Pyarali K. Tejani Vs. Mahadeo
Ramchandra Dange & Ors  INSC 196 (31 October 1973)
RAY, A.N. (CJ) PALEKAR, D.G.
CITATION: 1974 AIR 228 1974 SCR (2) 154 1974
SCC (1) 167
RF 1977 SC 56 (7) RF 1977 SC1926 (14) F 1989
SC1011 (5,8) R 1992 SC1611 (10,12)
Prevention of Food Adulteration Act
1954-Rules 44(g) and 47-Sale of supari with saccharin and cyclamateConstitutionality
of the Rules and rule making power-Supari if food-Guidelines in
sentencing--Applicability of Probationers Offenders Act, 1947.
The appellant/petitioner, a dealer in scented
supari, was charged with the offence of having sold and retained for selling
scented supari with saccharin and cyclamate, prohibited artificial sweeteners,
in contravention of S.
7(i)(ii) and rule 47 of the Prevention of
Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and thereby having committed an offence punishable
under section 16(1)(a)(i) of the Act. The Magistrate convicted the accused and
imposed a fine of only Rs. 100/-.
On revision the High Court enhanced the
punishment to the statutory minimum of six months imprisonment and one thousand
rupees fine. The rules which were, extant at the time of the alleged offence in
January 1971 were rules 44(g) and 47 as redrafted by the Prevention of Food
Adulteration (Third Amendment) Rules 1968 which prohibited the two sweeteners
as additives to supari. In October 1972, a circular was issued by the Municipal
Corporation of Greater Bombay that the Central Committee for Food Standards had
accepted the recommendation of is Sub-Committee that saccharin may be permitted
to be used in scented. supari.
In appeal of this Court the appellant
admitted the sale as also the presence of saccharin and cyclamate in the supari
sample. But he urged that section 23(i)(b) of the Act which empowered the
framing of rules was bad, because, the statute laid down no policy, principles
or guidelines regarding articles of food for which standards are to be
prescribed, that supari is not( an article of food and, as such, the admixture
of any sweetener cannot attract the per-at provisions; that the dealer believed
in good-faith that there was no cyclamate in the substance sold induced by the
warranty and did not know that saccharin was contraband, that neither saccharin
nor cyclamate is biochemical risk, and so a blanket ban on their use is an
unconstitutional restriction on he freedom of trade guaranteed in article 19;
that there is discrimination against supari
vis-a-vis carbonated waters wherein the use of saccharin is permitted under
rule 47; and that in any event the Probation of Offenders Act should have been
Dismissing the appeal and the writ petition.
HELD : (i) The contravention of s. 7 read
with rr. 44(g) and 47 being plainly proved the offence falls not under sub-s.
(i) but sub-sec. (v) None of the many
alternatives in s. 2(i) applies because there is neither averment nor proof
that the sweeteners in question are injurious to health and the other subclause
cannot be attracted. [159G] (ii) The naked power submission is demolished by
the guidelines implicit in the statute, by the committee built into the system.
by the specifications contained in the rule making provisions and by the
safeguard of laying the rules before the House. [161H] (iii) Supari is food
within the meaning of S. 2(v) of the Act. The Act defines 'food' very widely as
covering any article used as food and every component which enters into it and
even flavoring matter and condiments. [162E] (iv) In food offenses strict
liability is the rule. Nothing more than actus reus is needed where regulation
of private activity in vulnerable areas like public health is intended.
Social defence reasonably overpowers
individual freedom to irrure, in special situations of strict-liabilily.
Section 7 casts an absolute obligation regardless of scienter, bad faith and
mens rea. [163B] 155 McLead v. Buchanan,  2 A.E.R. 179 at 186 (H.L.)
Andhra Pradesh Grain & Seed Merchants Association v. Union of India 
I S.C.R. 166 American Jurisprudence 2d. Vol.
35, p. 864, referred to.
(iv) It is not the judicial function to enter
the thicket of research controversy or scientific dispute where Parliament has
entrusted the Central Government with the power, and therefore the duty of
protecting public health against potential hazards and the Central Government,
after consultation with a high-powered technical body, has prohibited the use
of saccharin and cyclamates. The fact that for a long timepwen3 shrdlu cmfwyp
etaoin shrdlu cmfwyp hmm against the reasonableness of their later ban. Where
expertise of a complex nature is expected of the State in framing rules, the
exercise of that, power not demonstrated as arbitrary must be presumed to be
valid as a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right of the citizen and
judicial review must halt at the frontiers. [164H] (v) There is no substance in
the plea that there is a discrimination against supari Vis-a-vis carbonated
There is a basis for the distinction. Courts
will not make easy assumption of unreasonableness of subordinate legislation.
[165E] Kartar Singh's case,  6 S.C.R. 679; 690, and Andhra Grain
Merchants. case,  1 S.C.R. 166, referred to.
