(1) The following question has beenreferred by the learned Judges of the Division Bench (Jagjit Singh andM. S. Joshi, JJ) by their order of reference dated August II. 1975.for decision of the full Bench :
'WHETHERholding one or more shares in the Municipal Corporation Cooperative Stores Limited or in any other cooperativesociety or company, engaged in the manufacture, importor sale of any article of food, amounts to having financialinterest in the manufacture, import or sale of articles offood for purposes of the proviso to sub-section (1) ofsection 9 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act,1954'.
(2) Lala Bishambar Dayal, learned counsel for the appellant inthe criminal appeal out of which the present reference has arisen,raised a preliminary objection that the reference itself is incompetentas this question does not arise on the facts of this case. It wassubmitted by the learned counsel that the question, whether the FoodInspector who took the sample in the present case was duly appointedor not, was not raised in the courts below and, thereforee, it cannot beraised in the present appeal and even if the appointment of the FoodInspector is invalid within the meaning of section 9(1) of the prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, it cannot be raised during thehearing of the criminal appeal. It was also submitted that on the factsof this case, it would have no effect and, thereforee, the full Benchshould decline to answer the question.
(3) Whether the respondents can raise these questions or witherthese questions will arise in the criminal appeal are matters for decision of the Division Bench who hears the appeal. We would be enlargingthe scope of reference if we go into the preliminary objections raised bythe learned counsel which, we are afraid, we are neither competent togo into nor are we inclined to go into at this stage. These are all matterswhich the appellant would be free to urge before the Division Benchwhich hears the appeal and our answer to the reference would in noway prevent the learned counsel to make his submissions before theDivision Bench after the reference has been answered.
(4) It appears that the reference has been made by the learned Judges of the Division Bench in view of the conflict in the observationsof this Court (Rangarajan and Prakash Narain, JJ) in Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Takhat Ram (1974 Prevention of Food Adulteration Cases 232) (1) and the decision of the Chief Justice Falshawand Mehar Singh, J. in an unreported decision in Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Rajev and another : (Criminal Appeal No. 169-D of1962 decided on 11-2-1965) (2). Whereas the decision of the learnedJudges of this Court in the aforesaid case of Takhat Ram related tothe interpretation of proviso to sub-section (1) of Section 9 in relationto the appointment of Food Inspector, the decision of the learnedJudges of the Division Bench of the Cricuit Bench of the Punjab HighCourt related to the interpretation of an identical proviso to Section 8 in relation to the appointment of a public analyst.
(5) The relevant provisions of Sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act')may be reproduced for facility of understanding and determining thescope of relevant provisos :
'8.Public Analysts :-The Central Government or the StateGovernment may, by notification in the Official Gazette,appoint such persons as it thinks fit, having the prescribedqualifications to be public analysts for such local areasas may be assigned to them by the Central Governmentor the State Government, as the case may be :
PROVIDED that no person who has any financial interest in themanirfacture, import or sale of any article of food shallbe appointed to be a public analyst under this section :
PROVIDEDfurther that different public analysts may be appointedfor different articles of food.
(6) Food inspectors :-(1) The Central Government or theState Government may, by notification in the OfficialGazette, appoint such persons as it thinks fit, having ?heprescribed qualifications to be food inspectors for suchlocal areas as may be assigned to them by the CentralGovernment or the State Government, as the case may be :
PROVIDED that no person who has any financial interest in themanufacture, import or sale of any article of food shall beappointed to be a food inspector under this section'.
It will be noticed that the operative part the first proviso to Section 8 and the operative part of the proviso to Section 9(1) of theAct are identical and the substantive provisions of Section 8 and Section 9(1) are also similar. Whereas Section 8 deals with the appointment of Public Analysts, Section 9 deals with the appointment of FoodInspectors. The substantive part of Section 8 and the substantive partof Section 9(1) deal with the powers of the Government to appointPublic Analysts and Food Inspectors having the prescribed qualifications respectively but the powers of appointment in respect of boththe sets of officers are subject to identical limitations.
