Chimanlal Jagjivandas Sheth Vs. State of
Maharashtra  INSC 265 (26 September 1962)
IMAM, SYED JAFFER AYYANGAR, N. RAJAGOPALA
CITATION: 1963 AIR 665 1963 SCR Supl. (1) 344
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1968 SC1450 (10)
Drugs---Absorbent cotton wool, roller
bandages and gauze--Whether drugs-Sentence, reduction of-Drugs Act, 1940 (23 of
1940),as amended by Drugs (Amendment) Act, 1955, ss. 3(b), 18.
The appellant was found in possession of
large quantities of absorbent cotton wool, roller bandages and gauze which he
had manufactured. On analysis these were found to be substandard and the
appellant was prosecuted under s. 18 of the Drugs Act, 1940, for manufacturing
sub-standard drugs. He was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous
imprisonment for three months and to pay a fine of Rs. 500/. The appellant
contended that these articles were not drugs as defined in s. 3(b) of the Act
and that the sentence imposed was too severe.
Held, that absorbent cotton wool, roller
bandages and gauze were "drugs" within the meaning of s. 3(b) and the
appellant was rightly convicted. In the definition "drugs"
"included substances intended to be used for or in treatment of diseases".
"Substances" was something other than "medicines" and meant
"things". The said articles were sterilized or otherwise treated to
make them disinfectant;
they were used for surgical dressings and
were essential materials for treatment in surgical cases. The object of the Act
of maintaining high standards of medical treatment would be defeated if the
necessary concomitants of medical or surgical treatment were allowed to be
Held, further, that the sentence erred on the
side of leniency rather than severity and could not be reduced. It was a case
where large quantities of spurious and substandard drugs had been manufactured
by the appellant. He was guilty of an antisocial act of a very serious nature.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 107 of 1961.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated June 16, 1961, of the Bombay High Court in Cr. A. No. 21 of 1961.
345 Rajni Patel, J. B. Dadachanji, O. C.
Mathur and Ravinder Narain, for the appellant.
H.R. Khanna, R. H. Dhebar and R. N. Sachthey,
for the respondents.
1962. September 26. The judgment of the Court
was delivered by SUBBA RAO, J.-This appeal by special leave against the
judgment of the High Court of judicature at Bombay raises the question of
construction of s.3(b) of the Drugs Act, 1940, as amended by the Drugs
(Amendment) Act, 1955, hereinafter called the Act.
This appeal has been argued on the basis of
facts found by the High Court. The appellant was carrying on business in the
name of Deepak Trading Corporation at Bulakhidas Building, Vithaldas Road,
Bombay. On December 27, 1958, the Sub Inspector of Police, accompanied by the
Drug Inspector, raided the said building and found large quantities of
absorbent cotton wool, roller bandages, gauze and other things. It was found
that the appellant was not only storing these goods in large quantities but was
actually manufacturing them in Bombay and passing them off as though they were
manufactured by a firm of repute in Secunderabad.
The samples of the aforesaid articles and
lint were sent to the Government Analyst, who reported that out of the samples
sent to him only the lint was of standard quality and the other articles were
not of standard quality. The appellant was' prosecuted before the Presidency
Magistrate, 16th Court Bombay, for an offence under s. 18 of the Act, inter
alia, for manufacturing drugs which were not of standard quality.
The learned Presidency. Magistrate acquitted
the appellant on the ground that the prosecution had failed to prove that the
articles were in the possession of the appellant. The High Court on a resurvey
of the evidence came to a different conclusion and found that the said articles
346 were not only found in the possession of the appellant but also were
manufactured by him and that they were below the standard prescribed. On the
finding', it convicted the.
appellant and sentenced him to undergo
rigorous imprisonment for three months and to pay a fine of Rs. 500/under each
count. Hence the appeal.
Though an attempt was made to argue that the
said articles had not been proved to be below the prescribed standard, it was
subsequently given up' The only question that was argued is whether the said
articles are drugs within the meaning of s. 3(b) of the Act. The said section
reads ""drug" includes (i)all medicines for internal or external
use of human beings or animals and all substances intended to be used for or in
the treatment mitigation or prevention of disease in human beings or animals
other than medicines and substances exclusively used or prepared for use in
accordance with the Ayurvedic or Unani systems of medicine, and (ii)such
substances (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function
of the human body or intended to be used for the destruction of vermin or
insects which cause disease in human beings or animals as may be specified from
time to time by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette.
The said definition of ""drug"
is comprehensive enough to take in not only medicines but also substances intended
to be used for or in the treatment of diseases of human beings or animals. This
artificial definition 347 introduces a distinction between medicines and
substances which are not medicines strictly so-called. The expression
"substances", therefore, must be something other than medicines but
which are used for treatment. The part of the definition which is material for
the present case is "'substances invented to be used for or in the
The appropriate meaning of the expression
"substances" in the section is "things". It cannot be
disputed, and indeed it is not disputed, that absorbent cotton wool, roller
bandages and gauze are "substances" within the meaning of the said
expression. If so, the next question is whether they are used for or in "treatment".
The said articles are sterilized or otherwise treated to make them disinfectant
and then used for surgical dressing; they are essential materials for treatment
in surgical cases. Besides being aseptic these articles have to possess those qualities
which are utilized in the treatment of diseases. Thus for instance, in the case
of gauze-one of the articles concerned in this appeal-it has to conform to a
standard of absorbency in order that it might serve its purpose: otherwise the
fluid which oozes is left to accumulate at the site of the wound or sore. The
Legislature designedly extended the definition of "'drug" so as to
take in substances which are necessary aids for treating surgical or other
cases. The main object of the Act is to prevent substandard in drugs,
presumably for maintaining high standards of medical treatment. That would
certainly be defeated if the necessary concomitants of medical or surgical
treatment were allowed to be diluted: the very same evil which the Act intends
to eradicate would continue to subsist. Learned counsel submitted that surgical
instruments would not fall within the definition and that gauze and lint would
fall within the same class. It is not necessary for the purpose of this appeal
to definite exhaustively "the 'substances" falling within the
definition of "'drugs"; and we consider that whether or not surgical
instruments are drugs", the articles concerned in this case are.
348 Learned counsel for the appellant sought
to rely upon a report of a high powered committee consisting of expert doctors,
who expressed the opinion in the report that as the surgical dressings did not
come under the purview of the Drugs Act, no control on their quality was being
Obviously, the opinion of the medical experts
would not help us in construing a statutory provision. We, therefore, hold,
agreeing with the High. Court, that the said articles are substances used for
or in the "treatment" within the meaning of s. 3(b) of the Act.
An impassioned appeal was made for reducing
the sentences imposed upon the appellant. When a similar argument was advanced
in the High Court, it pointed out that this was a gross case where large
quantities of spurious drugs had been manufactured by the appellant and passed
off as goods manufactured by a firm of repute. The appellant was guilty of an
anti-social act of a very serious nature. In our view, the punishment of
rigorous imprisonment for three months was more lenient than severe. There is
no case for interference with the sentences. The appeal fails and is dismissed.