Supreme Court: In a criminal appeal against the order of Calcutta High Court, wherein the convict’s appeal against the conviction order to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of six months was dismissed, the Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka and Rajesh Bindal*, JJ., allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the High Court and held that vendor has protection under Section 19(2) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.
In the matter at hand, the convict, – a vendor, purchased food item pan masala, namely ‘pan parag’ from the manufacturer in sealed packaged condition and sold it to consumers. The convict was accused of offences under Section 16(1)(a)(i) read with Section 7 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (‘the Act’). He was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of six months by Senior Municipal Magistrate, Calcutta. The conviction was upheld by the Additional District & Sessions Judge, the appeal before the High Court of Calcutta against the conviction order was dismissed. Therefore, aggrieved by the order of the High Court, the convict appealed before the Court against the impugned order.
The Court referred to Sections 14 and 19 of the Act and said that there is a bar on the manufacturer or distributor or dealer to sell any article to any vendor unless he has given a warranty in writing about the nature and quality of such article to the vendor, further, it said that the proviso to Section 14 states that a bill, cash memorandum or invoice in respect of the sale of any article of food given by a manufacturer or distributor, or dealer in, such article to the vendor thereof shall be deemed to be a warranty given by such manufacturer, distributor or dealer.
The Court noted that the convict had purchased the ‘pan masala’ from the manufacturer and it is on record that a certification was attached to the purchase by the manufacturer, as per the requirements of the law. Further, it was noted that Section 19(2)(a)(ii) provides that a vendor shall not be deemed to have committed an offence pertaining to the sale of any adulterated or misbranded article of food if he proves that he purchased the article of food from any manufacturer, distributor or dealer with a written warranty in prescribed form and in the present case, the convict was having a valid defence in terms of Section 19(2) of the Act as the packed item sold by him namely ‘Pan Parag’ was having a written warranty in prescribed form from the manufacturer.
Therefore, the Court said that the convict sold the articles of food only after purchasing the same from the manufacturer through the invoices which contained the warranty as prescribed under the act, hence, the convict had protection available under Section 19(2)(a) of the Act.
Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the High Court.
[Sri Mahavir Agency v. The State of West Bengal, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 425, dated: 17-04-2023]
*Judgment authored by: Justice Rajesh Bindal