(7) The question which arises out of the order of reference relates to the meaning of the expression 'any financial interest' in the aforesaidprovisos.
(8) Lala Bishambar Dayal who appeared on behalf of the appellantsubmitted that the expression 'any financial interest' means 'substantial direct financial interest' in the manufacture or sale of any articleof food and does not include within the said expression the indirectinsignificant financial interest that a share-holder may have in themanufacture, import or sale of such article of food.
(9) The learned counsel further submitted that the purpose of theaforesaid provisos in Section 8 and Section 9(1) is that the PublicAnalyst and/or the Food Inspector should not be a biased person andunless the Public Analyst or the Food Inspector has a substantial directfinancial interest in the manufacture, import or sale of any article offood, he cannot be said to be biased and would consequently not sufferfrom the disability as contemplated by the aforesaid provisos.
(10) In support of his submission, Lala Bishambar Dayal relied onthe following passage from 'Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes'Eighth Edition, at pages 54-55 :
'BUTit is in the interpretation of general words and phrasesthat the principle of strictly adapting the meaning to theparticular subject-matter with reference to which the wordsare used finds its most frequent application. However widein the abstract, they are more or less elastic, and admitof restriction or expansion to suit the subject-matter. Whileexpressing truly enough all that the Legislature intended,they frequently express more, in their literal meaning andnatural force; and it is necessary to give them the meaningwhich best suits the scope and object of the statute withoutextending to ground foreign to the intention. It is, thereforee,a canon of interpretation that all words, if they be generaland not express and precise, are to be restricted to thefitness of the matter. They are to be construed as parti-Relying on the aforesaid passage, the argument of the learned counsel proceeded like this :
(11) It was submitted that the object of sections 8 and 9 of theAct was (i) to confer power on the Central Government or the StateGovernment to appoint Public Analysts and/or the Food Inspectorsand (.ii) to put a limitation on the said power so that persons withbias are not appointed. It was also submitted that looking at the subject-matter of these provisions the expression 'any financial interest' inthe aforesaid proviso has to be interpreted in the light of the subject-matter and, thereforee, the expression 'any financial interest' should beinterpreted as 'substantial direct financial interest' inasmuch as if theexpression 'any financial interest' is interpreted literally in a restrictedsense than the interpretation would not suit the subject-matter underreference and thus supported the observations of the Division Bench inthe case of Takhat Ram (supra).
(12) Bawa Gurcharan Singh, learned counsel for the accused, onthe other hand, submitted that the expression 'any financial interest'is precise and unambiguous and there is no necessity of giving theman extended meaning. The Legislature has declared its intentionclearly.
(13) The aforesaid passage from Maxwell appeared in 'Eighth Edition and relied on the observations in the following cases : WordsworthBoard of Works v. United Telephone Co. 13 O.B.D. 904, 920(3); Cox v. Hakes (1890) 15 AC 506 and ViscountassRhondda's Claim (1922) 2 A.C. 339. We shall deal with thesecases presently.
(14) It goes without saying that the solution of a particular problem of interpretation is often determined by which principle or principles the court chooses to apply. Among the general principles ofinterpretation, there is a primary rule : literal construction'.
(15) In the aforesaid treatise on the Interpretation of statutes,Twelfth Edition, at pages 28-29, it is observed as under :
'THErule of construction is 'to intend the Legislature to have meant what they have actuallyexpressed.' The object of all interpretation isto discover the intention of Parliament, 'but the intentionof Parliament must be deduced from the language used,'for 'it is well accepted that the beliefs and assumptions ofthose who frame acts of Parliament cannot make the law'.
'WHEREthe language is plain and admits of but one meaning,the task of interpretation can hardly be said to arise. 'Thedecision in this case,' said Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gestin a revenue case, 'calls for a full and fair application ofparticular statutory language to particular facts as found.The desirability or the undesirability of one conclusionas compared with another cannot furnish a guide in reaching a decision.' Where, by the use of clear and unequivocal language capable of only one meaning, anything isenacted by the legislature, it must be enforced howeverharsh or absurd or contrary to common sense the resultmay be. The interpretation of a statute, is not to becollected from any notions which may be entertained bythe court as to what is just and expedient: words are notto be construed, contrary to their meaning, as embracingor excluding cases merely because no good reason appearswhy they should not be embraced or excluded. Theduty of the court is to expound the law as it stands, andto 'leave the remedy (if one be resolved 'upon) toothers.'
