Ram Nath vs The State Of Uttar Pradesh on 21 February, 2024

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Supreme Court of India

Ram Nath vs The State Of Uttar Pradesh on 21 February, 2024

Author: Abhay S. Oka

Bench: Sanjay Karol, Abhay S. Oka

2024 INSC 138


                                                                      REPORTABLE


                                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                        CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 472 OF 2012


                            RAM NATH                                 …APPELLANT

                                                    VERSUS

                            THE STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH
                            & ORS.                               …RESPONDENT(S)



                                                     WITH

                                      CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 479 OF 2012
                                    CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 476­478 OF 2012
                                 CRIMINAL APPEAL @ SLP(Crl.) No. 1379 of 2011



                                                  JUDGMENT

ABHAY S. OKA, J.

1. Leave granted in Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.

1379 of 2011.

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Anita Malhotra
Date: 2024.02.22
18:19:30 IST
Reason:

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 1 of 24

2. The issue involved in these appeals is about the

interplay between the provisions of Chapter IX of the

Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (for short, ‘the

FSSA’) and Sections 272 and 273 of the Indian Penal

Code (for short, ‘the IPC’).

FACTUAL ASPECT

3. Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 2012 takes exception to

the order dated 5th October 2010 passed by a Division

Bench of Allahabad High Court. The appellant filed a

petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal

Procedure, 1973 (for short, ‘CrPC’) seeking quashing of

the prosecution for the offences punishable under

Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. On 11 th May 2010, the

State of Uttar Pradesh issued an order granting power to

the authorities to initiate prosecutions under Sections

272 and 273 of the IPC as well as under the Prevention of

Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (for short, ‘PFA’). On 28 th

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 2 of 24
August 2010, a First Information Report (for short, ‘FIR’)

was lodged by a food inspector representing the Regional

Food Controller, Agra, against the petitioner alleging the

commission of offences under Sections 272 and 273 of

the IPC. The allegation was that, though the appellant did

not possess a licence to sell the commodity of mustard

oil, he continued to carry on the business of sale.

Another allegation was that the petitioner had

adulterated the mustard oil, edible oil and rice brine oil.

The petitioner approached the High Court to quash the

FIR on various grounds. The appellant relied on

Allahabad High Court’s decision dated 8 th September

2010, in the case of M/s. Pepsico India Holdings (Pvt)

Ltd. & Anr v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors 1. By the

impugned order, the High Court dismissed the petition

filed by the appellant. Incidentally, the decision in the

case of Pepsico India1 is the subject matter of challenge

by the State of Uttar Pradesh in Criminal Appeal No. 476­

1 2010 SCC OnLine All 1708

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 3 of 24
478 of 2012. In this case, FIR was registered against the

respondent on 11th August 2010, alleging the commission

of offences under Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. The

allegation was of adulteration in the cold drinks

manufactured by the respondent. The view taken in the

case of Pepsico India1 was that, from 29th July 2010,

when the FSSA came into force, the provisions thereof

would have an overriding effect over the food­related

laws, including Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. Further,

it was held that the police have no authority or

jurisdiction to investigate a case under the FSSA.

4. Criminal Appeal No. 479 of 2012 takes an exception

to the order dated 15 th September 2010, wherein the High

Court declined to quash an offence punishable under

Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. In Special Leave Petition

(Crl.) No. 1379 of 2011, the challenge is to the order

dated 3rd August 2010 of the Allahabad High Court by

which a petition under Section 482 of CrPC filed by the

appellant for quashing the FIR alleging commission of

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 4 of 24
offences under Section 272 and 273 of the IPC was

dismissed.

5. In Short, the controversy is whether the view taken

in the case of Pepsico India1, which is the subject matter

of challenge in Criminal Appeal No. 476­478 of 2012, is

correct. In the said decision, it was held that after coming

into force of the FSSA with effect from 29 th July 2010, it

would have an overriding effect on other food­related

laws, including the PFA. Therefore, the High Court held

that invocation of Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC

concerning food adulteration pursuant to a Government

order dated 11th May 2010 was bad in law.

