I agree with the learned State counsel that the Act does not make a distinction between cases coming under it on the basis of the degree of adulteration. An item of food is either adulterated or not. The Act does not provide for examption of marginal or border line cases from its operation. However, keeping in view the inordinate delay of 10 years in concluding the trial against the petitioner read with the trivial variation of the standard found in the sample has definitely caused prejudice to the petitioner in the preparation of his defence and further continuation of the complaint against the petitioner would be violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.Print Page
Punjab-Haryana High Court
Rajbir Singh Sunar vs State Of Haryana on 20 October, 1995
Equivalent citations: 1996 CriLJ 1245
Bench: P Jain
1. This petition has been filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for quashing the complaint (Annexure P-1) pending in the Court of Judicial Magistrate I Class. Sonepat, in criminal case No. 123/3/85 dated 21-5-1985 and subsequent proceedings therein.
2. The admitted facts are that the petitioner is a Halwai by profession. On 20-4-1985 the Government Food Inspector inspected the business premises of the petitioner and purchased a sample of boiled mixed milk out of the total 10 litres of such milk found in a container (pateela) and put and sealed the same in three dry and clean bottles in accordance with the rules. One of such samples was sent to the Public Analyst who found the same to be deficient in milk solids not fat by 6% of the minimum prescribed standard although milk fats were found to be 7.9% as against 4.5% of the minimum prescribed standard. Accordingly, a complaint under Sections 7and 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') was filed by the Government Food Inspector against the petitioner in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate I Class, Sonepat, on 21-5-1985. After taking cognizance of the said complaint, the Judicial Magistrate summoned the petitioner for 6-6-1985. Notice was served upon the petitioner on 25-2-1987 and after recording the evidence, the petitioner was convicted and sentenced by the said Judicial Magistrate by order dated 28-7-.1987. The petitioner challenged his conviction and sentence by way of appeal before the Sessions Judge, Sonepat, who by order dated 28-8-1988 accepted the appeal; set aside the conviction and sentence of the petitioner and remanded the case for disposal in accordance with law.
3. It is stated in this petition that after the remand of the case 19/20 adjournments have been given to the prosecution by the trial Magistrate but the prosecution has not been able to conclude its evidence that a period of 10 years has elapsed without any fault on the part of the petitioner; that the said delay of about 10 years has seriously prejudiced the defence of the petitioner and the same is certainly likely to result in the miscarriage of Justice. It is further stated that the petitioner is suffering the agony of criminal trial for such a long period for no fault of his, which is violative of his fundamental right to a speedy trial and the continuation of the proceedings against the petitioner after such an inordinate delay is an abuse of the process of the Court. Accordingly, the petitioner has prayed that the proceedings pending against him before the Judicial Magistrate, Sonepat, in the aforesaid complaint be quashed.
4. Notice of motion was given to the State. In reply, the factual position mentioned by the petitioner has not been disputed. It is admitted that the sample was lifted on 20-4-1985 and after the receipt of the report of the Public Analyst, the complaint was filed on 21-5-1985 and the Judicial Magistrate I Class, Sonepat, took cognizance of the complaint and summoned the petitioner to stand trial for 6-6-1985. It has also been admitted that the petitioner was convicted and sentenced for the offence under Section 16 read with Section 7 of the Act by judgment dated 28-7-1987 which conviction and sentence were set aside in appeal by the Sessions Judge, Sonepat, on 2-8-1988 and the case was remanded for fresh trial in accordance with law. It is stated that after the remand of the case the prosecution has examined two main witnesses and only two witnesses remain to be examined. It is further explained that the delay in recording the prosecution evidence is not intentional but is procedural beyond the control of the prosecution; that on four dates the prosecution evidence could not be recorded as the lawyers were on strike and on two dates of hearing the petitioner himself did not appear in Court and on one dale of hearing the Presiding Officer was on leave. It is thus denied that any fundamental right of the petitioner has been violated or that the complaint is liable to be quashed.
5.I have heard the learned counsel for the parties and have given careful thought to the respective arguments advanced at the Bar.
6. It cannot be disputed that the right to speedy and expeditious trial is one of the most valuable and cherished rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Fundamental rights were not a teasing illusions to be mocked at. These were meant to be enforced and made a reality. Fair, just and reasonable procedure implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution creates a right in the accused to be tried speedily. Right to speedy trial is the right of the accused. The fact that a speedy trial is also in public interest or that it serves the social interest also, does not make it any-the-less the right of the accused. Right to speedy trial flowing from Article 21 encompasses all the stages, namely the stage of investigation, inquiry, trial, appeal revision and retrial. This is how, the Court shall understand this right.
