SC:Marginal deficiency is no ground for acquittal in food adulteration cases

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 4th October 2019, in the matter of Raj Kumar v. The State of Uttar Pradesh pronounced that a court is not justified in acquitting an accused charged with food adulteration only on the ground that the deficiency is marginal. If the food article fails to comply with the standards then it will have to be treated as an adulterated article even if it is not rendered injurious to health.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

Once standards are laid down by the Legislature then those standards have to be followed. In items like milk which is a primary food, under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, it is not necessary to also prove that the food item had become unfit for human consumption or injurious to health. (Para 8)

In cases of food coming under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, it is not required to prove that article of food was injurious to health. In this case, the only question to be determined is whether the article complies with the standards laid down or not? If it fails to comply with the standards then it will have to be treated as an adulterated article even if it is not rendered injurious to health. Even marginal deviation from the prescribed standard cannot be ignored.  (Para 8)

Court is not justified in acquitting the accused charged with adulteration only on the ground that the deficiency is marginal. (Para 11)

The powers under Section 433 can only be exercised by the appropriate Government. These powers cannot be exercised by any court including the Supreme  Court. At best, the court can recommend to the State Government that such power may be exercised but the power of the appropriate Government cannot be usurped by the courts and the Government cannot be directed to pass ‘formal compliance order’. (Para 13)

The power under Article 142 of the constitution cannot be exercised against the specific provision of law.  (Para 14)

The power under Article 142, cannot be used in total violation of the law. When a minimum sentence is prescribed by law, the Supreme Court cannot, in exercise of its power under Article 142, pass an order totally contrary to law. Powers under Article 142 cannot be exercised in such a manner that they make a mockery of the law itself. (Para 15)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_04-Oct-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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