SUBMISSIONS

6. Detailed submissions have been made on behalf of

the State of Uttar Pradesh in Criminal Appeal No. 476­

478 of 2012. On behalf of the State, reliance was placed

on the decisions of this Court in the cases of Swami

Achyutanand Tirth v. Union of India & Ors. 2 and the

2 (2014) 13 SCC 314

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 5 of 24
State of Maharashtra & Anr. v. Sayyed Hassan

Sayyed Subhan & Ors.3 The submission is that there is

no bar to the trial of an offender under two different

enactments, but the bar is only to the punishment of the

offender twice for the same offence. The learned counsel

submitted that where an act or omission constitutes an

offence under two enactments, the offender may be

prosecuted under either one of the two enactments or

both enactments but shall not be liable to be punished

twice for the same offence. Reliance was placed upon

Section 26 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 (for short,

‘the GC Act’). Learned counsel for the State also relied

upon another decision of this Court in the case of State

of M.P. v. Kedia Leather & Liquor Ltd. and Ors. 4 He

submitted that the area of operation of the IPC and a

food­related law like the FSSA are entirely different and,

therefore, the same are mutually exclusive. The learned

counsel urged that Section 89 gives overriding effect to

3 (2019) 18 SCC 145
4 (2003) 7 SCC 389

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 6 of 24
the provisions of the FSSA over all other food­related

laws, as is evident from the title of the Section. He

submitted that the IPC is not a food­related law by any

stretch of the imagination. Therefore, wherever Sections

272 and 273 of the IPC are attracted even after coming

into force of the FSSA, the offender can be prosecuted

under the said IPC provisions.

7. The learned counsel appearing for the accused

invited our attention to the objects and reasons of the

FSSA and its preamble. Their submission is that the

FSSA is very exhaustive legislation dealing with all

aspects of food, including adulteration, unsafe food, etc.

Their submission is that Section 89 will have an

overriding effect over the provisions of the IPC. Our

attention is also invited to Section 5 and Section 41 of the

IPC. The submission is that in view of Section 5, any

special law will remain unaffected by the provisions of the

IPC. Reliance was placed on a decision of this Court in

the case of Jeewan Kumar Raut & Anr. v. Central

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 7 of 24
Bureau of Investigation.5 The counsel for the accused

also placed reliance on the decision of this Court in the

case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Aman Mittal and

Anr6, in support of the proposition that the FSSA, being

a special law, will exclude the applicability of the IPC for

the fields which are covered by the provisions of the

special Act.

CONSIDERATION OF SUBMISSIONS

8. Different provisions of the FSSA were brought into

force on different dates by notifications issued from time

to time. The last of such notification is of 29 th July 2010.

All the provisions of the FSSA were in force as on 29 th

July 2010 except Section 22. The offences subject matter

of these appeals were registered after 29 th July 2010. We

have carefully considered the submissions made across

the bar. The statement of objects and reasons of the

FSSA mentions explicitly that the multiplicity of food laws

creates confusion. The multiplicity of laws, standard

5 (2009) 7 SCC 526
6 (2019) 19 SCC 740

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 8 of 24
setting and various implementing/enforcement agencies

are detrimental to the growth of the nascent food

processing industry. It is further provided that the FSSA

provides a single window to guide and regulate the

persons engaged in manufacturing, marketing,

processing, handling, transport, import and sale of goods.

The preamble of the FSSA records that it was an

enactment to consolidate the laws relating to food. It is a

very comprehensive legislation on all the aspects of food.

9. Clause (zz) of Section 3 of the FSSA defines unsafe

food, which reads thus:

“(zz) “unsafe food” means an
article of food whose nature,
substance or quality is so affected
as to render it injurious to health:

(i) by the article itself, or its package
thereof, which is composed, whether
wholly or in part, of poisonous or
deleterious substances; or

(ii) by the article consisting, wholly or
in part, of any filthy, putrid, rotten,
decomposed or diseased animal
substance or vegetable substance; or

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 9 of 24

(iii) by virtue of its unhygienic
processing or the presence in that
article of any harmful substance;
or

(iv) by the substitution of any inferior
or cheaper substance whether wholly
or in part; or