(vi) The kindly application of the probation
principle is negatived by the imperatives of social defence and the
improbabilities of moral proselytisation. No chances can be taken by society
with a mar, whose antisocial operations, disguised as a respectable trade,
imperil numerous innocents. Secondly economic offenses committed by white
collar-criminals are unlikely to be dissuaded by the gentle probationary
process. [166H] Isher Das v. State of Punjab, F19721 3 S.C.C. 65. referred to.
(vii) The Court has jurisdiction to bring
down the sentence to less than the, minimum prescribed in s' 16(1) provided
there are adequate and special reasons in that behalf. The normal minimum is
six months in jail and a thousand rupees fine. There is no reason to depart
from the proposition that generally food offenses must be deterrently dealt
with. The High Court, under the erroneous impression that the offence fell
under s. 7(1) read with s. 16(1)(a)(1) did not address itself to the quantum of
sentence. Even so that punishment fits the crime and the criminal. The
magistrate completely failed to appreciate the gravity of food offers when he
imposed the negligible sentence of one hundred rupees fine. [167H] [The
necessity for the evolution of a rational and consistent policy of Sentencing
CRIMINAL APPELLATE/ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
Criminal Appeal No. 20 of 1973.
Appeal by Special leave from the judgment and
order dated the19th December, 1972 of the Bombay High Court in Criminal
Revision Application No. 979 of 1971. Writ Petition No., 29 of 1973.
Under Art. 32 of the Constitution of India
for the enforcement of' fundamental rights.
V. B. Ganatra, I. N. Shroff, and R. P.
Kapoor, for the appellant in appeal and petitioner in Writ Petition.
Y. S. Chitale M. S. Ganesh and S. B. Wad, for
respondent No. 1. (in appeal and writ petition).
156 M. N. Phadke, H. R. Khanna and S. P.
Nayar, for respondent No.2 (In appeal and Writ Petition) G. Das and S. P.
Nayar, for respondent No. 3 (in Writ Petition No. 29/73).
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KRISHNA IYER, J. A successful prosecution for a food offence ended in a
conviction of the accused, followed by a fleabite fine of Rs. 100/-. Two
criminal revisions ensued at the, instance of the State and the Food Inspector
separately since they were dissatisfied with the magisterial leniency.
(Why two revision proceedings should have
been instituted, involving duplication of cases and avoidable expenditure from
the public exchequer is for the authorities to examine and inhibit in. future).
The High Court heard the accused against the conviction itself but upheld the
guilt and enhanced the punishment to the statutory minimum of six months imprisonment
and one thousand rupees fine. 'The aggrieved dealer has reached here, through
the twin routes, of art. 32 a writ petition bristling with challenges of
settled concepts and hanging every argument on the familiar peg of breach of
fundamental rights and of art. 136 a remedy to correct gross errors of law
leading to the manifest injustice of loss of liberty for a long term of one
who, the prosecution charged, jeopardised the lives of many consumers. The
petitioner before us is the active partner of a firm, Gits Food Products
(India), Poona, which, among other things, deals in scented supari. A sample of
this stuff was purchased from the accused by the Food Inspector, Poona (P.W. 1)
at a price of Rs. 24/for 600 grants on January 25, 1971. A little diary of
events will help unfold the rival contentions. The supari sample was duly
analysed by the Public Analyst and his report dated February 12, 1971 revealed
the offending presence of two artificial sweeteners. namely, saccharin and
cyclamate. The Municipal Medical Officer of Health, Poona, granted the
requisite statutory consent to prosecute and the very next day, February 26,
1971. a complaint was laid before the First Class Magistrate having
Jurisdiction. On the strength of the prosecution evidence a charge was framed
on July 13, 1971, thus :
"That you, on or about the 15th day of
January 1971 (it should read 25th January 1971) at 9.30 a.m., sold and retained
for selling the Nandi Brand sentenced supari with saccharin and cyclamate,
prohibited artificial sweetener, adulterated supari in contravention of Section
7(i)(ii), Rule 47, of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, and that
thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 16(1) (a)(i) of the Prevention
of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.
The accused's plea of innocence and
supporting evidence notwithstanding, a conviction was recorded under S. 7(1)
read with S. 16(1) (a) (i) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
(the Act, for short), and on September 30, 1971, the accused was sentenced
venially, for certain special reasons mentioned by the Magistrate, to a small
fine. Revision applications were carried, as earlier stated, and the High Court
while confirming the conviction, substituted a severer 157 sentence, having no
power to inflict less, in its view of the law. The, appellant in this Court
has, by way of second string to his exculpatory bow, challenged the vires of
rules 44(g) and 47 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules (hereinafter
'called "the Rules"), and even of s. 23(2) of the Act as being
violative of arts. 14 and 19(1) (f) and (g). The reliefs claimed in both the
writ petition and the criminal appeal converge towards the same end of getting
an acquittal for the accused.
