State of A.P. Vs. Farmers
Service Coop. Society & Ors  Insc 460 (16 August 2004)
Arijit Pasayat & C.K.
Thakker (Arising out of Slp (Crl.) No. 900/2004 Arijit Pasayat, J Leave Granted.
The State of Andhra Pradesh has questioned correctness of the judgment
rendered by a learned single judge accepting the prayer made under Section 482
of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short the 'Code') and quashing
proceedings initiated against the respondents.
Background facts in nutshell are as follows:
On 24th July, 1998 the Fertilizer Inspector inspected the premises of
Respondent No. 1 Society, which was dealing in the business of fertilizers. He
collected samples of Zinc Sulphate and sent the same for chemical analysis.
After analysis of the samples, the report of the concerned laboratory was
that the sample did not accord to the requisite specification. Accordingly
investigation was done and on completion thereof the concerned Assistant
Director of Agriculture, Medak filed a complaint in the Court of Judicial First
Class Magistrate, Jogipet. The same was registered as CC No. 453 of 2000. All
the respondents were shown as accused persons in the complaint.
The respondents filed the petition under Section 482 of the Code which was
registered by the Andhra Pradesh High Court as Crl. Petition No. 3977 of 2001.
The primary stand was that the maximum punishment, provided for an offence
punishable under Section 7(1) (a)(ii) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955
(in short the 'Act'), the violation of which was alleged in the complaint, is
one year and, therefore, the charge-sheet which was filed about two years after
the date of offence is clearly barred by limitation. The plea was accepted by
learned single judge and the proceedings in the CC No. 453/2000 on the file of
Judicial Magistrate, First Class were quashed.
According to the learned counsel for the appellant the High Court has fallen
into grave error by holding that the maximum punishment for an offence
relatable to Section 7(1)(a)(ii) is 1 year while it is, in fact, 7 years.
Therefore, on that score alone the High Court's order is liable to set aside.
In response learned senior counsel appearing for the respondents submitted
that the offence with which respondents could be charged even if the accusations
in the complaint are accepted in toto relates to Section 7(1) (a) (i) and not
under Section 7(1)(a)(ii) as contended by the appellants. In fact, before the
High Court same was the stand taken by the present respondents. The High Court
unfortunately referred to Section 7(1)(a)(ii). According to him the order of
the High Court does not suffer from any infirmity to warrant interference.
We find that the High Court has categorically noted the submissions of the
present respondents that the maximum sentence for an offence punishable under
Section 7(1) (a) (ii) is 1 year. What is presently being contended by the
present respondents is at variance with what appears to have been contended
before the High Court.
Section 7(1) of the Act reads as follows :
"7(1) If any person contravenes any order made under section 3, - (a)
he shall be punishable, - (i) in the case of an order made with reference to
clause (h) or clause (i) of sub-section (2) of that section, with imprisonment
for a term which may extend to one year and shall also be liable to fine, and
(ii) in the case of any other order, with imprisonment for a term which shall
not be less than three months but which may extend to seven years and shall
also be liable to fine:
*provided that the court may, for any adequate and special reasons to be
mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less
than three months;
(b) any property in respect of which the order has been contravened shall be
forfeited to the Government;
(c) any package, covering or receptacle in which the property is found and
any animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance used in carrying the commodity
shall, if the court so orders, be forfeited to the Government." It cannot
be disputed and is not disputed by learned counsel for the respondent that the
maximum sentence for an offence relatable to Section 7(1)(b)(ii) is not one
year. That being so the High Court's order necessarily has to be set aside.
Learned counsel for the respondents submitted that the arguments before the
High Court revolved around Section 7(1)(b)(i) of the Act, and a fresh petition
shall be filed. If it is filed, it goes without saying, the same shall be dealt
with and disposed of in accordance with law.
Appeal is allowed.