(v) by addition of a substance
directly or as an ingredient which
is not permitted; or

(vi) by the abstraction, wholly or in
part, of any of its constituents; or

(vii) by the article being so coloured,
flavoured or coated, powdered or
polished, as to damage or conceal the
article or to make it appear better or
of greater value than it really is; or

(viii) by the presence of any colouring
matter or preservatives other than
that specified in respect thereof; or

(ix) by the article having been
infected or infested with worms,
weevils, or insects; or

(x) by virtue of its being prepared,
packed or kept under insanitary
conditions; or

(xi) by virtue of its being mis­branded
or sub­standard or food containing
extraneous matter; or

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 10 of 24

(xii) by virtue of containing pesticides
and other contaminants in excess of
quantities specified by regulations.”
(Emphasis added)

Thus, the concept of unsafe food is more comprehensive

than the concept of adulterated food. Unsafe food means

an article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so

affected as to render it injurious to health.

10. The word sub­standard has been defined under

clause (zx) of Section 3, which reads thus:

“(zx) “sub­standard”, an article of
food shall be deemed to be sub­
standard if it does not meet the
specified standards but not so as to
render the article of food unsafe;”

Therefore, sub­standard food cannot be unsafe food.

11. Another important definition is of adulterant under

clause (a) of Section 3, which reads thus:

“(a) “adulterant” means any material
which is or could be employed for
making the food unsafe or sub­
standard or mis­branded or
containing extraneous matter;”

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 11 of 24
Coming back to the definition of unsafe food, sub­clause

(v) of Clause (zz) of Section 3 provides that by adding a

substance directly or as an ingredient which is not

permitted makes an article of food unsafe food. The

presence of any harmful substance in the article of food

makes it unsafe food. Therefore, if any adulterant is

added to an article of food, which renders the article of

food injurious to health, the food article becomes unsafe

food.

12. The offences and penalties are contained in Chapter

IX. Sub­Section 1 of Section 48 lays down how any article

of food can be rendered injurious to health. Sub­Section

1 of Section 48 reads thus:

“(1) A person may render any article
of food injurious to health by means
of one or more of the following
operations, namely: —

(a) adding any article or
substance to the food;

(b) using any article or
substance as an ingredient in
the preparation of the food;

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 12 of 24

(c) abstracting any constituents
from the food; or

(d) subjecting the food to any
other process or treatment,
with the knowledge that it may be
sold or offered for sale or distributed
for human consumption.”

Thus, if a person knows that a particular article of food is

being offered for sale or distribution for human

consumption and adds any adulterant (article or

substance) to the food, he renders the food article

injurious to health. In Chapter IX, Sections 49, 50, 51,

52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 and 58 deal with penalties.

Sections 59 to 64 and 66 specifically deal with offences.

Section 74 of Chapter X empowers the Central

Government or State Government to establish Special

Courts for the trial of offences relating to grievous injury

or death of the consumer for which the punishment of

imprisonment is more than 3 years.

13. In sub­Section 3 of Section 34, it is provided that

the trial of any offence under the FSSA by the Special

Court shall have precedence over the prosecution of any

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 13 of 24
other case against the accused in any other Court. In

cases where offences are not triable by the Special Court,

under Section 73 of the FSSA, there is a power vesting in

the Courts of Judicial Magistrates to try the case

summarily by following Sections 262 to 265 of the CrPC.

Against any decision or order of the Special Court, an

appeal is provided to the High Court under Section 76.

The appeal lies before a bench consisting of at least two

Judges. Another salutary provision is Section 77, which

prohibits any Court from taking cognizance of the offence

under the FSSA after the expiry of a period of one year

from the date of the commission of the crime. However,

the Commissioner of Food Safety, for reasons recorded,

can extend the period from one year to three years.