(16) Apart from the aforesaid primary rule of literal construction',there are various other main principles of interpretation, namely, the'mischief rule' as expounded in Heydon's case or the 'golden rule'as expounded in Backe v. Smith: (1836) 2 M &W; 191, and noticed by Maxwell in his 12th edition at page 43 ofthe treatise. It is observed by the learned author at page 43 of theaforesaid treatise that :
THEso-called 'golden rule' is really a modification of theliteral rule. It was stated in this way by Parke B : 'IT is a very useful rule, in the construction of a statute, toadhere to the ordinary meaning of the words used, andto the grammatical constrtiction, unless that is at variancewith the intention of the Legislature, to be collected from the statute itself, or leads to any manifest absurdity orrepugnance, in which case the language may be varied ormodified, so as to avoid such inconvenience, but no further'.
The learned author has also observed at page 39 of the sametreatise as under:
'BUTsince there is not in English Law any settled hierarchygoverning the order in which the various canone and presumptions of construction are to be employed, the existence of these principles does not make it possible topredict with certainty the result which will be reached IN a given case.'
(17) We may state at the outset that the expression 'any financial interest' is both precise and unambiguous and can be understood inits natural and ordinary sense and means literally what the expressionsays. Its meaning is covered by the primary rule of constructionas stated above. The primary rule i.e. literal construction' is alsoin consonance with the afore-quoted 'golden rule'.
(18) Coming to the rule of interpretation as expounded inWordsworth Board of Works (supra), even the test of finding the''meaning with reference to the scope and object of the sitatute isalso fulfillled.
(19) It will be noticed that the provisos to the aforesaid Sections 8 and 9 of the Act bar the eligibility of persons having the prescribed qualifications on the ground of what may be called 'financialbias' as opposed to the other forms of bias like being personallyinterested or being a Judge in its own cause or legal bias. Boththe Public Analyst and the Food Inspector perform important duties in relation to satisfactory enforcement of Prevention ofFood Adulteration Act and also any prosecution there under.Where a person with prescribed qualifications is made non-eligibledue to financial interest and, thereforee, bias on that account, there isno measure to determine it. Even if we go in the principle of interpretation relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellant i.e.interpreting the general words and phrases used in the Statute in thelight of the scope and object of the Statute, it does not admit of anyrestricted or expanded meaning for, as we have stated earlier, in considering the object of the provision as ruling out persons due to bias onaccount of financial interest, there is no measure to determine it. Theslightest interest disqualifies them.
(20) There are numerous cases relating to Justices being disqualified on account of financial interest from being competent to sit in a trial.By way of illustration some of the following cases may be seen withadvantage : (1) Reg v. Hammond and another: 140 R R 824, (2) Reg v. Recorder of Cambridge : 112 RR 724, (3) Reg. v. The Justices of Hertfordshire : 66 RevisedReports 556 (9) and (4) in re: P. A. Rodrigues : I.L.R 20 Bom 502. In fact, such cases can be multiplied infinitely.
(21) It is true that these cases relate to judicial decisions being given by Justices who could be said to be biased due to pacuniaryinterest but the principle is applicable once a person is statutorily required to be excluded due to financial bias.
