before the Additional judicial First Class Magistrate, Ramachandrapuram. The Circle Inspector in his report requested the Magistrate that since the seized stocks are perishable article they may be disposed of to an authorised dealer at an early date. The learned Magistrate passed an order on 14-3-1973 directing the Circle Inspector of Police to sell the seized rice bags either to the Food Corporation of India or to the local Co-operative Society at the rates specified by the quality Inspector of the Food Corporation of India and deposit the sale proceeds in the Court under Miscellaneous Criminal Court deposits. It is this order of the Criminal Court that in Bought to be revised by the petitioner in this revision petition.

3. The problem that Poses Itself for solution is whether the order of the learned Additional Munsif-Magistrate directing the sale of the seized essential commodity is without jurisdiction in view of the provisions of Section 6-A of the Act. The resolving of the issue raised requires a careful scrutiny of the structure of the Act The Act itself wag enacted by the Parliament in 1955 replacing the provisions of the Essential Supplies (Temporary Powers) Act, 1946. The Act aims at equitable distribution and availability to the public, at a fair price, of essential commodities. The Act, therefore, provides for the control of the production, supply and distribution of and trade and commerce in, certain commodities in the interest of the general public. The commodities which were intended to be brought within the purview of the Act were essential commodities as defined in Section 2(a) of the Act. Section 3 empowers the Central Government to make orders providing for the control of Production, supply and distribution of essential commodities, if the Central Government is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient to do so for maintaining or increasing supplies or for securing equitable distribution of any essential commodity. Section 4 imposes a duty on the Government to discharge the duties and exercise the powers vested in it by the Act. Section 5 authorises the Central Government to delegate its powers under Section 3 to make orders either to an Officer or authority subordinate to the Central Government or to the State Government or an officer or authority subordinate to the State Government by a notification in that behalf. Section 6. enumerates 'effect of an order inconsistent with other enactments.' Then comes Section 6-A. Sections 6-A to 6D were inserted by Section 3 of the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. 1968 (Act XXV of 1966). It would be useful and relevant to read Section 6-A which provides for the confiscation of essential commodity seized and produced before the Collector of the district.

6-A. Confiscation of Essential Commodity:

Where any essential commodity is seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 in relation thereto, it may be produced without any unreasonable delay, before the Collector of the district or the Presidency town in which such essential commodity is seized and whether or not a prosecution is instituted for the contravention of such order, the Collector if satisfied that there has been a contravention of the order, may order confiscation of the essential commodity so seized:Provided that without prejudice to any action which may be taken under any other provision of this Act, no foodgrains or edible oil seeds seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 in relation thereto from, a producer shall, if the seized foodgrains or edible oil seeds have been produced by him. be confiscated under this Section.

Section 6-B provides that no order confiscating any essential commodity shall be made under Section 6-A unless the owner of such essential commodity or the person from whom it is seized is given an opportunity of being heard in the matter before the order of confiscation is made. Section 6-C authorises the aggrieved party to appeal against the order of confiscation passed under Section 6-A within one month from the date of the communication of the said order, to any judicial authority appointed by the State Government Section 6-D states that the award of any confiscation by the Collector shall' not prevent the infliction of any punishment to which the person affected thereby is liable under the Act. Section 7 provides for penalties for the contravention of an order under Section 3 of the Act. Section 7(b) empowers the Criminal Court to forfeit to the Government any property in respect of which the order has been contravened or such part thereof as the Court may deem fit including any packages, coverings or receptacles in which the property is found and any animal, vehicles, vessel or other conveyance used in carrying the property. Persons who abet the contravention or attempt to contravene are made liable by Section 8 of the Act. Sections 9 and 10 provide for the punishment of persons who make false statements and offences by companies respectively. Then Section 10-A makes the offences under the Act both bailable and cognizable. Section 11 enjoins that no Court shall take cognizant of any offence punishable under the Act except on a report in writing of the facts constituting such offence made by a person who is a public servant as defined In Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 12 underlines the special provision regarding the imposition of fines and Section 12-A provides the power to make offences under notified orders to be tried In a summary manner. Section 13 deals with the presumption as to orders purported to have been made under the Act, and Section 14 provides about the burden of proof in certain cases. Section 15 protects the acts of those persons who act in good faith in pursuance of any order made under Section 3. Section 16 provides for repeals and savings.

