1. Accused 1 and 2 in C.C. No. 425 of 1977 on the file of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kumbakonam, who were charged and convicted under Sections 7(1) and 16(1)(i) read with Section 2(1a)(a) and (m) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (Act 37 of 1954) as amended (hereinafter referred to as the Act), and were sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year and to pay a fine of Rs. 2000, in default to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year, have filed the above revision.
2. The facts of the case are as follows : The petitioners are running a hotel under the name and style of 'Arya Bhavan' in Big St. Kumbakonam. Both the petitioners are partners in the said hotel. On 30-3-1977 at 12-10 p.m. the Food Inspector of Kumbakonam Municipality, who has been examined as P.W. 1, went to the hotel of the petitioners. The first petitioner (first accused) was looking after the business and the second petitioner (second accused) was not present. Finding five litres of rose mixture made up of milk, water, essence and sugar for sale, the Food Inspector purchased 660 ml. of rose mixture on payment of Rs. 1-80, for the purpose of analysis, after serving the Form VI Notice to the accused which is marked in this case as Ex. P. 1. A cash receipt was also obtained from. the first petitioner, which is marked as Ex. P. 2. Both Exs. P. 1 and P. 2 were attested by P.W. 2. The mixture that was purchased by P.W. 1 was divided into three parts and was filled up in three separate clean bottles, as required by law, and 16 drops of formalin were also added to each bottle and the sample bottles were then sealed and packed as per rules. The signature of the first petitioner was also obtained over the slip. One of the sealed bottles was sent to the Public Analyst for analysis, along with Form VII notice which is marked as Ex. P. 3. Another Form VII notice was also sent to the analyst by separate post. The Public Analyst sent his report Ex. P. 4 to the effect that rose mixture that was sent to him for analysis was found deficient in solids-not-fat to the extent of 41 per cent. A copy of the Public Analyst's report was sent to the first petitioner under Section 13(2) of the Act, which was acknowledged and the said acknowledgement is marked as Ex. P. 5. Thereafter, P.W. 1 filed a complaint against the petitioner under the aforesaid sections of the Act on 15th June 1977. After filing the complaint in June 1977, a notice as contemplated under Section 13(2) of the Act was served On the petitioners on 29th August, 1977 and this is marked as Ex. P. 6. It is not denied that at the time of taking sample, the first petitioner gave a statement Ex. P. 7 to P.W. 1, that himself and the second petitioner are the partners of the hotel. On the basis of the Public Analyst's report, charges were framed against the petitioners under the aforesaid sections of Central Act 37 of 1954, as amended.
3. When the trial court examined the petitioners the first petitioner admitted having sold the rose mixture to P.W. 1. He also stated that it was made up of sugar, water and milk. The second petitioner also admitted that he is one of the partners of the hotel. However. both of them denied that they committed the offence as alleged by the respondent warranting their conviction under the Act. The petitioners also examined on their behalf D.W. 1, who is a person working in the hotel.
4. The trial court, on the evidence adduced by the prosecution, came to the conclusion that the petitioners had committed the offence and accordingly convicted them and sentenced each of them to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year and also imposed a fine of Rs. 2000 on each of them. Aggrieved by the said conviction, the petitioner preferred Criminal Appeal No. 202 of 1977 before the Sessions Judge, Thanjavur. The learned Sessions Judge, after scrutinising the entire evidence adduced in this case, confirmed the conviction and sentence imposed on the petitioners by the trial court and thus dismissed the appeal. It is as against the dismissal of the said appeal, this criminal revision has been filed.
5. Mr. Natarajan, learned counsel for the petitioners, though raised several points, confined his arguments only on one point which is more favourable to him. His contention is that the complaint against the petitioners was lodged under the aforesaid sections of Central Act 37 of 1954 on 15th June 1977, but the notice as required under Section 13(2) of the Act was served on the petitioner only on 29th August 1977, which is contrary to law. Learned counsel contends that Section 13(2) of the Act read with Rule 9-A of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules) clearly points out that authority shall immediately after the institution of the prosecution, forward a copy of the report of the result of the analysis in Form III delivered to him under sub-rule (3) of Rule 7, by registered post, to the person from whom the sample of the article was taken by the Food Inspector and simultaneously also to the person, if any, whose name address and other particulars have been disclosed under Section 14A of the Act. According to the counsel for the petitioner, the report of the Public Analyst, Ex. P-4 is dated 7th May, 1977 and the complaint was lodged against the Petitioners by the respondent on 15th June, 1977. Immediately after lodging the complaint, the respondent had not sent the copy of the report, EX. P-4 along with the complaint, to the petitioners as required undersection 13(2) of the Act, but on the other hand, the report of the Analyst and the notice of the corn plaint were sent only on 29th August, 1977, after a delay of more than two months, which the counsel contends, is contrary to law. In order to substantiate this argument, learned counsel relies on one of the judgments of mine, viz., State by Public Prosecutor v. Murugesan, judgment in C.A. No. 584 of 1978, D/- 3-12-1980 (Mad). There is some substance in the argument advanced by the learned counsel for the petitioners.