7. In Madeshwardhari Singh v. State of Bihar, , a Full Bench of Patna High Court examined the right of an accused to a speedy trial under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and summed up the consequences arising out of an inordinate delay in concluding the trial as under:-
"Laying down of an outer time limit to concretise the right to speedy public trial is envisioned both by principle and precedent. A callous and inordinately prolonged delay of seven years or more (which does not arise from the default of the accused or is otherwise not occasioned by any extraordinary or exceptional reason) in investigation and original trial for offences other than capital ones plainly violate the constitutional guarantee of a speedy public trial under Article 21.Unless the fundamental right to speedy trial is to be whittled down into a mere pious wish, its enforceability in Court must at least be indicated by an outer limit to which an investigation and the trial in a criminal prosecution may ordinarily extend. Holding otherwise would be merely paying lip service to a precious right whilst denuding it of the benefits of its actual enforceability."
8. This judgment has been followed by this Court in a number of cases, reported as Parma Nand v. State of Haryana, 1993 (2) FAC 18, wherein a delay of five years in concluding the trial for an offence under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act was held to be fatal, Rameshwar Dass v. The State of Haryana, 1993 (2) FAC 180 wherein a delay of 10 years was held to be fatal to such prosecution and in Balwant Singh v. State of Haryana, 1990 (1) FAC 172, wherein the proceedings were quashed due to inordinate delay in concluding the trial.
9. The learned State counsel has placed reliance upon a judgment of this Court in Roshan Lal v. Slate of Haryana, 1992 (1) RCR 430. In this case it was held that considerable delay in completion of the trial was due to the fault of the petitioner or that of his counsel. However, the same bench in an earlier case reported as Dharmapal v. State of Haryana, 1990 (2) FAC 131, had quashed the proceedings due to inordinate delay in completion of trial. Therefore, the judgment in Roshan Lal's case (supra) would be attracted only when the accused is responsible for causing inordinate delay in the completion of the trial against him. In the present case, according to the State itself, the petitioner had taken two adjournments only during the period of 10 years which cannot be termed as a default on his part in delaying the conclusion of the trial against him. Admittedly, up to this stage only two witnesses have been examined by the prosecution and the remaining two remain yet to be examined. Admittedly, a period of 7 years, has elapsed after the remand of the case by the Sessions Judge for fresh trial in accordance with law. The prosecution has not been able to give any just and proper explanation for such an inordinate delay in the trial against the petitioner.
10. According to the report of the Public Analyst, it is evident that the sample was found to be deficient in milk solids not fat by 6% of the minimum prescribed standard although milk fats were found to be 7.9% as against 4.5% of the minimum prescribed standard. Thus, in the present case the milk fats have been found to be 3.4% in excess and only milk solids not fat to be 2.5% deficient of the minimum standard prescribed in Appendix 'B' to the Rules framed under the Act.In State of Haryana v. Inder Singh, (1991) XVIII Cr. LT 241, a Division Bench of this Court, under somewhat similar situation had made the following observations:-
". . . that the report of the Public Analyst in the instant case that the sample contained milk fat 5.8 percent and milk solids not fat 8.6 per cent will show that the milk was deficient only by 4 per cent in the milk solids not fat of the minimum prescribed standard. The fat content found in the unidentified milk was much higher than the minimum prescribed by the rules so it is to be inferred that no water had been added to the milk and the mere circumstances that non-fatty solids contained below the standard prescribed by the rules could further justify the inference either that the cow from the udders of which the milk was drawn was not given the proper food or that the report of the Public Analyst was erroneous but not the inference that the milk in question was not pure."
This view was reiterated recently by another Bench of this Court in Darshan Lal v. State of Haryana, 1995 (1) CLR 568. This very view has been expressed by the Rajasthan High Court inHeera Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 1992 FAJ 81.
11. I agree with the learned State counsel that the Act does not make a distinction between cases coming under it on the basis of the degree of adulteration. An item of food is either adulterated or not. The Act does not provide for examption of marginal or border line cases from its operation. However, keeping in view the inordinate delay of 10 years in concluding the trial against the petitioner read with the trivial variation of the standard found in the sample has definitely caused prejudice to the petitioner in the preparation of his defence and further continuation of the complaint against the petitioner would be violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
12. As a result, this petition is allowed, the (complaint Annexure P-1 pending in the Court of the (Judicial Magistrate, Sonepat and the subsequent proceedings in pursuance thereof are heareby quashed.