Gangdharao Rao, J.
1. A lorry was intercepted by the Inspector of Police, Vigilance Cell, Nellore, near Akkampeta on the Grand Trunk Road to Madras on 2-11-1974. Akkampeta is in the belt area declared under the provisions of the Southern States (Regulation of Export of Rice order 1964). The Inspector of Police Vigilance Cell, found in that lorry 100 bags of charcoal and 73 bags of rice, underneath the charcoal bags. When questioned by the Inspector, the driver produced the goods vehicle register, the permit issued by the District Forest Officer and the way bill. The goods vehicle register showed that 200 bags of charcoal were being transported from Bedusupalli in Nellore District to Madras. The permit was issued by the District Forest Officer, Nellore only for the transport of 200 bags of charcoal in favour of one Sri Sabjan of Nellore. The way bill was for transporting 200 bags of charcoal from Bedusupalli to Madras. The driver of the lorry did not produce any permit, bill or way bill pertaining to the load of 73 bags of rice. When questioned about the rice, the driver stated that 73 bags of rice were loaded at Siddipuram in Nellore District under the instructions of Sri Pulimi Krishnaiah of Atmakur in Nellore District, who is the owner of the lorry, and that he was accordingly transporting the rice bags, So, the Inspector seized the lorry along with the 78 bags of rice and 100 bags of charcoal, for the contravention of Clause 3 of the Southern States (Regulation of Export of Rice) Order 1964, for attempting to smuggle rice to Madras from Siddipuram in Nellore District. Clause 3-A (a) of the said order, for transporting into border (belt) area from outside the border area, Clause 4(2) of the Andhra Pradesh Rice Procurement (Levy) and Restriction on Sale Order 1964, for transporting rice without a permit and Clause 3 of the Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Hoarding of Food Grains Order, 1973 for being in possession of 73 bags of rice without a permit.
2. Since there was a prima facie case notices were issued under Section 6-A of the Essential Commodities Act, by the District Revenue Officer, Nellore to Sri Pulimi Krishnaiah, the owner of the lorry, and Sri P. Sabjan of Nellore, in whose favour the permit was issued for transport of charcoal by the District Forest Officer, as to why the lorry along with the charcoal and the rice bags should not be confiscated. They stated that Pulimi Krishnaiah had nothing to do with the lorry, that it actually belongs to Shaik Rahim, the petitioner herein.
3. Subsequently, Shaik Rahim, the petitioner herein, filed a petition before the District Revenue Officer stating that the lorry belonged to him. So, a show cause notice was also issued to him for the confiscation of the lorry. He stated that he was the owner of the lorry, that he had no knowledge that the rice bags were loaded into the lorry apart from the charcoal bags, that he was present when the lorry was loaded with 200 bags of charcoal at Badusupalli, that subsequently he got information that on the way at Siddipuram the lorry was stopped by some persons and they persuaded the lorry driver to unload 100 bags of charcoal and load in 73 bags of rice. He also said that he had given strict instructions to the driver not to load any contraband goods.
4. The District Revenue Officer held that it was not proved by the respondents before him, that some ryots obstructed the lorry at Siddipuram and forcibly loaded the rice bags into the lorry, In the result, he held that it was a case of smuggling of rice from the State of Andhra Pradesh into the State of Tamil Nadu and consequently directed confiscation of the charcoal and rice bags. He also directed the confiscation of the lorry on the ground that the driver was deliberately transporting rice without any bill or permit, he was the agent of the owner and the person in charge of the vehicle, and the owner had not taken any steps to prevent smuggling.
5. Against that order, the petitioner preferred an appeal to the Sessions Judge, Nellore and the appeal was dismissed. It was admitted before the learned Sessions Judge that there was contravention of the provisions of Clause 3-A (a) of the Southern States (Regulation of Export of Rice) Order 1964, but it was argued that the owner had no knowledge that the rice bags were loaded into the lorry apart from the charcoal bags, that he was present when the lorry was loaded with 200 bags of Charcoal, that later on he got information that at Siddipuram, the lorry was stopped by some persons and they persuaded the lorry driver to unload 100 bags of charcoal and load in 73 bags of rice.
6. The learned Sessions fudge held that the petitioner did not adduce any evidence to prove his version and that it was an afterthought The learned Judge held that in view of the clandestine nature of the whole transaction, the owner must have known about the fact of the rice being loaded into his lorry. So he confirmed the order of confiscation.
7. In this revision, it is contended by Sri Padmanabha Reddy, the learned Counsel for the petitioner that the owner of the lorry had no knowledge that the rice bags were loaded into his lorry and that it is a negative fact, which cannot be proved by the petitioner, and that he has taken all the reasonable and necessary precautions and, so, the lorry should not have been confiscated.
8. Under Section 6-A of the Essential Commodities Act 1955, if an essential commodity is seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3, it should he produced before the Collector of the District and if the Collector is satisfied that there has been contravention of the Order, he may order confiscation of the essential commodity so seized and any vehicle used in carrying such an essential commodity. Under Sub-section (1) of Section 6-B, no order confiscating a vehicle shall be made under Section 6-A, unless the owner of such vehicle is given a notice in writing informing him of the grounds on which it is proposed to confiscate the vehicle, and he is given an opportunity for making a representation in writing against the grounds of confiscation, and he is given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in the matter.
