Municipal Committee, Amritsar Vs.
Hazara Singh  INSC 66 (12 March 1975)
BEG, M. HAMEEDULLAH CHANDRACHUD, Y.V.
CITATION: 1975 AIR 1083
Practice--Criminal appeal under Art. 136 of
A milk vendor was prosecuted for alleged
adulteration, on the ground that there was a minimal shortfall in the
percentage of "milk solids not fat" prescribed by the Prevention of
Food Adulteration Rules. The trial court convicted but on appeal, the Sessions
Judge made a passing reference to an obiter observation of this Court in the
Malwa Cooperative-Milk Union Ltd., lndore v. Biharlial, (Criminal Appeal No.
235 dated 14-8-1967) ignored the minor deficiency observing that it was in the
nature of permissible error and acquitted the accused. An appeal against
acquittal was dismissed by the High Court.
Dismissing the appeal to, this Court,
HELD : In the Malwa Cooperative Milk Union
Ltd. v. Biharilal this Court while holding that the revisional power of the
High Court is reserved for setting right miscarriage of justice and not for
being invoked by private prosecutors, made an obiter observation, to drive home
the point, that the case itself was so marginal that the difference from the
set standard was microscopic. The Sessions Judge was perhaps wrong in tearing
that passage out of context and devising a new defence out of it in respect of
food adulteration cases. But an appeal with special leave under Art. 136 should
not have been filed merely to get a declaration that a casual statement in a
judgment of the Court is not its ratio. [915 E-G, 916 E]
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Criminal
Appeal No. 228 of 1972.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated the 12th June, 1972 of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in
Criminal Appeal No. 883 of 1972.
Naunit Lal, for the appellant.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KRISHNA IYER, J. We regret to begin this judgment with the observation that the
high purpose of reserving the Supreme Court's jurisdiction for substantial
legal issues affecting the nation, should not be taken by cases of lesser
consequence. The present criminal appeal is a signal instance of litigation of
little public interest being brought up here, holding up other momentous
The facts A petty milk vendor was prosecuted
for alleged adulteration, proof of which rested on a minimal shortfall in the
percentage of 'milk solids not fat' going by the prescribed standard (Rule 5 of
the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules). The plea of the accused that, if at
all, there might have been a marginal error, while the analysis was conducted
was rightly rejected and the Magistrate sentenced him to imprisonment and fine
as laid down in s-7 and s.16(1) of the Prevention of Food 915 Adulteration Act
(hereinafter called the Act). The milk vendor hopefully appealed and impressed
by the fact that the milk solids were of the required standard and the 'milk
solids not fat' were slightly sub-standard, the Sessions Judge ignored the minor
deficiency which is in the nature of permissible error' and acquitted the
The Municipal Committee pursued the matter to
the High Court in appeal. But a Division Bench of that Court dismissed it in
limine, presumably as too trivial for an appeal against acquittal. However, the
appellant has arrived in this Court claiming that this is a test case and
making it appear that some important question of law hangs on the, decision,
although it was represented, at the time special leave was sought by the
counsel, 'that his clients will not press for the conviction of the
respondent'. This latter representation itself is suggestive of the absence of
seriousness surrounding this particular case. Apart from this tell-tale
circumstance, the facts we have set out above show that nothing grave or great
in law, by way of miscarriage of justice or general public importance is
involved. This is one of those routine cases, comparatively insignificant,
where one court has acquitted and the High Court has felt it unjustified for
appellate reversal. It is of paramount importance that this Court's time should
not be consumed by questions which are trifles.
It is plain from submission of counsel that
the appellant's grievance is not so much against the acquittal as against a
passing reference by the Sessions Court to an orbiter observation of this Court
in The Malwa Cooperative Milk Union Ltd., Indore v. Biharilal(1). Obviously,
the Sessions Judge had concluded that a minor error in the chemical analysis
might have occurred: He was perhaps not right in saying so. Anyway, a reading
of his judgment-shows that the mention of this Court's unreported ruling
(supra) was meant to fortify himself and not to apply the ratio of that case.
Indeed, this Court's decision cited above discloses
that Hidayatullah, J. (as he then was) was not laying down the law that minimal
deficiencies in the milk components justi- fied acquittal in food adulteration
cases. The point that arose in that case was whether the High Court was
justified in upsetting an acquittal in revision, when the jurisdiction was
invoked by a rival trader, the alleged adulteration having been so negligible
that the State had withdrawn the prosecution resulting in the acquittal.
Certainly, the revisional power of the High Court is reserved for setting right
miscarriage of justice, not for being invoked by private persecutors. Such was
the ratio but, in the course of the judgment, Hidayatullah J, to drive home the
point that the case itself was so marginal, referred to the microscopic
difference, from the set standard. To distort that passage, tear it out of
context and devise a new defence out of it in respect of food adulteration
cases, is to be grossly unjust to the judgment. Indeed, the Kerala case cited
before us by counsel viz., State of Kerala v.
Vasudevan Nair(2) itself shows that such
distortion of the passage in the judgment did not and could not pass muster.
When (1) Crl. As Nos. 235 & 236 of 1964,
decided on 14-8-1967.
(2) Crl. A. 89 of 1973 decided by the Kerala High
Court on 18-7-1974-All India Prevention of Food Adulteration Cases Reporter,
1975 Part 1, p. 8.
916 pressed with such misuse of this ruling,
the High Court repelled it. 'The law of food adulterations as also the right
approach to decisions of this Court, have been set out correctly there,
"Judicial propriety, dignity and decorum demand that being the highest
judicial tribunal in the country even obiter dictum of the Supreme Court should
be accepted as bind- ing. Declaration of law by that Court even if it be only
by the way has to be respected.
But all that does not mean that every
statement contained in a judgment of that Court would be attracted by Art. 141.
Statements on matters other than law have no
binding force. Several decisions of the Supreme Court are on facts and that
Court itself has pointed out in Gurcharan Singh and Anr. v. State of Punjab
(1972 FAC 549) and Prakash Chandra Pathak v. State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 1960
SC 195) that as on facts no two cases could be similar, its own decisions which
were essentially on questions of fact could not be relied upon as precedents
for decision of other cases." * * * * * * "The standard fixed under
the Act is one that is certain. If it is varied to any extent, the certainty of
a general standard would be replaced by the vagaries of a fluctuating standard.
The disadvantages of the resulting unpredictability, uncertainty and
impossibility of arriving at fair and consistent decisions are great." It
is extraordinary that an appeal with special leave under Art. 136 should have
been filed, to get a declaration that a casual statement in a judgment of this
Court which ex facie had no kinship with the question under decision, was not
the ratio in the case.
This. appeal was ill-advised, misconceived
and unnecessary and merits dismissal.