This Case Summary is written by Ayushi Thakral. She is an intern under Content Team Legal Thirst.
The controversy in the present writ petition revolves around pan masala “Rajnigandha”.
FACTS OF THE CASE: –
The petitioners are directors of a company “Dharampal and Satyapal Limited” and are manufacturers of pan masala “Rajnigandha” all over India. The Government of Maharashtra by its notification banned the distribution and sale of pan masala in the state for five years. But the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India by its judgment in Godawat Pan Masala Products I.P. Ltd. V. Union of India struck down the said Notification. Therefore, the state government allowed the sale of gutka and pan masala on certain terms and conditions and subject to provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act,1954 and Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules,1955, and such other connected provisions.
The Joint Commissioner of Food & Drug Administration was appointed by the state for such a purpose. It has been mentioned in the said application that the product in question does not contain any added magnesium carbonate. It has also been asserted that the product does not contain any magnesium carbonate and contains only Beatelnut (Supari), Katha (Catechu), Chuna (Lima), Cardamom (Elaichi), and permitted flavors.
On 21/7/2005, the Food Inspector visited the Godown of the said company at Bhiwandi. The entire stock of the pan masala was seized and the samples were sent to a laboratory for testing. The report opined on the existence of magnesium carbonate to the extent of 1.26% to 1.35%. Therefore, the
complaint was filed under Sections 2(a), (h), (I), and (v) of the Food Adulteration Act and Rule 43-A of the said rules thereunder. They have also invoked Sections 272, 273, and 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against the manufacturer by the commissioner.
The nominee of the said company moved a bail application under Section 43(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and the same was granted but he couldn’t comply and was arrested.
ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT: –
- Should the Hon’ble Supreme Court should invoke writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and issue a writ of mandamus and set aside the FIR filed by Joint Commissioner, Food, Government of Maharashtra under Sections 272, 273, and 420 of IPC?
ARGUMENTS OF PETITIONER: –
Mr. Thakore, the learned counsel appearing for the petitioners prayed to quash and set aside the FIR in respect of sections 272, 273, and 420 of the IPC. The debate is that the said magnesium carbonate found in those samples is nothing but a chemical reaction of the existing ingredients as the ingredients referred to above themselves form the said magnesium carbonate, automatically.
● Therefore, they contended that as they have not added the said magnesium carbonate, they have not breached any provisions of the Food Adulteration Act. Even if some traces of magnesium carbonate were found in those samples of pan masala “Rajnigandha”, it was within the prescribed limits of 2.0% as specified under said adulteration Rule 62. So, it cannot be the foundation to invoke the provisions of Section 420 of the IPC.
● Also, as it has been already laid down by the Apex Court in Godawat Pan Masala’s case that the State government had no authority and jurisdiction to ban such pan masala in Maharashtra and therefore, there is no question of filing such complaint against the petitioners.
● Contended that even if some traces of magnesium carbonate has been found, that itself cannot be injurious to the health of the consumers otherwise it would have never been permitted in any article of food.
● According to the learned counsel, this is a clear case of non-application of mind, notwithstanding the medical research papers and data made available in the affidavit filed by the State Government.
● Contended of mala fide action of respondent 2 in lodging the complaint against the petitioners.
● Contented that they were unaware and had no knowledge about the permission, procedure, and advertisements.
● Contended that there was no mens rea.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENTS: –
Mr. S.R. Borulkar, the learned public prosecutor, and Ms. P.H. Kantharia, A.P.P. appearing for the State contended that there is no question, at this stage, to split the FIR and to quash and set it aside. It cannot be granted since it affects the public at large.
● It was rightly contended by the learned public prosecutor that Prima Facie, it appears that the petitioners and the Company have misled the Department while submitting the label along with the application for a license to the product, in Maharashtra. There is no reference to the existence of such magnesium carbonate in the said application.
● The petitioners gave positive averments in the newspaper advertisements dated 18/8/2005 in the English Daily “Indian Express” and Marathi Daily “Lokamat” that the “Rajnigandha” pan masala does not contain magnesium carbonate. The people at large, impressed by such advertisement are likely to purchase the pan masala “Rajnigandha”.
● This is the question of the health of the public at large also.
● The contention in respect of “vicarious liability” has been argued that the person accused must be in charge of and responsible for the conduct of the business of the company at the relevant time and there must be a positive averment in this regard. There are averments that “Dharampal Satyapal
Limited” has published advertisements giving false information and misled the public. These averments are sufficient to investigate the matter further.
● Prima Facie, it is difficult to accept that there was no mens rea, firstly, because the petitioners have submitted their application for grant of approval of the labels with specific averments of no magnesium carbonate, and secondly, by advertising the product with a positive averment that it does not contain any magnesium carbonate.
JUDGEMENT OF THE COURT: –
Taking into account, the Apex Court held that there is no case made out by the petitioners to quash and set aside the FIR registered under CR No. 1203 of 2005 against the petitioners. The petition was, therefore, dismissed.
CRITICAL ANALYSIS AND PERSONAL OPINION: –
Taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case, my personal opinion would be that the judgment was fair and just. When it comes to the health of the people, no lease should be granted to these companies otherwise they would start working haphazardly and will lead to chaos. There was a clear misrepresentation of facts in this case as the petitioners advertised that the said pan masala does not contain any magnesium carbonate. Several companies are working in the food industry but special emphasis should be laid down on industries like pan masala or gutka because they just work for their monetary benefit not taking into consideration the health of the society which is the biggest treasure after all.
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