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Babu Ram Jagannath Vs. the District Magistrate, Meerut and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Writ No. 647 of 1968
Judge
Reported inAIR1970All396
ActsConstitution of India - Article 14; Essential Commodities Act, 1955 - Sections 3, 6A, 6B and 7
AppellantBabu Ram Jagannath
RespondentThe District Magistrate, Meerut and ors.
Appellant AdvocateS.C. Khare, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateStanding Counsel
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....contravenes an order under section 3 will be similarly treated, and prosecuted and punished. 8. section 6-a has not been enacted with a view to provide an alternative to section 7. the obvious intention behind section 6-a appears to be to make a provision for the speedy and effective control and disposal of the seized commodities like foodgrains, edible oil-seeds, or edible oils, etc. the legislature well thought that an order of confiscation or forfeituremay be passed initially, and may not wait till the final disposal of the prosecution, to that end, power has been conferred on the collector to pass suitable orders under section 6-a......6-a appears to be to make a provision for the speedy and effective control and disposal of the seized commodities like foodgrains, edible oil-seeds, or edible oils, etc., which are perishable in nature. the legislature well thought that an order of confiscation or forfeituremay be passed initially, and may not wait till the final disposal of the prosecution, to that end, power has been conferred on the collector to pass suitable orders under section 6-a. this provision is not in substitution of section 7. it is provisional. it provides a measure of an interim relief to the commodities in respect of which a contravention has taken place. it cannot therefore, be said that the scheme of the act contemplates any discrimination between various dealers who may have contravened an order.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Satish Chandra, J.

1. The petitioner is a partnership firm. It carries on the business ofpurchase and sale of foodgrains under licences granted to it under the U. P. Foodgrains Dealers licensing Order, 964. In the evening of 12th August, 19S7, the Senior Marketing Inspector, Hapur, raid-ed the petitioner's business premises and seized a truck-load of Matar Dal (100 bags), on the belief that this commodity was being transferred to M/s. Prayag Das Ved Prakash of Ghaziabad. On 25th August, 1967, the Collector, Meerut, issued a notice requiring the petitioner to show cause why the seized goods be not confiscated under Section 6-A, Essential Commodities Act, for contravention of conditions 9 and 9-A of the aforesaid Licensing Order. The petitioner filed a representation, and contended that the goods were not being transferred as a result of any sale to any other wholesaler. So, there was no contravention of the provisions of conditions 9 or 9-A. The District Magistrate did not accept the petitioner's contention, and, by an order dated 16th October, 1967, directed that 98 quintals 40 klgs. and 700 grams of matar dal which was seized as aforesaid, be confiscated to the State. He came to the finding that the petitioner had entered into a transac-tion of transfer with a firm at Ghaziabad, and the said quantity of the matar dal was being transported in pursuance thereof. Aggrieved, the petitioner filed an appeal under Section 6-C of the Essential Commodities Act The Commissioner affirmed the findings and dismissed the appeal on 28-12-1967.

2. The order of confiscation is challenged in the present writ petition on two grounds. It was submitted that the petitioner did not contravene condition 9 of the aforesaid Licensing Order. Under that condition, a licensee is prohibited from selling foodgrains to a wholesaler in another Mandi or town either directly or through a licensee in form 'F'. It was urged that there was no evidence of any such sale. The finding was, therefore, without any evidence. I am not impressed by this submission. The Collector as well as the Commissioner have relied upon admitted facts and circumstances of the case. They have held that it was admitted that the truck, which was loaded with the seized commodity was going to Ghaziabad. There was a false number plate beneath the driver's seat. Certain papers were found at the time of seizure which indicated that the consignment was required to be delivered to a firm at Ghaziabad. That firm was a wholesale dealer. The petitioner did not offer any adequate explanation. From all these facts, the authorities could legitimately feel satisfied that the goods were being transported in pursuance of a transaction of transfer. On that finding, the order of confiscation was within the purview ofSection 6-A of the Essential Commodities Act.

