B.D. Gupta, J.
1. The applicant Chunni Lal has been convicted for the offence punishable under Sections 7/16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, the sentence being rigorous imprisonment for six months and fine in a sum of Rs. 1,000/-.
2. The prosecution case, which, in the opinion of the courts below, stood established, was that on the morning of 26th September, 1969, the applicant sold Baloosahi in a fair held within the jurisdiction of Police Station Sikandra in the district of Kanpur, which, on analysis by the Public Analyst, was found Coloured with a coal-tar dye not permitted for use in articles of food meant for human consumption.
3. The principal contention raised before me is that in the present case the prosecution failed to establish the necessary consent for prosecution of the applicant as required by Section 20 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act). After hearing learned Counsel for the parties at some length and scrutinising the material on record I am inclined to accept this contention.
4. The document on record, which has been relied upon by the prosecution. as complying with the requirements of Section 20 of the Act is a sheet of paper, one side of which is marked as Ext. Ka-4 and the other side of which is marked as Ext. Ka-5. The side of the paper marked as Ext. Ka-4 makes it out to be the intended complaint against the applicant. The court mentioned at the top thereof is 'the court of Sri J. P. Singh S. D. M.. Bhagnipur, Magistrate First Class. Kanpur.' The entire document is in the handwriting of the Food Inspector and is signed by him at its bottom. The date given at the bottom is 1-12-69. The other side of the paper, which has been marked Ext. Ka-5. purports to be the document according sanction for the prosecution of the applicant. All the entries in Ext. Ka-5, except the signature purporting to be that of the District Medical Officer of Health, Kanpur as also the date and the office number thereof, are also in the handwriting of the Food Inspector. At the top of Ext. Ka-5 the office of origin is described as 'office of the Dist. Medical Officer of Health Kanpur'. At the bottom of Ext. Ka-4 the expression 'P.T.O.' is found written and it is not in controversy that the entire body of writing in Ext. Ka-4, as also the entire body of writing in Ext. Ka-5, except for the signature purporting to be that of the Medical Officer of Health, Kanpur and the entry of the date and the reference number, were all made by the Food Inspector on or before the 1st of December. 1969. It is therefore manifest that at the time the Food Inspector formulated the complaint in regard to which consent in writing under Section 20 of the Act. was required before the case was sent to court for prosecution of the applicant, the Food Inspector took it for granted that necessary consent would be given. At the time of Food Inspector wrote out what forms part of the writing in Ext. Ka-5 he left four blank spaces. The first was after the expression 'No', the second was after the word 'Dated', the third was after the expression 'the court of Sri' and before the expression 'Magistrate First Class Kanpur' and the fourth was over the designation of the officer concerned entered as 'District Medical Officer of Health, Kanpur'. It would, therefore, appear that all that the Food Inspector left to be done later on was entry of the reference number of the office, the date of according sanction, the reference of the court to which the complaint was to be sent and the signature of the District Medical Officer of Health. Of the four blank spaces, mentioned above three were filled in later but the space left for specifying the court to which the complaint was intended to be made was not filled in.
5. Besides the paper, referred to above, the two sides of which have been exhibited as Exts. Ka-4 and Ka-5 the only other material on record bearing on the question of sanction consists of the statement of the Food Inspector, which is to the effect that after drawing up of his challan report against the accused he had sent the same to the office of the District Medical Officer of Health for sanction. He also stated that the signature, purporting to be that of the District Medical Officer of Health was that of Sri V. N. Srivastava, D. M. O. H. whose signature he could identify. In cross-examination he admitted that body writing in Ext. Ka-5 was in his own handwriting. On the above material there is no room for doubt that the document (Ext. Ka-5) purporting to be the written consent required by Section 20 of the Act has been signed by the District Medical Officer of Health and it is not in controversy that he is authorized by the State Government to give the necessary consent as required under Section 20 of the Act. The question, however, which arises is as to whether on the material before me and the internal evidence offered by the entries in Exts. Ka-4 and Ka-5 it is possible to accept, what is normally to be presumed, that the authority, concerned applied his mind before appending his signature in Ext. Ka-5.