Before proceeding to a formulation of the
points raised at the Bar and a discussion and decision thereon, two minor
episodes deserve to' be mentioned because.counsel for the accused has built on
them an argument for amelioration. As if to satisfy himself and to impress, by
conduct, his innocence on the Court, the accused sent a sample of saccharin
from the same tin from which the supari sold to the Food Inspector was
sweetened. Ex. 22, dated March 1, 1971, shows that even before the filing of
the criminal complaint the accused had requested for an analysis of a sample of
saccharin sent by him on. February 23, 1971, the result of the examination
being that cyclamate was present in it. The further fact placed before the
Court by, the accused was that he had purchased saccharin in tins sold by the
Standard Chemical and Pharmaceutical Co., Bombay, that these "Cycle"
brand tins were stated to be of extra pure quality and the receptacles
themselves contained a printed warranty like Ex. 31. The story of the accused
is that it was such ultra pure quality of saccharin for which the manufacturer
had given a warranty that found its way into the sweet supari he sold and that
cyclamate was expressly declared to be absent therein by the manufacturer of
the sweetener.' His good faith was thus above board, according to the advocate
for the appellant.
A close-up of the law relevant to this case
will help focus attention on the criminal area into which the appellant is
alleged to have entered. The central concept of the statute, is prevention of
adulteration of food in the sombre background of escalating manoeuvres by
profiteers who seek to draw dividends from the damage to the health of the
people caused by trade in adulteration. The social sternness and wide sweep of
the statute can be realised from the thought that an insidious host that
internally erodes the vitality of a nutritionally deficient nation is, in one
sense, a greater menace than a visible army of aggression at our frontiers and
so the police power of the State must reach out to protect the unsuspecting
community with overpowering laws against those whose activities are a serious
hazard to public health. And so a minimum jail term is fixed in the Act itself.
Now to the Act and its scheme.
"Food" is defined very widely ins. 2 (v) and 'adulteration, also has
been assigned a considerable ranger of meaning in s. 2(i). Power to make rules
to effectuate the statute is conferred on the Central Government in s' 23 so
that nutritional details, biochemical nuances, variable factors of scientific,
advance, new commercial cunning and astute legal antidotes may all be flexibly
provided for from time to time without moving the legislature for frequent
statutory amendments. The area covered being technical the requisite expertise
is drawn from a specialist' committee constituted 158 under s. 3 whom
Government must consult before framing rules under s. 23 (2). Rules made shall
be laid before both Houses of Parliament so that control on such subordinate
legislation may be effectively exercised Section 16 invests the law with sharp
teeth taking a severe view of the nature of the offence and prescribes a
minimum of 6 months R.I. and Rs. 1,000/fine for all offenses, even first
This is a discretion-proof prescription of
legislative sentence but when the offence falls under the proviso to s.
16(1) the Court may, for special reasons to
be recorded, reduce the punishment. Having regard to the several limitations on
magisterial powers of sentencing under the Cr. PC., S. 21 removes those
trammels when punishing food offenders. Section 7, of course, is the provision
defining and classifying the offenses and it is relevant to recognise one
distinction. Sale of "adulterated' food attracts S.
7(i) while violations of the rules are caught
in the coils of s.7(v). This differentiation is linked to S. 16. For, an
offence under sec. 7 (v) read with S. 16(1) (a) (ii) brings into play the
marginal mitigatory discretion vested in the magistrate under the proviso
thereto. In short, sale of 'adulterated' food is visited, willy nilly, with
nothing less than 6 months R.I. and Rs. 1000/fine, as imposed in this case by
the High Court. Sale merely in derogation of the Rules leaves the Court room
for awarding a lesser penalty as the Magistrate has done. Since the defence is
of absence of mens rea and indemmity derived from a warranty, section 19 needs
It runs thus and is self-explanatory :
'19( 2) A vendor shall not be deemed to have
committed an offence pertaining to the sale of any adulterated or misbranded
article of food if he proves(a) that he purchased the article of food(i) in a
case where a licence is prescribed for the sale thereof, from a duly licensed
manufacturer, distributor or dealer;
(ii) in any other case, from any
manufacturer, distributor or dealer;
with a written warranty in the prescribed
form; and (b) that the article of food while in his possession was properly
stored and that he sold it in the same state as he purchased it".
Two rules, as they originally stood and as
now modified, figured during arguments and they had better be extracted here
"4. Sale of certain admixture$
prohibitedNotwithstanding the provisions of Rule 43, no person shall either
himself or by any servant or agent sell(g) any article of food which contains
any artificial sweetener, except Saccharin, or in the preparation of which any
such artificial sweetener has been used".
159 47-Addition of Saccharin to be mentioned
on the label.Saccharin may be added to any food if the container of such food
is labeled with an adhesive declaratory label, which shall be in the form given
"This.. . (name of food) contains an
admixture of Saccharin.