(22) In the case of Wordsworth Board of Works v. United Telephone Co : 13 C.B.D. 904 a question arose as to the meaning ofthe word 'street' in Section 96 of the Metropolis Management Act,1855. An action was brought for an injunction to restrain the defendants from retaining or placing any wire for the purpose of telegraphic or telephonic communications over, along or across anystreet vested in or under the control of the plaintiffs, the Board ofWorks for, the Wandsworth District. Under section 96 of the afore-said Act, the streets vested in the District Boards. Bowen, L.J. observed at page 919 as under :
'PARLIAMENTcan do exactly what it pleases, and the onlymatters to be borne in mind in construing the section aretwo rules. It seems to me, first, that words of popularmeaning must be taken in their popular sense, unlessthere is something in the context to alter it, and secondly,that if a word in its popular sense and read in an ordinary way, is capable of two constructions, it is wise toadopt such a construction as is based upon the assumption that Parliament merely intended to give so muchpower as was necessary for carrying out the objects ofthe Act, and not to give any unnecessary powers.'
(23) The 'street' was construed in the aforesaid case according to the purposes of the Act and the suit failed.
(24) In Cox v. Hakes (1890) 15 AC 506 a question had arisen whether an appeal lay to the Court ofappeal from an order of discharge on a writ of hebeascorpus under section 19 read with section 47 of theJudicature Act, 1873. Lord Halsbury speaking for the majority viewheld that no appeal lay. In construing the provisions of the Act, thelearned Lord Chancellor went into the history of habeas corpus inEngland and took the view that in spite of the general words beingused in Section 19, it did not preclude inquiry into the object of theStatute or the mischief which it was intended to remedy and heldthat no appeal was competent.
(25) In Viscountess Rhondda's Claim : (1922) 2 A.C. 339(5),Viscountess was made a peeress of the United Kingdom and sheclaimed right to receive a writ of summons to Parliament. The matterwas heard by the Committee for Privileges of the House of Lords.Dealing with the history of the constitution of the House of Lordsand the members who were entitled to summons and consequentlysit in the House, the Committee for Privileges took the view that inspire of Section 1 of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919the Viscountess was not entitled to writ of summons to Parliament.The House of Lords went into the rights and privileges of personsentitled to sit and vote in the Hohise of Lords and took the view thatfor many centuries women had not sat in the House of Lords althoughduring those centuries there had been women who possessed peeragedignities. The case of the Viscountess was that the fact that theyhad not sat was due to the ordinary disqualification imposed bycommon law upon persons of female sex and that that disqualificationhad been removed by the aforesaid Act. The Privileges Committeeof the House of Lords went into the question and negatived this submission and took the view that in spite of Section 1 of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919, the Viscountess Rhondda was notentitled to writ of summons to Parliament as the disqualification wasnot due to the common law of England but due to the historicalreasons.
(26) We have already taken the view that whether the primaryrule of literal construction is applied or the rule of interpretationbased on the test of finding the meaning with reference to the scopeand object of the statute is applied, the answer is the same.
(27) The Division Bench in Takhat Ram's case (supra) made anobservation supporting the view as contended for on behalf of theappellant and it appears that the considered view of the DivisionBench in the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Raje and another : (supra) was not brought to the notice of the Division Bench inTakhat Ram's case. In Takhat Ram's case the Division Bench at page237 of the report observed :
'WEnow come to the contention regarding the claim of therespondents that Shri Kochar had a .financial interest inthe Cooperative Society which used to run a store in whicharticles of food were sold. According to Mr. GurcharanSingh a financial interest means getting of financial benefit. His argument is that a shareholder gets dividend andother pecuniary benefits in a cooperative society whichby itself would mean having financial interest. We arenot impressed by this argument. The bar in proviso tosection 9(1) is to the appointment of a person havingany financial interest in the manufacture, import or saleof any article. This interest must be a direct interest andthe indirect interest that a shareholder may have cannot beregarded as a bar to his appointment as a Food Inspector.It is really not necessary to examine this question in detail'.'
(28) With all due respect to the learned Judges in Takhat Ram'scase, we have not been able to persuade ourselves to agree to thesaid observations as to the interpretation of the expression 'any financial interest' occurring in proviso to Section 9(1) of the Act. Wemay make it clear that we are not expressing any opinion, whatsoever, as to what would be the effect of our view on the prosecutioncase.
(29) The result of the aforesaid discussion is that our answer tothe question referred to the full Bench is in the affirmative and thereference is answered accordingly.