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Oswal Vanaspati and Allied Industries Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil;Food Adulteration
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Miscellaneous Application Nos. 6825 and 6826 of 1982
Judge
Reported in[1992]75CompCas770(All)
ActsPrevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 - Sections 16 and 17(1); General Clauses Act, 1897 - Sections 3(42)
AppellantOswal Vanaspati and Allied Industries
RespondentState of Uttar Pradesh
Appellant AdvocateD.S. Swahney, ;Palok Basu, ;Ram Nath Mitra and ;Dinesh Chandra, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateGirdhar Malviya, Adv.
Excerpt:
- - the word 'person' in section 16 of the act includes a company in view of the definition of person given in section 3(42) of the general clauses act, 1897 ;section 16 of the act thus applies to companies as well as to natural persons. we are, therefore, of the opinion that awarding a sentence of fine only to a company under section 16 of the act wherein both the sentence of imprisonment and fine is jointly prescribed for offences committed by a natural person as well as a company is not illegal. the high court was clearly in error in dosing so. that case is also clearly distinguishable......cannot be prosecuted as it cannot be punished. if, however, both sentence of imprisonment and fine is prescribed for natural persons and juristic persons jointly then though the sentence of imprisonment cannot be awarded to a company, the sentence of fine can be imposed on it. thus, it cannot be held that in such a case the entire sentence prescribed cannot be awarded to a company as a part of the sentence, namely, that of fine can be awarded to it. legal sentence is the sentence prescribed by law. a sentence which is in excess of the sentence prescribed is always illegal but a sentence which is less than the sentence prescribed may not in all cases be illegal. it would depend on whether the entire sentence prescribed can be awarded to the convicted person or only a part of the.....
Judgment:

Brahm Nath Katju, J.

1. Oswal Vanaspati and Allied Industries, Ludhiana (Punjab), has filed Criminal Miscellaneous Application No. 6825 of 1982, under Section 482, Criminal Procedure Code, to quash the complaint filed against it by the Food Inspector, Nagar Palika Shamli, District Muzaffarnagar under Sections 7(1), 5, 16(1)(a)(ii) and 16(1C) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'), and the proceedings instituted on its basis in the Court of the Special Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences), Kairana, Muzaffarnagar.

2. Oswal Vanaspati and Allied Industries and Harish Kumar, works manager of Oswal Vanaspati and Allied Industries, have filed Criminal Miscellaneous Application No. 6826 of 1982 to quash the complaint filed by the Food Inspector, Nagar Palika Shamli, under Section 7/16 of the Act and the proceedings instituted on its basis in the Court of the Special Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences), Kairana district, Muzaffarnagar.

3. It was contended by learned counsel for the applicants before the learned single judge at the time of hearing of the two applications that Oswal Vanaspati and Allied Industries being a company (juristic person) cannot be prosecuted for an offence under Section 16 of the Act as the sentence of imprisonment provided under that section after its amendment by the Prevention of Food Adulteration (Amendment) Act, No. 34 of 1976, which is mandatory cannot be awarded to it. Learned counsel for the applicants in support of his contention placed reliance on the case of State of Maharashtra v. Jugmander Lal, AIR 1966 SC 940, and the Division Bench case of this court in Modi Industries Ltd. v. B. C. Goel [1981] Tax LR 990 ; [1983] 54 Comp Cas 835. Learned counsel for the State, on the other hand, contended that Oswal Vanaspati and Allied Industries being a juristic person could not be awarded the sentence of imprisonment provided under Section 16 of the Act but could be awarded a sentence of fine provided under that section. It could thus be prosecuted under Section 16 of the Act. In support of his contention he relied on a Full Bencn decision of the Delhi High Court in the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi v.J. B. Bottling Company Pvt. Ltd. [1975] Crl. LJ 1148.

4. The learned single judge was not in agreement with the observations of the Division Bench of this court in the case of Modi Industries Ltd. v. B. C. Goel [1983] 54 Comp Cas 835, that the Full Bench decision of the Delhi High Court in the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. J. B. Bottling Co. Pvt. Ltd, [1975] Crl. LJ 1148 ran counter to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Jugmander Lal, AIR 1966 SC 940. He, therefore, referred the undermentioned questions to a Full Bench.

(i) Whether in view of the substantive sentence provided under Section 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, while the company is a juristic person cannot suffer substantive sentence, section 17(1)(b) is rendered nullified and the company cannot be prosecuted under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act ?

(ii) Whether under the rules of interpretation of statute the express provisions of Section 17(1)(b) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, providing for prosecution of the company can be reconciled with Section 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, which provides for imposition of fine besides substantive sentence, by imposing fine, when the company as a juristic person cannot suffer imprisonment and it can be held by way of reconciliation of the two provisions that substantive sentence is to be imposed only where it can be so imposed and admits of execution, hence imposition of fine alone would be permissible

5. We are required to answer the above-mentioned two questions.

6. It appears from a plain reading of Section 17(1) of the Act that when an offence under the Act has been committed by a company the persons mentioned therein and also the company shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished. The word 'person' in Section 16 of the Act includes a company in view of the definition of person given in Section 3(42) of the General Clauses Act, 1897 ; Section 16 of the Act thus applies to companies as well as to natural persons. The punishment for offences provided under Section 16 of the Act is both of imprisonment and fine. Both these sentences are mandatory.

