The police had received information that the petitioners Dulal Sarkar and Titas Sarkar had illegally stored PDS rice in their residences. Accordingly, an FIR was lodged and their residences were raided. During the raid, several bags of rice were discovered. The rice was confirmed to be that of PDS upon examination. The case was investigated upon the FIR. The trial court found the appellants guilty under 7(1)(a)(ii) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. It was upheld by the Sessions Court. The petitioners challenged the judgement of the Sessions Court.
Arguments of the Appellants
The counsels for the appellant argued that the independent witnesses produced by the prosecution turned hostile during the trial. The sentence of the petitioner had been given based on the official witnesses who had an interest in the matter. So their evidence should not be sustainable. The counsels cited the judgement of the Supreme Court of India in Harchand Singh and another Vs. State of Haryana (1974 SC 344). In this case, the Court had held that the accused would get the benefit of the doubt if two sets of contradictory evidence emerged. The counsels further contended that the police had raided the accused before filing an FIR. The counsel relied upon the decision of the Gauhati High Court in Chandika Sarma Vrs. State of Assam and another((2002)1 Gauhati Law Reports 508) and argued that the seizure could only have been done in course of an FIR.
Arguments of the Respondents
Mr Ratan Datta, appearing for the state, highlighted the evidence which was scrutinised both by the Trial Court and Sessions Court. He contended that there was no reason to doubt the evidence.
Analysis of The Court
The Court observed that Section 3 of the ECA empowers the central government to regulate, control the supply and production of essential commodities. The Tripura Foodstuff
Dealers’ Licensing Order, 2010 was made in accordance with it. The petitioners had violated it. The search operation had been done in accordance with the Tripura Foodstuff Dealers’ Licensing Order, 2010. The court said that there was no convincing reason to doubt the official witnesses. In the Harchand Singh case, two contradictory accounts had emerged. But here some witnesses turned hostile but did not say anything in favour of the petitioners. Also, the factual situation of the Chandika Sarma case was different. The observation of the Gauhati High Court was made in a different context.
The Court upheld the conviction made by the session court. But it reduced the sentence of the accused taking into consideration the nature of the offence and other facts. The accused were instructed to surrender within two months.
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