3. The learned counsel for the petitioner then challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 6-A and 6-B of the Essential Commodities Act. Sections 6-A and 6-B were added to the Essential Commodities Act by the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act No. XXV of 1966. Section 6-A provides that where any food-grains etc., are seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 in relation thereto, they may be produced, without any reasonable delay, before the Collector of the District. The Collector, on being satisfied that there has been a contravention of an order under Section 3, may order confiscation of the foodgrains etc. Section 6-B requires that a notice to show cause must be given to the owner of the seized article and he must be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard, before the order of confiscation is passed. Then under Section 6-C, an appeal lies against the order passed under Section 6-A. Section 6-D provides that the award of confiscation under this Act by the Collector shall not prevent the infliction of any punishment to which the person affected is liable under this Act.

4. Under Section 7 of the Act, a per-son, who contravenes any order made under Section 3, is punishable with the penalties mentioned in its various classes. Under Clause (b), the Court has been empowered to forfeit any property like foodgrains etc., in respect of which an order under Section 3 has been contravened. The proviso confers a discretion on the Court, for reasons to be recorded, to refrain from passing an order of forfeiture. It is thus clear that a person, who has contravened any order under Section 3, is liable to punishment under Section 7. He is liable under Section 6-A to the confiscation of the involved goods. An order of confiscation can be passed under Section 6-A provided the Collector is satisfied that there has been a contravention of an order under Section 3. The question of mens rea is equally relevant to the satisfaction of the Collector under Section 6-A. In Kishori Lal Bihari v. Addl. Collector, 1968 All LJ 175 = (AIR 1969 All 159). I held that for satisfying himself that the provisions of an order under Section 3 have been contravened, the Collector will have to take into consideration the question whether there was an intentional contravention of the order. It was emphasised in that case that an order of confiscation under Section 6-A was provisional and subject to the orders that may be passed by the Court under Section 7. If in a given case, the Collector orders confiscation of goods, it will be open to the Court to pass an order to the contrary, if, for reasons to be recorded, it thinks it fit to do so.

5. The learned counsel for the petitioner urged that it was open to the prosecuting agency to proceed against a dealer under Section 6-A and obtain an order of confiscation of goods and then to quietly sleep over the matter and refrain from prosecuting him with a view to get him punished under Section 7. It was urged that this device can be adopted by the authorities in case they do not wish to run the risk of the order of confiscation passed under Section 6-A being set at naught by the Court under Section 7. The leaving of this discretion with the executive authorities imports the vice of discrimination into the provisions of the Act, because it enables the executive to pick and choose dealers who may or may not be prosecuted under Section 7. The Act does not lay down, any principles or standards to guide the executive in deciding when to prosecute the defaulting dealers and when not to do so.

6. In my opinion, the question of law does not arise because the construction placed by the learned counsel for the petitioner on the various provisions of the Act does not appeal to me. Section 7 says that if a person contravenes any order made under Section 3, he shall be punishable according to its various clauses. It does not, however, say that if any person contravenes any order made under Section 3, he will invariably be prosecuted; but that is implicit in it. It provides for punishment of any person who contravenes an order under Section 3. I am unable to read this provision as conferring any discretion on the authorities to prosecute or not to prosecute any defaulting dealer. The obvious intention of the legislature was that each and every person contravening an order under Section 3 was liable to be prosecuted and punished.

7. It is true that the Act does not provide for any penalty upon the executive authorities for failure to prosecute a dealer for a contravention of an order under Section 3. Lack of such a provision by itself would not suggest that the Legislature conferred a discretion on the authorities not to initiate a prosecution if the facts justify it The Legislature, in my opinion, clearly contemplated that every dealer who contravenes an order under Section 3 will be similarly treated, and prosecuted and punished.

8. Section 6-A has not been enacted with a view to provide an alternative to Section 7. The obvious Intention behind Section 6-A appears to be to make a provision for the speedy and effective control and disposal of the seized commodities like foodgrains, edible oil-seeds, or edible oils, etc., which are perishable in nature. The Legislature well thought that an order of confiscation or forfeituremay be passed initially, and may not wait till the final disposal of the prosecution, To that end, power has been conferred on the Collector to pass suitable orders under Section 6-A. This provision is not in substitution of Section 7. It is provisional. It provides a measure of an interim relief to the commodities in respect of which a contravention has taken place. It cannot therefore, be said that the scheme of the Act contemplates any discrimination between various dealers who may have contravened an order under Section 3. These provisions are, therefore, not unconstitutional.

9. The petition fails, and is accordingly dismissed with costs.


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