Supreme Court Allows the Appeal and Sets Aside the Order of Madhya Pradesh High Court

In the case of Hindustan Unilever Limited V. State of Madhya Pradesh, Appellant filed this appeal, challenging an order of Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur, in which the revision filed by the Nominated Officer (Incharge) of the Hindustan Unilever Limited, was allowed and the matter was sent back to the Trial Court for reconsideration of the evidence. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order of High Court.

Brief Facts of the case

A complaint was filed by an Inspector, Food and Health, in accordance with a sample taken on 7.2.1989 related to Dalda Vanaspati Khajoor Brand Ghee manufactured by the Company, as per the provisions of The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 19542 the sample of that Vanaspati Ghee was taken from the godown of Lipton India Limited which was found to be adulterated.

It was found that the melting point was 41.8-degree centigrade which was higher than the normal centigrade. The High Court in its order noticed that if the Company is acquitted, then the benefit will directly go to the Appellant Officer.

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The patent defect in the Judgment of the Trial Court and Appellate Court was observed by the High Court. Therefore, the conviction & sentence was passed against the Appellant, being a nominated person of the Company. The matter was set aside and was returned to the Trial Court for passing fresh judgment.

Arguments before the court

The counsel for the Appellant (Company) Mr. Siddharth Luthra, argued that there was no order of conviction by the Trial Court, and no opportunity of hearing was given, that order violates Subsection (2) of Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (no order under this Section shall be made to the prejudice of the accused).

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Dr. Singhvi, the Counsel for the Appellant argued that the Appellant was charged for the violation of Section 2(a)(m) read with Section 7(i) of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

The sentence for this violation is not less than six months and up to 3 years and a fine of Rs.1,000/- under Section 16(1)(a)(i), whereas, under the 2006 Act, the punishment of such adulteration which is related to the only higher melting point is fine of Rs.5 lakhs and Rs.1 lakh under Sections 3(1)(zx) and 3(1)(i) respectively.

Observation of the Court

The Supreme Court observed that as the Trial Court did not convict the company, then it was found that the decision of the High Court to revisit the judgment would be unfair to the Nominated Person who had been facing trial for more than the last 30 yrs.

Thus, the Order of rem to the Trial Court to fill up the lacuna was not a fair option exercised by the High Court because the failure of the Trial Court to convict the Company provides the entire conviction of the Nominated Person as unsustainable.

The decision of the Court

Supreme Court dismissed the filed complaint. The appeal was allowed by the Court and the order passed by the High Court was set aside.

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Click here to read the judgment.


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