These rules held the field from November 24,
1956 until August 24, 1968 when they were further amended. The prevention of
Food Adulteration (Third Amendment) Rules, 1968, redrafted rules 44(g) and 47,
and it is these new rules which were extant at the time of the alleged offence
(January 25, 1971). It is proper at this stage to reproduce these two rules.
"44. Sale of certain admixtures
prohibited.Notwithstanding the provisions of Rule 43 no person shall either by
himself or by any servant or agent sell.
(g) any article of food which contains any'
artificial sweetener except where such artificial sweetener is permitted in
accordance with the standards laid down in Appendix B".
"47. Addition of artificial sweetener to
be mentioned on the label Sacharin or any other artificial sweetener shall not
be added to any article of food, except where the addition of such artificial
sweetener is permitted in accordance with the standards laid down in Appendix
"B" and where any artificial sweetner is added to any food the
container of such food shall be labeled with an adhesivedeclaratory label which
shall be in the form given below:
"This.. (name of food) contains an
admixture .... (name of the artificial sweatier).
The use of a saccharin is permitted under
Rule 47 in case of carbonated water in item 5(3-A 1.01.01 but no such benefit
is enjoyed by supari. Cyclamates have never been permitted sweeteners.
The crucial inculpatory facts are virtually admitted.
The sale is established and so also the presence of saccharin and cyclamate in
the supari sample. Under the Rules extant on a January 25, 1971 the appellant
admuits the two sweetners are prohibited as additives to supari. The
contravention of s. 7 read with rr. 44(g and 47 being plainly proved the
offence falls not under s@. (i) but subs. (v). None of the Many alternatives-in
s. 2(i) applies bee use there is neither averment nor proof-and counsel for the
State fairly conceded this-that the sweeteners in question ate injurious to
health and the other subclauses cannot be attracted. Perhaps they are. Even if
they are not it is perfectly possible that the State may-ban their use. But it
these additives are,toxic it is a failure of.
duty of the Food Inspector not to have
averred in the complaint and Adduced evidence in support, a matter which the
concerned authorities will consider. Indifferent 160 action of the prosecution
also occasions failure of justice to the community especially when faceless victims
are involved like under food regulation laws. Anyway, the fact is-and the court
cannot help it the absence of evidence (a) that the supari contains any
poisonous or other ingredients which renders it injurious to health or (b) that
it contains any other substance causing injury as indicated in s. 2(i) (b) puts
the offence out of s. 7 (i) and brings it within s. 7(v).
The further fortunes of saccharin and
cyclamate in official eyes as a bearing on the plea of the accused. It
transpires that the Central Committee for Food Standards, constituted under s.
23(1) of the Act is stated to have accepted the recommendation of its
sub-committee to the effect that saccharin may be permitted to be used in
scented supari to the extent of'100 parts per million, and steps are under way
for suitable amendments to the rules. It is also on record that the
Commissioner, Food & Drugs Administration, Maharashtra State, communicated
this information to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay pursuant to
which a circular dated October 24, 1972 was issued by the Corporation which
"Circular Subject : Licensing of scented
supari. The Commissioner Food and Drug Administration, has informed this office
that the Central Committee for Food Standards has accepted the recommendation
of its subcommittee that saccharin may be permitted to be used in scented
supari to the extent or 100 p.p.m. and that C.C.P.S. is moving the Government
of India, Ministry of Health, for suitable amendment to the Rules. In view of
this, it is not advisable to institute prosecutions as merely for presence of
saccharin in scented supari and where such cases have already been launched the
papers should be submitted to this office, for orders for withdrawal. The
Commissioner, Food and Drugs Administration, has further informed this office
that in view of the proposed amendments, firms adding saccharin to the
aforesaid limit in supari can be licensed under M.P.F.A. Rules." So far
cyclamate is concerned, although the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules do
not permit its use it is seen in the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules a ban on the use
of cyclamates was introduced only on June 21, 1972 and that is reliedon to
argue that till that time it was not regarded as injurious "a sort of
aliki for its presence in the accused's supari sample. The relevant rule is
rule 84(b) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
With this background of the Act and the Rules
we may evaluate the pleas urged by counsel for the accused which we. proceed to
formulate. Of course, the spectrum of submissions has ranged from challenging
the status of supari as food and the toxicological hazards of saccharin and
cyclamate and culminated in the unconstitutionality of the rules which ban the
use of these food additives, and even the rule-making power, S. 23, for
violation of arts. 14 and 19(1) (f) and (g) of the Constitution. Covering this
ground, the appellant hopefully posed the following questions which are may
itomise thus (1) Is supari food? 161 (2) Is not good faith of the vendor
legally exculpatory even in a food offence? (3) Can saccharin or cyclamate be
regarded as health hazards at all? If not, is it not an unreasonable and,
therefore, unconstitutional restriction on freedom of trade to prevent and
punish sales of articles innocuously sweetened by these innocent additives ?