6. After considering the matter somewhat carefully I cannot get over the conviction that in the present case the signature of the sanctioning authority was appended without that authority having applied its mind to the matter at all.
7. The Food Inspector should have merely forwarded the body of document, Ext. Ka-4 to the sanctioning authority without doing anything more. It is surprising that he should have presumed that the sanctioning authority will accord the necessary permission as is obvious from the entries in Ext. Ka-5. The heading of Ext. Ka-5 'Office of the Distt. Medical Officer of Health. Kanpur' makes it manifest that the entries in Ext. Ka-5 were contemplated to be made by the office of the sanctioning authority and not by the Food Inspector who was the prosecutor. Further in Ext. Ka-5 the entry in the blank after the expression 'No' and the entry of the date opposite the expression 'Dated' is in ink different from the ink in which the signature of the District Medical Officer of Health appears. This makes it manifest that the District Medical Officer of Health did not himself make any entry about the date on which he signed Ext. Ka-5. What is most important is the blank in Ext. Ka-5, after the expression 'To the court of Sri', The fact of this blank leaves no room for doubt that the District Medical Officer of Health did mot care to read what stood written in Ext. Ka-5 at the time he signed it. Learned Counsel for the applicant has pointed out the circumstance that in Ext. Ka-5 the name of the applicant is not mentioned anywhere. This circumstance, however, does not appear to be of much significance, but, as stated earlier, in the state of material referred to above I am convinced that, the sanctioning authority did not apply its mind before appending his signature in document Ext. Ka-5.
8. Learned councel for the State has referred to a decision in State v. Prem Prakash Jauhar AIR 1966 All 504 as also to a decision of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in Jammu Municipality v. Faquir Husain AIR 1968 J & K 17. I have no doubt that no particular form of sanction is necessary nor is it necessary that any reasons for according sanction need be put forward by the sanctioning authority. I have also no doubt that the mere fact that sanction had been granted in a printed form and did not mention that the authority concerned had examined the record and had satisfied itself about the desirability to prosecute the offender did not justify a finding that the sanctioning authority had not applied its mind to the facts of the case. In the present case, however, the internal evidence furnished by Ext. Ka-5 which has been discussed above, has convinced me beyond doubt that the sanctioning authority did not apply its minds to the case at all and that its, signature in Ext. Ka-5 was a purely mechanical act. The provisions about the punishment for the offence alleged to have been committed by the applicant are drastic inasmuch as the law provides a minimum rigorous imprisonment for six months together with a minimum of fine in a sum of Rs. 1,000/-. In regard to an offence considered so serious by the legislature the authorities on whom the duty to accord sanction is cast are expected to pay more attention than appears to have been paid by the officer concerned in the present case. In view of the conclusion I have arrived at I have no option except to hold that there was no valid consent as required by law and the prosecution of the applicant was unauthorised. The result is that the conviction of the applicant must be quashed.
9. The next question is whether fresh proceedings should be directed. In regard to this matter it may first be noted that, the alleged offence was committed over 3 1/2 years ago. What is more important is the amount of harassment and expense the applicant must have already passed through in the course of having to defend himself in the trial court followed by the filing of appeal to the appellate court and the revision which is before me in this Court. It is also manifest that the applicant has already served as an undertrial. though for short periods only, not less than thrice. Taking all these circumstances into account I do not consider it proper to direct fresh proceedings against the applicant.
10. Accordingly this revision is allowed, the conviction of the applicant and the sentence awarded are set aside, and the proceedings against the applicant resulting in the aforesaid conviction and sentence are quashed. The applicant is on bail. He need not surrender. His hail bonds are discharged. Such fine, if any, as may have been already realised from the applicant shall be refunded to him.