Those who knowingly manufacture or sell adulterated food could now face a life time in jail and pay a hefty fine running into lakhs of rupees.
The Law Commission has recommended changes to the Indian Penal Code which currently prescribes imprisonment of up to a mere six months and a fine of one thousand rupees for such cases.
Commission sources said that the law, once amended is expected to arrest rising cases of food adulteration. Currently, sections 272 and 273 of the IPC which deal with “Adulteration of food or drink intended for sale” and “Sale of noxious food or drink” lay down imprisonment up to six months and a fine extending up to Rs 1000 for both offences.
For both sections of the IPC to apply knowledge of the adulteration and the food or drink being rendered “noxious or unfit for consumption” are necessary. In contrast, punishment is harsher for lesser offences which are dealt with under the prevention of food adulteration Act of 1954, a relatively newer legislation as compared to the IPC.
The states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha had, however, amended the IPC over the decades to increase the term of imprisonment to life term.
The amended laws for the three states lay down that the courts can award lesser punishment, “provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment which is less than imprisonment for life.”
The states were able to change the laws because adulteration of foodstuffs falls under the concurrent list in the constitution allowing both the Centre and the states to enact laws.
“The Supreme Court referred the matter to the commission and asked us to come up with a standardised law,” a commission member who was present at a full meeting of the commission earlier this month said. The meeting was also attended by the union law secretary Suresh Chandra and the government’s view taken on the proposal.
The consensus was in favour of applying the amended state laws to the rest of the country. The Centre will now bring a bill in Parliament to effect the amendments.