(4) Does not the history of the Rules (and the D & G Rules claiming down
control on the use of saccharin and cyclamate recently)
demonstrate-particularly in the context of the technical and administrative
rethinking on admixture of saccharin reflected in the circulars the
arbitrariness and unreasonableness of the new rules 44(g) and 47, liable
therefore to be struck down under art. 13 read with arts. 14 and 19? (5) In the
light of carbonated waters being permitted to use saccharin, is it not
arbitrary to single out supari for discriminatory embargo on the use of this
artificial sweetner and does not rule 47 fail for violation of art. 14? (6)
Does the offence, assuming the facts of the prosecution to be proved, fell under
s. 16(i)(a)(i) the impact of such finding being material so the issue of
sentence? (7) Should the sentence, in the facts and circumstances of the case
be so draconian? (8) In any view, the respectable trader, that the accused is,
the Probation of Offenders Act and its beneficent provision must be applied to
bale him out of the incarceration inflicted by the High Court.
A few other untenable points like that the
sale to a Food Inspector is not a real sale and that the scented supari was in
an experimental, not marketable stage, were feebly spelt out but hardly deserve
notice. They reveal more the range of legal resourcefulness than confidence in
the journey to guiltlessness.
Before proceeding to discuss the points so.
framed we may dispose of the extraordinary plea that s. 23(1)(b) of the Act,
empowering them Central Government, in consultation with the Expert Committee,
to make rules defining the standards and quality for and fixing the limits of
variability permissible in respect of any article of food, is bad since the
statute lays down no policy, principles nor guidelines regarding the articles
of food for which standards are to be prescribed, etc. etc. The. vice of
uncanalised executive power and tie evil of excessive delegation of legislative
power are the two fatal factors pressed before us. Had counsel granted us some
familiarity with this branch of constitutional law everybody's time would pro
tanto have been, saved. Comprehensive powers of rule-making have been vested in
the Central Government, and since the subject is technical there, is a
direction in the statute to Government that the Central Committee for Food
Standards shall be constituted consisting of specialists in the various fields
concerned and to consult that Committee before framing rules. The ,naked power'
submission is demolished by the guidelines implicit in L 447SCI/74 162 the
statute, by the Committee built into the system, by the specifications
contained in the rule-making provisions and by the safeguard of laying the
rules, before the Houses.
We now proceed to consider the bold bid made
by the appellant to convince the Court that supari is not an article of food
and, as such, the admixture of any sweetener cannot attract the penal
provisions at all. He who runs and reads the definition in S. 2(v) of the Act
will answer back that supari is food. The lexicographic learning, pharmacopic
erudition, the ancient medical literature and extracts of encyclopedias pressed
before us with great industry are worthy of a more substantial submission.
Indeed, learned counsel treated us to an extensive study to make out that
supari was not a food but a drug. He explained the botany of bettlenut, drew
our attention to Dr. Nandkarni's Indian Materia Medica, invited us to the great
Susruta's reference to this aromatic stimulant in a valiant endeavor to
persuade us to hold that supari was more medicinal than edible. We are here
concerned with a law regulating adulteration of food which effects the common
people in their millions and their health. We are dealing with a commodity
which is consumed by the ordinary man in houses, hotels, marriage parties and
even routinely. In the field of legal interpretation, dictionary scholarship
and precedent-based connotations cannot become a universal guide or semantic tyrant,
oblivious of the social context, subject of legislation and object of the law.
The meaning of common words relating to common articles consumed by the common
people, available commonly and contained in a statute intended to protect the
community generally, must be gathered from the commonsense understanding of the
The Act-defines 'food' very widely as
covering any article used as food and every component which enters into it, and
even flavoring matter and condiments. It is commonplace knowledge that the word
"food" is a very general term and applies to all that is eaten by man
for nourishment and takes in subsidiaries. Is supari eaten with relish by man
for taste and nourishment ? It is. And so it is food.
Without carrying further on this unusual
argument we hold that supari is food within the meaning of s. 2(v) of the Act.
it was next urged before us that the dealer
believed in good faith that there was no cyclamate in the substance sold
induced by the warranty and honestly did not know that saccharin was
contraband, the rules in this behalf having been changed frequently and
recently. it is trite law that in food offenses strict liability is the rule
not merely under the Indian Act but all the world over. The principle has been
explained in American Jurisprudence (2d, Vol. 35, p. 864) thus :
"Intent as element of offence:
The distribution of impure or adulterated
food for consumption is an act perilous to human life and health, hence, a
dangerous act, and cannot be made innocent and harmless by the want of
knowledge or by the good faith of the seller; it is the act itself, not the
intent, that determines the guilt, and 163 the actual harm to the public is the
same in one case as in the other. Thus, the seller of food is under the duty of
ascertaining at his peril whether the article of food conforms to the standard
fixed by statute or ordinance, unless such statutes or ordinances, expressly or
by implication, make intent an element of the offence." Nothing more than
the actus reus is needed where , regulation of private activity in vulnerable
areas like public health is intended. In the words of Lord Wright in McLeod v.
