I.D. Dua, J.
1. This is an appeal by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi under Section 417 of the Code of Criminal Procedure against the acquittal of the respondent by Shri R. N. Singh, Magistrate Ist Class, Delhi, of the charge under Sections 7/16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.
2. Shri Sohan Lal Mehra, Food Inspector, went to the shop of the accused-respondent on 4.9-1961 at about 12.15 afternoon and found the accused selling curd of milk without indication. The said Inspector took a sample of the same after observing all the necessary formalities. He sent the same to the Public Analyst who declared it to be adulterated due to 40 per cent fat deficiency.
3. The learned Magistrate acquitting the accused observed in his judgment that he could not believe that the accused could have placed two kundas full of curd and two kundas empty along with other articles mentioned in the evidence in one room which the accused is occupying with three or four children of school-going age; the learned Magistrate also observed that since curd was obtained by the Food Inspector from a kunda which contained Only a small quantity, it must have been prepared by the accused for his children. The accused, according to the Court below, sells tea, cigarettes, Pakoras and biri etc. Considering the defence evidence to be natural, the learned Magistrate also observed that the prosecution evidence made the presence of P. W. 2 doubtful. P. W. 2, it may be mentioned, is Shri G. P. Baweja, another Food Inspector. Another conclusion on which the Court arrived was that the accused probably made the curd for his children out of milk left over after its consumption in tea meant for the customers.
4. On appeal our attention has been drawn by the learned Counsel for the appellant to the definition of 'sale' contained in Section 2(xiii) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 37 of 1954. It is in the following terms:
2. In this Act unless the context otherwise requires -
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(xiii) 'sale' with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions, means the sale of any article of food, whether for cash or on credit or by way of exchange and whether by wholesale or retail, for human consumption or use, or for analysis, and includes an agreement for sale, an offer for sale, the exposing for sale or having in possession for sale of any such article and includes also an attempt to sell any such article.
This definition clearly shows that sale includes sale for analysis. The learned Magistrate, according to the appellant's learned Counsel, has completely ignored this definition. Reference has also been made to the evidence and it has been contended that the accused did not tell the Food Inspector that curd out of which the sample was claimed and sold was meant for his private use.
5. After hearing the counsel for the parties and going through the record, it appears to me that the learned Magistrate has dealt with the case somewhat superficially and has failed to apply his mind to the evidence as also to the law on the subject.
6. Sale of the sample is not denied. It is not the case of the accused that he had told the Food Inspector that he does not deal in or sell curd and that the small curd said to be lying in the kunda was for his children. If this were the real position, then at the time when ha pleaded not guilty and claimed a trial, this precise plea should have been in the forefront of his explanation and in the natural course he would have expressed his righteous indignation at the conduct of the Food Inspector. Clearly, he did nothing of the kind.
7. In so far as the witnesses for defence are concerned whom the Court below appears to have believed in preference to the prosecution witnesses, on the ground that their testimony is natural, it is desirable to refer to them at some length. The first defence witness is a neighbour of the accused and, according to him the accused sells tea; at the time the sample in question was taken, this witness, according to his testimony, told the Food Inspector that the accused only sells tea and that the curd lying in the shop is meant for his children. No such suggestion, it may be pointed out, was put to the Food Inspector when he came in the witness-box. The reason for the prosecution given by this witness is that another rival halwai in the neighbourhood of the accused desires to oust the latter from this trade. No enmity against the Food Inspector is, however, suggested. D. W. 2, a labourer, has unequivocally stated that the accused sells nothing else except tea. D. W. 3 has on the other hand sworn that the accused also sells cigarettes and soda. This witness has surprisingly gone a step further and deposed that the Food Inspector was, at the time of demanding sample from the accused, scolding him.
8. In his examination under Section 342, Criminal P, C., the accused has not stated that on his protests that he was not dealing in curd, the Food Inspector scolded him and forced him to give the sample in question, The defence evidence appears to me clearly to be such as can be produced and procured very easily and it certainly does not seem to me to be particularly impressive.
9. P. W. 2 has deposed that in the shop there were also found curd, biscuits and soda etc. It is true that the learned Magistrate has entertained some doubt about the presence of this witness at the spot. I have, however, not found from the record any cogent material which can reasonably throw any doubt about the presence of this witness. The conclusion of the Court below would thus clearly seem to me to be contrary to the record and also based on misapprehension as to the provisions of law contained in the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.