4. It is thus plain from the scheme of the Act that the Act itself contains no special procedure for the constitution of Courts for trying exclusively offences under the Act; nor is there any special procedure for the investigation, enquiry or trial of those offences. In other words, there is nothing in the Act to exclude general jurisdiction of the Criminal Court. The exclusion of jurisdiction is not to be readily inferred and such exclusion must be either explicitly expressed or clearly implied. It is a principle by no means to be whittled down. The rule is based on the theory that people have a right to approach Courts of general jurisdiction unless expressly or impliedly debarred. That this principle is not limited to Civil Courts alone but applies to all Courts of general jurisdiction including criminal Courts, has been expressed with clarity and elegance by the Supreme Court in Bhim Sen v. State of U. P. : 1955CriLJ1010 . There is nothing in the Act either express or implied to exclude the jurisdiction of the Criminal Courts.

5. Looking at the language of Section 6-A of the Act. it is clear that the intention of the Legislature is not to exclude or limit the general jurisdiction of the Criminal Courts. Section 6-A no doubt confers jurisdiction on the Collector to make an order of confiscation of essential commodity seized and produced before him for contravention of an order made under Section 3 of the Act. But what the section itself provides is that the essential commodity seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 'may be produced' before the Collector of the district. The words 'may be produced' are not ordinarily words of compulsion. They imply a discretion. The discretion is given to the authority that seized the essential commodity, to produce the said commodity either before the Collector or before the Criminal Court. The Public servant that seized the essential commodity may not consider a particular case to be a fit case for prosecuting the offender in a Criminal Court. Action under Section 6-A may be considered sufficient. He may consider another case to be so expedient in public interest to prosecute the contravener in a Criminal Court. A discretion is, therefore given to the public servant to produce the seized essential commodity either before a Criminal Court or before the District Collector depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case. When once the seized essential commodity is produced before a Criminal Court, the Criminal Court has jurisdiction to pass an order either under Section 516-A or under Section 523 of the Criminal Procedure Code for the disposal of the property. The mere fact that jurisdiction is conferred on one authority does not necessarily take away the jurisdiction which another already possesses in the same matter. This leads us to the intricate question, viz. 'what then is the nature of the jurisdiction conferred on the Col-lector under Section 6-A of the Act.' In my view the jurisdiction of the Collector is concurrent jurisdiction or simultaneous jurisdiction along with the Criminal Court. Both are authorised to deal with the matter. The complainant has the choice. 'Concurrent jurisdiction' is defined in Warton's Law Lexicon to mean 'the jurisdiction of several different tribunals, both authorised to deal with the same subject matter at the choice of the suitor'. Therefore, the Collector under Section 6-A of the Act and the Criminal Court under Sections 516-A and 523 of the Criminal Procedure Code exercise concurrent jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court is not excluded or limited by Section 6-A of the Act.

6. The learned Counsel for the petitioner Sri Ramana Rao, placing reliance on a decision of the Mysore High Court in State v. Abdul Rasheed AIR 1967 Mys 231 : 1967 Cri LJ 1661, contended that the provisions of Section 6-A of the Act impliedly limited the powers of the Criminal Court in the matter of disposal of essential commodities seized for contravention of an order made under Section 3 of the Act. With great respect to the learned Judge, I cannot agree for the reasons mentioned supra. Any such limitation or exclusion of the powers of Criminal Court cannot be inferred either from the scheme of the Act or the express language employed in Section 6-A itself.

7. It was then urged by the learn-ed counsel that the act of the petitioner amounted only to preparation and not an attempt to commit an offence. The investigation, into the case is still incomplete and it is. therefore, too premature a stage to consider this contention.

8. In the result, the Criminal Re-vision Case fails and it is accordingly dismissed.


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