Buchanan(1) "intention to commit a breach of statute need not be, shown.
The breach in fact is enough." Social defence reasonably overpowers
individual freedom to injure, in special situations of strict liability.
Section 7 casts an absolute obligation regardless of scienter, bad faith and
mens rea. if you have sold any article of food contrary to any of the
sub-sections of s. 7, you are guilty.
There is no more argument about it. The law
denies the right of a dealer to rob the, health of a supari consumer.
We may merely refer to a similar plea
over-ruled in the case reported in  1 S.C.R. 166.Andhra Pradesh Grain
& Seed Merchants Association v. Union of India.(2) It was strenuously
submitted that neither saccharin nor cyclamate is a biochemical risk and so a
blanket ban on their use is an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of
trade, apart from being ultra vires the rule-making power in s. 23(1).
Saccharin was surely a permissible sweetener till the rules were modified in
August 1968. It is also a fact that cyclamate which was not permissible as an
additive under the Rules was prohibited from going into medicinal preparations
only in 1971 by a rule under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. It is well known that
saccharin is used by many people medicinally for diabetics or obesity. The
short-term and long-term effects of saccharinon rats and human beings were
reviewed in the F.A.A./W.H.O. meeting held in Geneva in 1967 and the following
comments were made:
"The extensive biochemical studies with
saccharin and sodium saccharin show the inertness of these substances.
Following an oral dose, saccharin appears unchanged in the urine of man within
half-hour and is completely exerted within 48 hours. The long recorded use by
man without any apparent deleterious effects in normal individuals and diabetic
patients indicates the safety of the normal intakes of saccharin. Although longterm
animal studies are limited to rats, two reports show no effects at dosage
levels as high as 1 per cent, and only slight growth retardation at 5 per cent
These studies are adequate to rule out carcinogenicity. The carcinogenicity
studies are limited to skin application and bladder implantation in mice and
lack significance in the oral use of saccharin for man. Reports on studies in
mice, rats and rabbits are adequate to show the lack of any effect on fertility
and progeny." (1)  2 A.E.R. 179 at 186 H.I..I (2)  1 S.C.R.
166 164 However, in view of the marginal potential danger of saccharin if
consumed in considerable quantities the United States removed saccharin from
the GRAS (Generally Rerognised As Safe) list of food additives and restricted its
use in a prescribed way. This measure, calculated to 'freeze' saccharin at low
levels pending final outcome of current research on safety, has had its impact
on Indian scientists. Current experiments in America probably.
indicate that at high levels of consumption
some test animals develop bladder tumors which may be cancerous.
The expert sub-committee of the Central
Committee for Food Standards considered the use of saccharin in 1971 in the
light of investigations on toxicity designed. to evaluate the hazards from the
standpoint of carcinogenesis. While saccharin is not positively shown to be
carcinogenatic the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, observed that it
had a growth-retarding effect with a poor rice diet, and therefore should be
carefully restricted, 70% of our population being under-nourished or
malnourished. The Central Committee, after weighing the pros and cons of the
use of saccharin in foods, recommended the continuance of the, ban on saccharin
in general but agreed for special exemptions considering each food on its
merits. It appears that in regard to carbonated waters, if a man takes four
bottles, the total daily intake per adult of saccharin would be approximately
50 mgs. per day whereas the recommended maximum limit is 350 mgs. per day. That
is why carbonated waters are permitted the admixture of limited quantities of
saccharin. The Committee appears to be taking the view that saccharin at a low
level may be permitted in supari with a proper declaration of its presence. On
account of this recommendation of the Central Committee, the circular referred
to earlier in this judgment was probably sent out pursuant to the communication
by, the Commissioner, Food and Drugs Administration, Maharashtra State.
Even on cyclamates, the toxic degree is not
There is considerable controversy both in the
United States and the United Kingdom about a total ban on cyclamates but there
is a growing volume of opinion that its use has caused bladder tumor when
massive doses are fed on rats. In India also scientific opinion is sharply
divided on the harmful consequences of cyclamates. However, in the United
States and the United Kingdom, in Japan and other countries there is a ban on
this substance and the Indian official view seems to be that without more
information on the mechanism of bladder cancer induction in rats by the
cyclamatesaccharin mixture we have to follow the example of the United States.
No risks can be taken where millions of people and their lives are involved and
cancer being a sure killer does not admit of biochemical gamble or medical
speculation particularly when the Indian people, by and large, are less
health-conscious and informed than Americans and Britons.
Such being the facts, it is not the judicial
function to enter the thicket of research controversy or scientific dispute
where Parliament has entrusted the Central Government with the power, and
therefore the duty, of protecting public health against potential hazards and
the Government, after consultation with a high-powered technical 165 body, has
prohibited the use of saccharin and cyclamates.