Section 79 of the FSSA overrides Section 29 of CrPC and

provides that it shall be lawful for the Court of ordinary

jurisdiction to pass any sentence authorised under the

FSSA except a sentence of imprisonment for a term

exceeding six years in excess of its powers conferred by

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 14 of 24
Section 29 of CrPC. Section 78 provides that at any time

during the trial of any offence under the FSSA, when an

offence has been alleged to have been committed by any

person not being the importer, manufacturer, distributor

or dealer, based on evidence adduced before it, the Court

has the power to proceed against the importer,

manufacturer, distributor or dealer. This provision

explicitly gives an overriding effect over the provision of

sub­Section 3 of Section 319 of CrPC. Another salutary

provision is Section 80, which lists the defences that may

or may not be allowed in the prosecution under the

FSSA. For example, it is provided that it is no defence

that the accused had a mistaken but reasonable belief as

to the facts that constituted the offence.

14. Therefore, as far as offences relating to food and

food safety are concerned, there are very exhaustive

provisions made in the FSSA dealing with all aspects of

food and food security.

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 15 of 24

15. In the facts of these cases, the offence under Section

59 of the FSSA is very relevant, which reads thus:

“59. Punishment for unsafe food.—
Any person who, whether by himself
or by any other person on his behalf,
manufactures for sale or stores or
sells or distributes or imports any
article of food for human
consumption which is unsafe, shall
be punishable,—

(i) where such failure or
contravention does not result in
injury, with [imprisonment for a
term which may extend to three
months and also with fine which
may extend to three lakh rupees];7

(ii) where such failure or
contravention results in a non­
grievous injury, with imprisonment
for a term which may extend to one
year and also with fine which may
extend to three lakh rupees;

(iii) where such failure or
contravention results in a grievous
injury, with imprisonment for a term
which may extend to six years and
also with fine which may extend to
five lakh rupees;

7 Subs. for “imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months and also
with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees” by Act 18 of 2023, S. 2 and
Sch. (w.e.f. 8-11-2023).

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 16 of 24

(iv) where such failure or
contravention results in death, with
imprisonment for a term which shall
not be less than seven years but
which may extend to imprisonment
for life and also with fine which shall
not be less than ten lakh rupees.”

Any person, whether by himself or by any other person

on his behalf, manufactures or, stores or, sells or imports

unsafe food for human consumption, becomes guilty of

an offence of dealing with unsafe food. As can be noted,

there are different punishments provided, starting from

imprisonment for 3 months and extending to

imprisonment for life and a fine, depending upon the

extent and nature of injury caused by unsafe food. The

fine is in the range of rupees three lakh to rupees ten

lakh.

16. In these appeals, we are dealing only with Sections

272 and 273 of the IPC. The same read thus:

“272. Adulteration of food or drink
intended for sale.—Whoever
adulterates any article of food or
drink, so as to make such article
noxious as food or drink, intending

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 17 of 24
to sell such article as food or drink,
or knowing it to be likely that the
same will be sold as food or drink,
shall be punished with imprisonment
of either description for a term which
may extend to six months, or with
fine which may extend to one
thousand rupees, or with both.

273. Sale of noxious food or drink.

—Whoever sells, or offers or exposes
for sale, as food or drink, any article
which has been rendered or has
become noxious, or is in a state unfit
for food or drink, knowing or having
reason to believe that the same is
noxious as food or drink, shall be
punished with imprisonment of
either description for a term which
may extend to six months, or with
fine which may extend to one
thousand rupees, or with both.”

17. Section 272 is an offence of adulteration of any

article of food or drink. The definition of food under

Clause (a) of Section 3 of the FSSA also includes a liquid.

If adulteration of an article of food is made which makes

such articles noxious as food or drink, the person who

adulterates is guilty of an offence punishable under

Section 272 of the IPC. It contemplates the accused

adulterating food with the intention to sell adulterated

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 18 of 24
food. Thus, intention is an ingredient of the offence.

When by adulterating an article of food or liquid, it

becomes harmful or poisonous, it can be said that it

becomes noxious. If, by adulteration, an article of food

becomes noxious, it becomes unsafe food within the

meaning of Section 3 (zz) of FSSA.