Sub-section (2) of Section 6-B reads as follows:
Without prejudice to the provisions of Sub-section (1), no order confiscating any animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance shall be made under Section 6-A if the owner of the animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance proves to the satisfaction of the Collector that it was used in carrying the essential commodity without the knowledge or connivance of the owner himself, his agent, if any, and the person in charge of the animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance and that each of them had taken all reasonable and necessary precautions against such use' These provisions show that confiscation of the vehicle by the Collector is not mandatory but only discretionary and the vehicle shall not be confiscated if the owner is able to prove to the satisfaction of the Collector that the vehicle was used in carrying the essential commodity without his knowledge or connivance or of his agent, if any, and the person in charge of the vehicle, and that each of them had taken all reasonable and necessary precautions against such use.
9. So, it is not sufficient for the owner to prove that the vehicle carried the essential commodity without his knowledge car connivance. He must also prove that the vehicle was used without the knowledge ox connivance of the person in charge of the vehicle In addition, he must prove that not only he but also the person in charge of the vehicle had taken all reasonable and necessary precautions against such use.
10. In this case, the version of the petitioner was not believed by both the lower tribunals. Even assuming his version to be true, still, that will not absolve him. The driver was the person in charge of the vehicle. So, the petitioner must also prove that the vehicle was used for carrying the rice bags without the knowledge or connivance of the driver and that the driver had also taken all reasonable and necessary precautions against such use. There is no such proof. On the contrary, the explanation given by the driver is altogether different and contrary to the explanation given by the petitioner. The driver has stated that 73 bags of rice were loaded at Siddipuram according to the instructions of Sri Pulimi Krishnaiah of Atmakur. who is the owner of the lorry and he was transporting the rice bags according to his instructions. In view of that, I have to hold that the order of confiscation is valid.
11. Sri Padrnanabha Reddy has argued that under Section 6-A of the Essential Commodities Act, confiscation is not compulsory. I agree with him. He also relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court in State of M.P. v. Azad Bharat Finance Co. : 1967CriLJ285 , In that case, when a truck was searched by the Excise Sub-Inspector he found contraband opium in it. Five persons were challaned for the illegal possession of the contraband opium and for its transport under the Opium (Madhya Bharat Amendment) Act 1955. Here it may be mentioned that the truck was taken by Harbajan Singh one of the accused, under hire-purchase agreement from M/s. Azad Bharat Finance Co. The District Magistrate convicted three persons and acquitted one person. He ordered that the truck shall be confiscated to the State on the ground that it was mandatory for him to confiscate the truck under Section 11(d) of the Opium (Madhya Bharat Amendment) Act 1955. Revisions were filed by both Harbajan Singh and M/s. Azad Bharat Finance Co. in the court of the Sessions Judge against the order of confiscation of the truck and they were allowed. The State filed an appeal before the Supreme Court. While construing Section 11(d) of the Opium (Madhya Bharat Amendment) Act 1955, the Supreme Court held that it was only permissive and not obligatory to confiscate the truck. Then the learned Judge observed as follows:
Three considerations are relevant in construing Section 11. First, it is not denied by Mr. Shroff that it would be unjust to confiscate the truck of a person if he has no knowledge whatsoever that the truck was being used for transporting opium. Suppose a person steals a truck and then uses it for transporting contraband opium. According to Mr. Shroff, the truck would have to be confiscated. It is well recognised that if a statute leads to absurdity, hardship or injustice, presumably not intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words, and even the structure of the sentence (vide Tirath Singh v. Bachittar Singh : 2SCR457 .
Secondly, it is a penal statute and it should if possible, be construed in such a way that a person who has not committed or abetted any offence should not be visited with a penalty.
Thirdly if the meaning suggested by Mr. Shroff is given Section 11(d) of the Madhya Bharat Act may have to be struck down as imposing unreasonable restrictions under Article 19 of the Constitution. Bearing all these considerations in mind, we consider that Section 11 of the Madhya Bharat Act is not obligatory and it is for the Court to consider in each case whether the vehicle in which the contraband opium is found or is being transported should be confiscated or not, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
12. But the wording of Sections 6-A and 6-B of the Essential Commodities Act is different, and I do not see how that decision helps the petitioner.
13. He also relied upon the decision of Justice Muktadar in Crl. R. Cs. 857 and 890 of 1975 (Andh Pra). That was also a case where a lorry was confiscated under Section 6-A of the Essential Commodities Act. But on the facts of that case, the learned Judge held that the petitioners had proved that the rice was being transported in the lorry without their knowledge or connivance, and so set aside the order of confiscation of the lorry.
14 In the case on hand, the versions given by the driver, Sri Pulimi Krishnaiah and the petitioner differ. The petitioner has not adduced any evidence in proof of his version. He did not satisfy the requirements of Sub-section (2) of Section 6-B. So. I am of the opinion that, on the facts of this case, the confiscation of the lorry of the petitioner is justified.
15. Hence, this revision is dismissed.