The fact that for a long time these
substances were allowed is no argument against the reasonableness of their
later ban; for human knowledge advances and what was regarded as innocuous once
is later discovered to be deleterious. In no view can the discretion of the
government, exercised after listening to the technical counseling of the
Central Committee, be castigated as arbitrary and capricious or as
unreasonable. So long as the exercise of power is not smeared by bad faith,
influenced by extraneous considerations, uninformed by relevant factors, and is
within the limits of reasonableness it becomes out of bounds for judicial
reevaluation. Where expertise of a complex nature is. expected of the State in
framing rules, the exercise of that power not demonstrated as arbitrary must be
presumed to be valid as a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right of
the, citizen and judicial review must halt at the frontiers. The court cannot
reweigh and substitute its notion of expedient solution.
Constitutionality not chemistry, abuse, not
error, is our concern and the Executive has not transgressed limits at all
here. Within the wide judge-proof areas of policy and judgment open to the
government, if they make mistakes, correction is not in court but elsewhere.
That is the comity of constitutional jurisdictions in our' jurisprudence. We
cannot evolve a judicial policy on medical issues or food additives and should
refuse to invalidate rules 44(g) and 47 on the mystic may be and happy hopefuls
held up before us by the, appellant.
Nor is there any substance whatever in the
plea that there is a discrimination against supari vis-a-vis,carbonated waters.
There is a basis for the distinction. All judicial thought, Indian and
Anglo-American, on the judicial review power where ruler, under challenge
relate to a specialised field and involve sensitive facets of public welfare,
has warned courts off easy assumption of unreasonableness of subordinate
legislation on the strength of half-baked studies of judicial generalists aided
by the ad-hoc learning of counsel. The Court certainly is the constitutional
invigilator and must act to defend the citizen in the assertion of his
fundamental rights against executive tyranny draped in discretionary power but
here no case for it exists.
It is surprising that the ruling in Kartar
Singh's case(1) has not deterred the urging of this contention. Dealing with a
similar argument under the same Act this Court overruled the High Court's
judgment striking down the impugned rules, and stated :
"We do not consider that the Court was
justified in practically legislating and laying down what the rules should be
rather than give effect to the law by adherence to the rules as framed."
We respectfully agree with this guide-line. Violation of arts. 14 and 19 by the
Act and the Rules has been urged but repelled so late as in the Andhra Grain
Merchants case(2) but some constitutional pleas. here parties are rich, die had
and ride on the hardships of the small man.
(1)  6 S.C.R. 679; 690.
(2)  1 S.C.R. 166.
166 Culpability being thus conclusive we have
to fix the precise provision under which the guilt arises. In the absence of
proof that the addition of saccharin and cyclamate are injurious to health the
food cannot be called 'adulterated' in statutory vocabulary. Never-the-less
there is undisputed violation of rr. 44(g) and 47 and so the accused is guilty
under s. 16(1) read with s. 7(v).
The question of exculpation of the accused
based on the warranty set up need not detain us since both the courts have
rightly rejected this disingenuous, though ingenious, defence. If we were to
reverse this finding on fact judicial sanction for a merchant's stratagem
calculated to defeat the law would have been given. The plea is in vain.
Finally comes the post-conviction stage where
the current criminal system is weakest. The Court's approach has at once to be
socially informed and personalised.
Unfortunately, the meaningful collection and
presentation of penological facts bearing on the background of the 'individual,
the dimension of damage, the social mileu and what not-these are not provided
for in the Code and we have to make' intelligent hunches on the basis of
materials adduced to prove guilt. In this unsatisfactory situation which needs
legislative remedying we go by certain broad features. But before that, the
submission of counsel for the humanistic probation law to be liberally extended
to this anti social offence has to be considered.
The rehabilatory purpose of the Probation of
Offenders Act, 1958, is pervasive enough technically to take within its wings
an offence even under the Act. The ruling in Ishar Das v. State of Punjab(1) is
authority for this position.
Certainly, ",its beneficial provisions
should receive wide interpretation and should not be read in a restricted
sense". But in the very same decision this Court indicated one serious
"Adulteration of food is a menace to
public health. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act has been enacted with
the aim of eradicating that anti-social evil and for ensuring purity in the
articles of food. in view of the above object of the Act and the intention of
the legislature as revealed by the fact that a minimum sentence of imprisonment
for a period of six months and a fine of rupees one thousand has been
prescribed, the courts should not lightly resort to the provisions of the Probation
of Offenders Act in the case of persons above 21 years of a found guilty of
offenses under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. . ." The kindly
application of the probation principle is negatived by the imperatives of
social defence and the improbabilities of moral proselytisation. No chances can
be taken by society with a man whose anti-social operations, disguised as a
respectable trade, imperil numerous innocents. He is a security risk. Secondly,
these economic offenses committed by white collar criminals are unlikely to be
(1)  3 S.C.C. 65.
167 dissuaded by the gentle Probationary process.