6. Section 13(2) of the Act contemplates that on receipt of the report of the result of the analysis under sub-section (1) of Section 13, to the effect that the food article is adulterated, the Local (Health) authority shall, after the institution of prosecution against the person from whom the sample of the article of food was taken, forward a copy of the report of the result of the analysis to such person or persons, as the case may be, informing such person or persons that if it is so desired, either or both may make an application to the court within a period of ten days from the date of receipt of the copy of the report to get the sample of the article of food kept by the Local (Health) authority analysed by the Central Food Laboratory. Similarly, Rule 9-A of the Rules contemplates that the Local (Health) Authority shall 'immediately' after the institution of the prosecution, forward a copy of the report of the result of the analysis to the person from whom the sample of the article was taken by the Food Inspector. The framers of Rule 9-A thought fit that the report of the Public Analyst should be sent immediately either by registered post or by hand, as may be appropriate, to the person from whom the sample of the article was taken by the Food Inspector, in order to make that person aware that the report of the analysis is such and that if he intends to file an application to the court. he may do go within a period of ten days from the date of receipt of the copy of the report, to get the sample of the article of food kept by the Local (Health) Authority, analysed by the Central Food Laboratory.
7. In this case, it is not disputed that the complaint was filed on 15th June, 1977 by P.W. 1 against the petitioners under the aforesaid sections of the Act and the petitioners were served with notice under Section 13(2) of the Act not immediately, but on 29th August 1977, after a period of two months and 14 days. If there is a delay of 2 months and 14 days, then the very purpose of mentioning the word 'immediately in Rule 9-A is defeated. The Court should not countenance with favour the laxity or negligence in cases where the report of the Public Analyst is sent very late to the party from whom the article of food is seized. Courts should also see that there does not occur any delay, as it has happened in the instant case, in filing complaints against the offenders after the sample of food is taken from them.
8. The meaning of the word 'immediate' is found at page 478 of the Lexicon Webster Dictionary, Encyclopaedic Edition. Volume I, as 'Occurring or done without separa tion by an interval of space or time; as. in the immediate area, an immediate reaction; instant, related to the present time; as the immediate future; in closest relation; as, the immediate members of the family. Acting or occurring without a medium, or without an intervening cause, means, or condition, as the immediate source of the problem, direct.'
The word 'immediately' is described therein thus
'without delay; instantly; at once; forthwith; without the intervention of any space, object, or medium; directly ...........'
9. Similarly, in Black's Law Dictionary, 5th Edition, at page 675 the word 'immediately has been defined thus -
'Without interval of time, without delay, straightway, or without any delay or lapse of time ...... The words 'immediately and 'forthwith' have generally the same meaning. They are stronger than the expression 'within a reasonable time' and imply prompt, vigorous action without any delay ......'
Thus we find the sum and substance of the word 'immediately' is to the effect that the report of the Public Analyst has to be sent to the petitioners without any delay, i.e. forthwith. If the words in the rule framed under Rule 9-A of the Rules are themselves precise and unambiguous, then no more is necessary than to expound their meaning according to their natural and ordinary sense. The words themselves in such a case best declare the intention of the law given. In the instant case. the report of the Public Analyst Ex. P-4, though it dates 7th May, 1977, the complaint was filed against the petitioners on 15th June 1977, and the notice under Section 13(2) of the Act was served on the petitioners only on 29th August, 1977 along with the copy of the report of the Public Analyst. On perusing the aforesaid dates, in filing the complaint against the petitioners by the respondent and in sending the report of the Public Analyst, I am of the view that the respondent has violated the very tenor of Rule 9-A and the pith and substance of the word 'immediately'. This aspect of the case has not been considered and appreciated by the courts below and the counsel appearing for the petitioners has rightly brought to my notice that the respondent has not complied with the requirements of Rule 9-A.
10. Under these circumstances, the conviction and the sentences imposed on the petitioners by the courts below under the aforesaid sections of the Act have to be set aside and this revision has to be allowed. Accordingly this revision is allowed. Fine, if paid by the petitioners shall be refunded.
11. Revision allowed.