Bom HC | Shopkeeper who does not hold valid license under S. 3 of Essential Commodities Act, cannot be convicted under S. 7 thereof

Bombay High Court: Sadhana S. Jadhav, allowed a criminal appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for offence punishable under Section 7 read with Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 for violating sub-clause (3) of clause 6 of the Liquified Petroleum Gas (Regulation of Supply and Distribution) Order, 1988.

The appellant was convicted as aforesaid for selling bogus/duplicate gas regulators. Y.M. Nakhwa, APP for the State, submitted that even if the regulators were genuine, the appellant was selling them without holding a license for possession, distribution or sale. Per contra, Anand Shivaki Patil, counsel for the appellant, submitted that the prosecution had not proved the ownership of the shop and neither they had seized the license and therefore, the conviction of the accused had resulted in grave injustice.

Perusing the record and giving due consideration to the submissions made on the behalf of the parties, the High Court was of the opinion that the conviction of the appellant was not proper. It was observed: “The accused-appellant was not a license holder. Since the appellant is not a holder of a valid license under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, there could not be any conviction recorded under Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act.”

Moreover, the Court noted that the said Order of 1988 contemplates search and seizure by a person not below the rank of Inspector authorised by such Government and notified by the Central Government or any officer, not below the rank of a Sales Officer of an Oil Company, or a person authorised by the Central Government or a State Government and notified by the Central government with a view to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Order, for the purpose of satisfying itself that this Order or any order made thereunder has been complied with. The issue, in Court’s opinion, was overlooked by the Special Judge while farming of charge.

The Court was of the view that in fact, no charge should have been framed against the appellant under Section 3 and no penalty could be imposed upon him under Section 7. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the appellant was acquitted of the charges levelled against him. [Jayendra Sadarmal Talreja v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 3130, decided on 16-10-2019]

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