Neither casual provocation nor motive against particular persons but planned
profit making from numbers of consumers furnishes the incentive-not easily
humanised by the therapeutic probationary measure. It is not without
significance that the recent report (47th report) of the Law Commission of
India has. recommended the exclusion of the Act to social and economic offenses
by suitable amendments. it observed "We appreciate that the suggested
amendment would be in apparent conflict with current trends in sentencing. But
ultimately, the justification of all sentencing is the protection of society.
There are occasions when an offender is so antisocial that his immediate and
sometimesprolonged confinement is the best assurance of society's protection. The
consideration of rehabilitation has to giveway, because of the paramount need
for the protection of society. We are, therefore recommending suitable
amendment in all the Acts, to exclude probation in the above cases." (p.
85) In the current Indian conditions the probation movement has not yet
attained sufficient strength to correct these intractables. May be, under 'more
developed conditions a different approach may have to be made. For the present
we cannot accede to the invitation to let off the accused on probation.
The finale in every criminal trial is
sentence. Let us take stock of the social and personal facts, the features of
the crime and the culprit. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, is
meant to save society, and Parliament has by repeated amendments emphasized the
statutory determination to stamp out food offenses by servere senences. Indeed,
dissatisfied with the indulgent exercise of judicial discretion, the
legislature has deprived the court of its power to be lenient. In the light of
escalating food adulteration this is understandable. Even so, there are
violations and violations. Scented supari is neither a staple deit nor popular
'With the poor, being an expensive item. Nor is saccharm poisonous but
prohibited more as a precaution. That may be the reason for the prosecution not
leading evidence of its injurious properties. The circular bearing on saccharin
in supari, though irrelevant to nullify the rule, suggests that it is not so
grave a danger and may perhaps be permitted again. Cyclamate stands on a
somewhat different footing, although in a practical sense, the menace to health
from it is not too serious except where unusually massive doses are consumed.
The accused's non-knowledge has been rejected by us but he alleges that he has
retired from the firm. He has undergone a week in jail and is. not shown to be
The Court has jurisdiction to bring down the
sentence to less than the minimum prescribed in s. 16(1) provided there are
adequate and special reasons in that behalf. The normal minimum is six months
in jail and a thousand rupees fine.
We find no good reason to depart from the
proposition that generally food offenses must be deterrently dealt with. The
High Court under the erroneous 168 impression that the offence fell under S. 7
(i) read with s.
16 (1) (a) (i) actually it comes under s.7
(v) read with S.
16 (1) (a) (ii) did not address itself to the
quantum of sentence. Even so the punishment fits the crime and the criminal.
We are not unmindful of the possibilities of
village victualers and tiny grocers being victimised by dubious enforcement
officials which may exacerbate when punishments become harsher, and the
marginal hardships caused by stern sentences on unsophisticated small dealers.
Every cause has its martyr and Parliament and Government-not the Court-must be
disturbed over the search for solutions of these problems. Savage severity may
not always prove effective and may be cruel on petty and marginal offenses.
The learned Magistrate, we are constrained to
observe, has completely failedto appreciate the gravity of food offenses, when
he imposed a naively negligible sentence of one hundred rupees fine. In a
country where consumerism as a movement has not developed, the common man is at
the mercy of the vicious dealer. And when the primary necessaries of life are
sold with spurious admixtures for making profit, his only protection is the Prevention
of Food Adulteration Act and the Court. If offenders can get away with it by
payment of trivial fines, as in the present case, it. brings the law into
contempt and is enforcement a mockery. In this context, it is apposite to draw
attention to measures taken in many advanced countries for the evolution of a
rational and consistent policy of sentencing. Conferences between judges,
magistrates and penal administrators, are being organised with increasing
frequency in England and in the United States. The 47th Report of the. Law
Commission has stressed the need for the programme because of the sentencing
vagaries witnessed in our country.
Indeed, the education of. the sentencing
judge, particularly in the context of economic offenses, is a yawning gap in
our criminal system and the, near-escape of the accused before the trial court
in this case, prevented only by the Criminal Revision to the High Court,
permits us to observe that the magistracy in the country has yet to realise
that "there are occasions 'when an offender is so anti-social that his
immediate and sometimes prolonged confinement is the best assurance of
society's physical protection."(1) Or, we may add, even in less severe
situations heavy enough fine to drive him out of the trade if he tried the
There is. injustice to the community the
invisible but immense victim of the crime-in the court's misplaced sympathy for
the culprit. In the result, the writ petition proves a damp squib and the
criminal appeal a futile venture in exculpation and extenuation. We dismiss
K.B.N. Petition dismissed.
(1) Camobell Judge William J.,
"Developing Systematic Sentancing Procedures", Federal Probation
(September 1954, page 3, quoted by the Advisory Council of Judges of the
N.P.P.A. Guidelines for sentencing (1957), pages 1 to 9, reproduced in Donnelly
etc. Criminal Law (1962), page 374.