Deciding a 31-year-old case, the special CBI court here on Friday sentenced leading industrialist Rajinder Mittal and three others to four years' imprisonment in the infamous beef tallow case.
The four were held guilty of duping people by selling tins of beef-tallow-mixed ghee in the name of shudh vanaspati ghee.
Mittal, chairman of Mittal Group of Companies, along with Subhash Chand and his brother Tirlok Chand, residents of Narwana in Haryana; and Harbinder Singh, a resident of Amritsar; was convicted of mixing beef tallow in vegetable oil.
The court has also slapped a fine of Rs 18,000 on Mittal. Though there were 11 accused in the case, the others had died during the long trial proceedings.
The case was registered in 1983 and the investigation handed over to the CBI in 1987. The case was also discussed in Parliament. The litigation was protracted on one ground or the other and the case remained pending in the court for 31 years.
Mittal Group of Companies owns the Bathinda Chemicals Limited and Pioneer Industries besides having business interests in chemicals, edible oil, liquor, real estate and infrastructure.
The special court has held Mittal and others guilty under Sections 420 (cheating), 120-B (conspiracy) and 201 (destruction of evidence) of the IPC for selling tins of inedible beef tallow to Narinder Kumar and others as edible vanaspati ghee.
Earlier, they were acquitted by the lower court, but the CBI appealed against the order in the court of Kuldeep Singh, additional district and sessions judge, CBI.
According to the CBI, Dwarka Dass Mittal, Rajinder Mittal and Harcharan Das bought various quantities of beef tallow from General Food, Indore, and Jain Shudh Vanaspati, New Delhi, in the name of Manoj Container and Chemicals, Bathinda, in May and June of 1983, and processed that in the BCBM factory, Bathinda. Then, they supplied various tins to other accused Harbinder Singh, Lakhbir Singh, Rattan Singh of Amritsar and Jogi Ram, Tarlok Chand and Subhash Chand of Narwana. These tins of inedible beef tallow were sold to Narinder Kumar, a prosecution witness, and others as edible vanaspati ghee.
A hue and cry had been raised by residents of Bathinda when beef tallow was found in the tanks of Mittal Industries, involved in manufacturing of vegetable oil and soap material, in 1982-83. Following that, two food inspectors had taken the samples of beef tallow from Bathinda Chemicals.
Following this, two complaints were lodged against Dwarka Dass Mittal, wife Ved Kumari Mittal and sons Rajinder Mittal and Vinod Mittal under Section 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.
The then additional chief judicial magistrate discharged the accused in 1987 on the basis that cognizance of the complaints by food inspectors could not be taken as they were not authorised to do so by the state government.
However, the government appealed against the order and the case was shifted to the CBI the same year.
The CBI, in its probe, found that Mittal and others after processing the inedible beef tallow used to supply it for sale as edible vegetable oil under the fake name of Pupil brand vanaspati ghee/RBD palm oil. Mittal and his father Dwarka Dass Mittal had also allegedly destroyed evidence, so the CBI added Section 201 of the IPC to the case.
Mittal had moved the high court saying the sale of adulterated food was covered under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, so the accused could not be challaned under the provisions of the IPC. But the court rejected the appeal after observing the CBI plea that the accused had sold 100 tins of inedible beef tallow as vegetable ghee, so the offence of cheating had been clearly made out.