Parakh Foods Ltd Vs. State of A.P. & ANR  INSC 523 (27 March 2008)
P.P. NAOLEKAR & LOKESHWAR SINGH PANTA REPORTABLE CRIMINAL APPEAL NO 559 OF 2008 [arising out of Special Leave
Petition (Crl.) No.5972 of 2007] P.P. NAOLEKAR,J.
1. Leave granted.
2. This appeal arises from the judgment and order of the Andhra Pradesh High
Court whereby the High Court has held that from the evidence on record the
article of food in question, is soyabean oil. The label contains pictures of
vegetables like cabbage, carrot, brinjal, capsicum, cauliflower, tomato and
onions which are in no way connected with soyabean oil. Although the
prosecution of the appellant is quashed, a clear case of misbranding is made
3. The relevant facts of the case are that the appellant M/s Parakh Foods
Ltd. (now Cargill Foods India Limited) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956.
The appellant is engaged in manufacture and sale of "Shaktimaan Refined
Soyabean Oil", a food product covered under the Prevention of Food
Adulteration Act, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act") and it
sells and markets the said product throughout the country. On 23.12.2003,
respondent No.2, the Food Inspector, District Mahboob Nagar, Andhra Pradesh
visited the shop of M/s Md. Dilawar General & Oil Shop No.2-10-4, Old Gunj,
Mahboob Nagar, being accused No.1 vendor in the complaint. Respondent No.2
found a carton containing 20 packets of "Shaktimaan Refined Soyabean
Oil" kept for sale for human consumption. Respondent No.2 suspected the
quality of oil to be adulterated and purchased three packets each containing
1litre oil and obtained cash receipt from the vendor. Thereafter, the packets
were sent to the Public Analyst, State Food Laboratory, Nacharam, Hyderabad.
The Public Analyst furnished his report on 31.01.2004 and opined that the label
contains pictures of vegetables like cabbage, carrot, brinjal, capsicum,
cauliflower, tomato and onions, which are in no way connected with soyabean oil
and said that the pictures of vegetables on the label is an exaggeration of the
quality of the product and hence violates Rule 37 D of the Prevention of Food
Adulteration Rules, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the "PFA Rules")
and, therefore, is misbranded.
4. Accordingly, the Food Inspector filed a complaint under the provisions of
the Act before the Magistrate. A case was registered under Section 16(1)(a)(i)
of the Act for alleged contravention of Section 2(ix)(k) and under Section 7(ii)
of the Act read with Rule 37 D of the PFA Rules.
5. The prosecution initiated against the appellant was challenged by filing
a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The High
Court decided the criminal proceedings on 20.07.2007. The High Court came to
the conclusion that the vendor did not produce any warranty, thus the
manufacturer or the dealer cannot be prosecuted. When there is no allegation in
the complaint alleging that the vendor produced any warranty or bill with regard
to the purchase of the food item in question from accused No.2, that is the
appellant herein, merely basing on the label declaration the appellant cannot
be prosecuted. However, the order of quashing will not preclude the concerned
Magistrate in arraying the appellant as an accused during the trial, if there
is any offence.
6. The High Court has also observed that it is clear that the article of
food in question was misbranded since none of the pictures contained on the
label has nothing to do with the article of food in question. Therefore, it is
held to be a clear case of violation of Rule 37 D of the PFA Rules. Aggrieved
by these findings, the present appeal is filed.
7. It is contended by Shri Ashok H. Desai, learned senior counsel for the
appellant that the article of food can be considered to be misbranded only when
false claims are made with respect to such article of food upon the label or
otherwise and there is no statutory prohibition under the Act in printing
pictures of vegetables on the label of article of food on which the said
article of food may be used in the preparation / cooking of such vegetables.
Whereas it is submitted by the learned counsel for the State that the pictures
on the brand does not relate to the article which the appellant manufactures
and sells and, therefore, it would fall within the violation of Rule 37 D of
the PFA Rules as misbranded. The relevant provision reads as under :- RULE 37D
- "Labelling of edible oils and fats The package, label or the
advertisement of edible oils and fats shall not use the expressions
"Super-Refined", "Extra- Refined",
"Micro-Refined", "Double-Refined", "Ultra-
Refined", "Anti-Cholesterol", "Cholesterol-Fighter",
"Soothing to Heart", "Cholesterol-Friendly",
"Saturated Fat Free" or such other expressions which are an
exaggeration of the quality of the product."
8. The provision for labeling of edible oils and fats is under Rule 37 D of
the PFA Rules which specifies labeling of edible oils and fats. The Rule
clearly states that package / labeling or advertisement of edible oils and fats
shall not use the expressions such as (i) super-refined; (ii) extra-refined;
(iii) micro-refined; (iv) double- refined; (v) ultra-refined; (vi)
anti-cholesterol; (vii) cholesterol fighter; (viii) soothing to heart; (ix)
cholesterol friendly; (x) saturated fat free, etc. It would be pertinent to say
that all these expressions from (i) to (x) are prohibited because if they are
mentioned on the labeling of the product they will tend to exaggerate the
quality of the product. The Rule further states that all such other expression
are also prohibited which tend to exaggerate the quality of the product. For
the purposes of interpretation of this Rule the principle of ejusdem generis
can be applied; ejusdem generis is a latin expression which means "of the
same kind" , for example where a law lists specific classes of persons or
things and then refers to them in general, the general statements only apply to
the same kind of persons or things specifically listed. In other words, it
means words of similar class.
According to Black's Law Dictionary (8th Edn. 2004), the principle of
ejusdem generis is where general words follow an enumeration of persons or
things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are
not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only
to persons or things of the same kind or class as those specifically mentioned.
It is a cannon of statutory construction that where general words follow the
enumeration of particular classes of things, the general words will be
construed as applying only to things of the same general class as those
9. Keeping the above principle in mind, the words "such other" as
used in Rule 37 D is to be read along with the subject matter in which they
have been used. The residuary clause of the rule has to be read in light of the
ten prohibited expressions, and it becomes clear that what is prohibited are
only the expressions which are an exaggeration of the quality of the product.
10. In the present case, it is true that the appellant has used pictures of
vegetables on the label of the product which is refined soyabean oil, which
according to the appellant is to depict the purpose for which the oil can be
used, viz., preparation of the vegetables depicted thereon. Unless the picture
depicted on a label of edible oils and fats exaggerates the quality of the
product, it would not fall within the mischief of Rule 37 D. In the present
case, the vegetables shown on the label of soyabean oil does not in any way
indicate that the quality of soyabean oil is 'super-refined', 'extra- refined',
'micro-refined', 'double-refined', 'ultra-refined', 'anti- cholesterol',
'cholesterol fighter', 'soothing to heart', 'cholesterol friendly', 'saturated
fat free' etc., nor it indicates the exaggeration towards the quality of the
product to come within the mischief of Rule 37D of the PFA Rules. In our
opinion the High Court has committed a serious error in arriving at a finding
that the article of food (soyabean oil) was misbranded since the picture
contained on the label has nothing to do with the article of food in question,
completely ignoring the fact that the article of food can be used for cooking
the vegetables shown in the picture which cannot be said to be exaggerating the
quality of the food in question.
11. For the aforesaid reasons, the appeal is allowed and the impugned
finding of the High Court as regards misbranding and violation of Rule 37D of
the PFA Rules is set aside.