V.N. Misra, J.
1. These are four connected revisions by A. L. Birla against the judgment and order dated 22nd July, 1980 of Sri P. C. Saxena, Sessions Judge, Pilibhit in four Criminal Appeals which were dismissed by the learned Sessions Judge and the conviction of the applicant under Section 22 of the U. P. Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Act, 1953, and the sentence imposed on him was maintained.
2. The applicant A. L. Birla was General Manager of L. H. Sugar Factory, Pilibhit. In the year 1977 before the crushing season for sugarcane started he made an application to the Collector for grant of licence to fourteen persons whom he wanted to employ as Weighment Clerks at different purchasing centres of this sugar factory and paid the necessary licence fee. The Collector could not decide this application because there were certain complaints against some of these persons nominated as Weighment Clerks and the factory started working and these Weighment Clerks also started functioning at different purchasing centres. In February 1978, the Senior Cane Development Inspector visited some of these centres and found that the Weighment Clerks were working at those centres without having obtained any licence from the Collector, Pilibhit. Since this was a contravention of the rules framed under the U. P. Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Rules, therefore, the Assistant Sugarcane Commissioner, Bareilly filed four complaints against the applicant in respect of these various Weighment Clerks working without licence and in those four cases the applicant has been convicted as aforesaid. Hence these revisions.
3. The applicant deposited the necessary licence fee for these fourteen persons whom he nominated to work as Weighment Clerks at different purchasing centres of this sugar factory and made an application under Rule 87 of the U. P. Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Rules for grant of licence to them. This application was made before the crushing season that year started, which usually starts by the middle of November. The licence for these fourteen Weighment Clerks was hot received by the applicant, who was occupier of this factory and in May, 1978, an intimation was sent to the occupier that licence for which he had made an application for the fourteen Weighment Clerks had not been granted. Since the Collector found that Weighment Clerks working at these purchasing centres were not licenced, he, therefore, issued a notice to the occupier to show cause why he should not be prosecuted. Then, the occupier stated that he may be granted licence with retrospective effect from the date when the factory started. The force of this contention was accepted by the Collector but the Commissioner did not agree and no licence could be granted to the occupier for these fourteen Weighment Clerks with retrospective effect and because they were working without licence the applicant was prosecuted and has been convicted as aforesaid.
4. The first point raised by the learned Counsel for the applicant was that the applicant had not made his fourteen Weighment Clerks work with any guilty intention and mens rea was completely absent from the manner in which they were functioning and because mens rea was an essential ingredient of a criminal offence unless excluded by statute, therefore, the applicant could not be convicted. It was pointed out that before the crushing season started the applicant made an application for the grant of licence under Rule 87, deposited the prescribed licence fee as required by Rule 88 and also nominated the fourteen persons as Weighment Clerks to work at different purchasing centres. After having made this application and having deposited the licence fee and having nominated these persons to work as Weighment Clerks the occupier got an impression that licence must have been granted to them, and, therefore, he started running the factory with the help of Weighment done by these clerks and there was absolutely no mens rea in his having utilised the services of these Weighment Clerks.
5. What seems to have delayed the decision of the Collector in respect of the application made for licence to these fourteen Weighment Clerks was that complaints were made against the working of some of these Weighment Clerks in the previous years and proceedings had also been initiated against them, but those proceedings had not been decided and they had not been convicted. There-.fore. another application was made for grant of licence to those very persons by the applicant, but the Collector was unable to decide whether he should grant licence to them or not. The licence of those Weighment Clerks against whom complaints were made were, however, neither suspended nor cancelled in the previous year. The Collector also wrote to the Commissioner that since the complaints which had been made against some of these Weighment Clerks were not proved, therefore, there would be no justification in not granting them licence and he said that licences may be given to them as prayed by the occupier, This was, however, not accepted and though there was nothing to show that the complaints against some of these Weighment Clerks made in the previous year had any substance for months together the Collector could not decide the matter, no licence could be Issued to those Weighment Clerks and they worked at different centres without licence.
6. At this stage reference may be made to a decision of the Hon'ble the Supreme Court in Nathulal v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1966 SC 443 : 1966 Cri LJ 71. That was a case in which the appellant before the Supreme Court was a dealer in foodgrains at Dhar in Madhya Pradesh. He was prosecuted for having in stock 885 mds. and 2 1/4 seers of wheat for the purpose of sale without holding a licence. He had made an application for grant of licence to him, had also deposited the necessary licence fee but licence could not be granted to him. In spite of it he worked as a dealer of foodgrains, purchased grain from time to time and sent returns to the licensing authority showing the grains purchased by him. He also stated that he made continuous efforts for two months to get the licence and the Inspector gave assurance to him that he need not worry and licence would be sent to his residence. On these facts the Hon'ble Judges of the Supreme Court by majority decision held that he worked as a dealer in foodgrains without any mens rea and could not be convicted. It would be noted that when that dealer made efforts for two months to get the licence he knew that licence had not been granted to him and in spite of this knowledge he worked as a dealer. Then, he was told by the Inspector that licence would be sent to him at his residence. Then, again he knew that licence had not been granted to him and yet he worked as a dealer in foodgrains. In spite of it on the facts of the case the learned Judges held that there was no mens rea in his working as a dealer of foodgrains. The facts of the present case are somewhat parallel. The applicant had made an application under Rule 87 to the Collector for grant of licence to these fourteen Weighment Clerks. He had nominated them to work as Weighment Clerks at different purchasing centres and he also deposited the necessary licence fee as required by Rule 88. He also thought that licence must have been granted to them because it was a licence only for Weighment Clerks who were very petty officials. They were only required to weigh the sugarcane at different purchasing centres and then they were to enter it in the books of the sugar factory. Licence to these Weighment Clerks was licence to very low kind of officials and therefore there could be no reason to refuse it. Therefore, the applicant thought that the licence must have been issued and what is very significant is that the applicant was never informed that licences had been refused to these Weighment Clerks. In fact, the evidence before the Additional Sessions Judge was that in May, 1978 intimation was sent to the applicant as occupier that licences for which he had applied has not been granted. There is no document on record to show that such intimation was sent to the applicant but even if it was sent thin intimation was sent after close of the crushing season and at a time when the applicant could do nothing in the matter. Since, however, he had made an application for grant of licence to them he had nominated them as Weighment Clerks, he had paid their licence fee and he had reasons to expect that licence had been granted to them and no intimation was sent to him that licence for them had not been granted, therefore, when the applicant made them work as Weighment Clerks at different purchasing centres, he certainly made them work in this manner without any mens rea. Since mens rea is an essential ingredient of a criminal offence therefore in the total absence Of mens rea the applicant could not be convicted.
7. All these Criminal Revisions are, therefore, allowed. The conviction and sentence of the applicant are hereby set aside. Fine, if paid, shall be refunded to him.