7. A company being a juristic person cannot obviously be sentenced to imprisonment as it cannot suffer imprisonment. The question that requires determination is whether a sentence of fine alone can be imposed on it under Section 16 of the Act or whether such a sentence would be illegal and hence cannot be awarded to it. It is settled law that sentence or punishment must follow conviction and if only corporal punishment is prescribed a company which is a juristic person cannot be prosecuted as it cannot be punished. If, however, both sentence of imprisonment and fine is prescribed for natural persons and juristic persons jointly then though the sentence of imprisonment cannot be awarded to a company, the sentence of fine can be imposed on it. Thus, it cannot be held that in such a case the entire sentence prescribed cannot be awarded to a company as a part of the sentence, namely, that of fine can be awarded to it. Legal sentence is the sentence prescribed by law. A sentence which is in excess of the sentence prescribed is always illegal but a sentence which is less than the sentence prescribed may not in all cases be illegal. It would depend on whether the entire sentence prescribed can be awarded to the convicted person or only a part of the prescribed sentence can be awarded to him. If the entire prescribed sentence can be awarded to a convicted person then awarding only a part of the prescribed sentence is illegal. But if only a part of the prescribed sentence can be imposed on a convicted person and not the entire sentence prescribed, then imposition of that part of sentence cannot be held to be illegal. Thus, if the prescribed sentence is of imprisonment and fine, then both these sentences must be awarded to a natural person as he can suffer both. If part of such a sentence is awarded to a natural person, it would be illegal. In the case of a company, however, awarding only a part of such a prescribed sentence, namely, fine, cannot be held to be illegal as a company cannot suffer imprisonment. We are, therefore, of the opinion that awarding a sentence of fine only to a company under Section 16 of the Act wherein both the sentence of imprisonment and fine is jointly prescribed for offences committed by a natural person as well as a company is not illegal.

8. It was observed in the case of Modi Industries Ltd. v. B. C. Goel [1983] 54 Comp Cas 835, 840 (All).

'Learned counsel for the respondents invited our attention to the decision of a Full Bench of the Delhi High Court in Municipal Corpora-tion of Delhi v. J. B. Bottling Co. (P.) Ltd. [1975] Crl. LJ 1148. In that case, under the relevant provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act . . . punishment of imprisonment and with fine could be imposed. By a process of interpretation and reading down, the Full Bench held that . if a punishment of imprisonment could not possibly be imposed upon a juristic person it was permissible to award the punishment of fine only. Such a situation does not arise in our case. In our case, only imprisonment was awardable. This decision seems to run counter to the view of the Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra v. Jugmander Lal, AIR 1966 SC 940. There it was held that the expression 'shall be punishable with imprisonment and also with fine' means that the court is bound to pass sentence consisting both of imprisonment and fine.'

9. With respect we are not in agreement with the observation made in the above mentioned case that the decision of the Full Bench of the Delhi High Court in Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. J. B. Bottling Co. Pvt Ltd. [1975] Crl. LJ 1148, runs counter to the view of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Jugmander Lal, AIR 1966 SC 940. In the case of State of Maharashtra v. Jugmander Lal, AIR 1966 SC 940, the Supreme Court was considering the case of a natural person convicted under Section 3(1) of the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956, under which a sentence of imprisonment and fine was provided. It was not considering the case of a juristic person. It was, therefore, held, in that case, that the court was bound to award the sentence of imprisonment and fine provided under Section 3(1) of the said Act to the accused. The case of State of Maharashtra v. Jugmander Lal, AIR 1966 SC 940, thus is not an authority for the proposition that if a mandatory sentence of imprisonment and fine is prescribed jointly for natural persons and juristic persons then the sentence of fine only cannot be awarded to a company. The said case, therefore, does not run counter to the Full Bench decision of the Delhi High Court in the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. J. B. Bottling Co. Pvt. Ltd. [1975] Crl. LJ 1148.

10. It was observed in the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. S. R. Rangadamappa, AIR 1982 SC 1492.

'We are unable to understand why the High Court reduced the sentence. The statute prescribes a minimum sentence. It does not provide for any exceptions and does not vest the court with any discretion to award a sentence below the prescribed minimum under any special circumstances. The learned judge has himself noticed that the sentenceimposed is the statutory minimum. Having noticed that the statute prescribes a minimum sentence for the offence, the High Court has understandably reduced the sentence of imprisonment to less than the minimum permissible. The High Court was clearly in error in dosing so.'

11. In that case, the accused was convicted by the Magistrate under Section 34A of the Andhra Pradesh Excise Act and sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment which was the minimum sentence provided under that section but the High Court reduced it to the period already undergone. In that case, the accused was also a natural person and not a juristic person. That case is also clearly distinguishable.

12. We are thus in respectful agreement with the view taken by the Full Bench Decision of the Delhi High Court in the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. J. B. Bottling Co. Pvt. Ltd. [1975] Crl. LJ 1148, that a sentence of fine only can be awarded to a company under Section 16 of the Act.

13. For the reasons given above our answer to the first question is in the negative and to the second question is in the affirmative.

14. Let our opinion be placed before the appropriate Bench.


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