18. Section 273 of the IPC applies when a person sells

or, offers or exposes for sale any article of food or drink

which has been rendered noxious or has become unfit for

food or drink. Section 273 incorporates requirements of

knowledge or reasonable belief that the food or drink sold

or offered for sale is noxious. Section 59 of the FSSA does

not require the presence of intention as contemplated by

Section 272 of the IPC. Under Section 59 of the FSSA, a

person commits an offence who, whether by himself or by

any person on his behalf, manufactures for sale or stores

or sells or distributes any article of food for human

consumption which is unsafe. So, the offence under

Section 59 of the FSSA is made out even if there is an

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 19 of 24
absence of intention as provided in Section 272 of the

IPC. However, knowledge is an essential ingredient in

sub­Section 1 of Section 48, and therefore, it will be a

part of Section 59 of the FSSA. The maximum

punishment for the offence under Section 272 of the IPC

is imprisonment for a term which may extend to six

months or with a fine. The substantive sentence for the

offence punishable under Section 273 is the same,

whereas, under Section 59, the punishment is of simple

imprisonment extending from three months to a life

sentence with a fine of rupees three lakh up to 10 lakhs.

19. Moreover, a limitation of one year is provided for the

offence under Section 59, which is extendable up to three

years as provided in Section 77 of the FSSA. By virtue of

Section 468 of CrPC, the limitation for taking cognizance

of the offence punishable under Sections 272 and 273 is

one year. There is a power to extend time under Section

473 of CrPC. The power is not limited to three years.

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 20 of 24
CONCLUSION

20. Thus, there are very exhaustive substantive and

procedural provisions in the FSSA for dealing with

offences concerning unsafe food. In this context, we must

consider the effect of Section 89 of the FSSA. Section 89

reads thus:

“89. Overriding effect of this Act over
all other food related laws.—The
provisions of this Act shall have
effect notwithstanding anything
inconsistent therewith contained in
any other law for the time being in
force or in any instrument having
effect of virtue of any law other than
this Act.”
The title of the section indeed indicates that the intention

is to give an overriding effect to the FSSA over all ‘food­

related laws’. However, in the main Section, there is no

such restriction confined to ‘food­related laws’, and it is

provided that provisions of the FSSA shall have effect

notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith

contained in any other law for the time being in force. So,

the Section indicates that an overriding effect is given to

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 21 of 24
the provisions of the FSSA over any other law. The settled

law is that if the main Section is unambiguous, the aid of

the title of the Section or its marginal note cannot be

taken to interpret the same. Only if it is ambiguous, the

title of the section or the marginal note can be looked into

to understand the intention of the legislature. Therefore,

the main Section clearly gives overriding effect to the

provisions of the FSSA over any other law in so far as the

law applies to the aspects of food in the field covered by

the FSSA. In this case, we are concerned only with

Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. When the offences

under Section 272 and 273 of the IPC are made out, even

the offence under Section 59 of the FSSA will be

attracted. In fact, the offence under Section 59 of the

FSSA is more stringent.

21. The decision of this Court in the case of Swami

Achyutanand Tirth2 does not deal with this contingency

at all. In the case of the State of Maharashtra3, the

question of the effect of Section 97 of the FSSA did not

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 22 of 24
arise for consideration of this Court. The Court dealt with

simultaneous prosecutions and concluded that there

could be simultaneous prosecutions, but conviction and

sentence can be only in one. This proposition is based on

what is incorporated in section 26 of the GC Act. We have

no manner of doubt that by virtue of Section 89 of the

FSSA, Section 59 will override the provisions of Sections

272 and 273 of the IPC. Therefore, there will not be any

question of simultaneous prosecution under both the

statutes.

22. Accordingly, Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 2012,

Criminal Appeal No.479 of 2012 and Criminal Appeal

arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 1379 of 2011 succeed, and we

set aside the impugned orders. The offences, subject

matter of these appeals, are hereby quashed and set aside

with liberty to the authorities to initiate appropriate

proceedings in accordance with the law if not already

initiated. Therefore, the concerned authorities are free to

act in accordance with the FSSA for offences punishable

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 23 of 24
under Section 59 of the FSSA. Criminal Appeal Nos. 476­

478 of 2012 are dismissed.

23. No orders as to costs.

……………………..J.
(Abhay S. Oka)

……………………..J.
(Sanjay Karol)

New Delhi;

February 21, 2024

Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 20112 Page 24 of 24

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