10. I consider it appropriate here to point out that legislation for preventing food adulteration serves a very important role in securing to the citizens a minimum degree of purity in the articles of food and thereby protecting and preserving public health; it also serves to prevent fraud on the consumer public. In the present day increasing tempo of industrialisation and urbanization, the need for the supply of unadulterated food stuffs to the citizens in this socialistic welfare Republic has naturally assumed great importance, and indifferent attitude towards this social evil of fraudulently selling adulterated articles of food is difficult to countenance for, it affects the health of the whole nation, including the children on whom depends the future of the country. Those who commit this offence in respect of one article of food must not forget, but must fully realise, that they are also likely to be similarly defrauded and cheated by dealers in other articles of consumption, which may, for ought one knows, affect their children's health more seriously.
The officers enforcing anti-food adulteration measures are also expected to realise that on their discharge of the solemn duty imposed on them by the statute, depends the health of the entire nation; and any lapse in vigilance on their part or in conscientious discharge of their duty is likely to affect the health of the whole society including their own children. And this must ultimately react unfavourably on the health of the nation and her capacity for effectively safeguarding and defending her liberty. It may also appropriately be observed here that moral values hold an honoured place in a democracy like ours and indeed successful working of democracy under the Rule of law demands a certain minimum standard of firm moral character from the people. Democracy, accordingly, succeeds in the ratio in which the citizens inspire trust in one another for honesty, integrity and truth.
The anti social and anti-national conduct in fraudulently selling adulterated articles seems to me to tend to breed mistrust amongst the citizens and to that extent, it weakens democracy governed by the Rule of law; it is in addition contrary to our ancient Indian tradition of truth and honesty, the disappearance of which from our daily practical life tends to demoralize the nation and grievously obstructs her moral and economic progress. The administrative as well as the judicial wings of this State are in the circumstances under a duty not to adopt an indifferent attitude in this respect.
11. I have considered it necessary to make these observations because the Magistrate entertained some doubts about the presence of P. W. 2 a responsible officer of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Department. In case he had a genuine doubt, then it was the learned Magistrate's duty not to leave the matter at that. He should have pursued the matter further because the officer had on this premise tried falsely to help the prosecution of an innocent citizen, which is intolerable in a democracy like ours, which is continually subject to moral judgments. In case the doubt was not justified, then it was highly unfair to the officer concerned. Except preservation of their liberties, no people can have any higher interest than integrity in the administration of their Government in all its forms.
12. I need not pursue this matter any more on this occasion, for in my view, the prosecution case is fully established on the record and the order of the Magistrate was wholly unjustified both in law and on facts. P. W. 2 was, in my opinion, clearly present, at the spot and there was no reasonable ground for the learned Magistrate to entertain any reasonable doubt. Once sale to the inspector for purposes of analysis is proved, the provisions of the Act would in law be attracted and the Court below has clearly ignored this important aspect.
13. The appeal is accordingly allowed and the accused is found guilty of an offence under Sections 7/16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and is accordingly convicted under these sections. He is sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 50/- and in default to undergo imprisonment for two weeks, He is allowed two weeks time to deposit the penalty.
14. Before finally closing the judgment, I can-not help noticing in this case also one other deplorable factor. The sample of the curd was taken on 4-9-1961 and the trial of the alleged offence was concluded on 30.8-1963, nearly two years later. It is distressing to find nearly two years' delay in the trial of this offence which obviously did not require many witnesses to be examined; so much delay must tend considerably to defeat the very purpose of the prosecution. I have already made an observation in this connection in a short note added in State v. Gunj Lal Criminal Appeal No. 155.D/81 decided by us on 1-4-1964 AIR 1994 Puni 475. I would like again to draw the attention of the authorities concerned that offences under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act must be tried within a reasonable time and the Analyst must also examine the samples with due promptitude; delays and lapses in this respect are likely to adversely affect the prosecution case and indeed we have recently come across quite a few cases under this Act which have failed on account of unexplained and unjustified delay in the examination of the samples by the Analysts.
This result could have been avoided by paying proper attention to the matter by the authorities concerned. It need hardly be emphasised that the quality of democratic civilised stature of a system of Government is largely measured, inter alia, by the prompt and fair administration of criminal justice; indifference towards this important aspect is hardly desirable in our set-up. This Court earnestly hopes that proper steps would be taken to remove the causes of undue delay is this respect.
D.K. Mahajan, J.
15. I agree.