SC sends UP man to jail for 6 months for diluting milk 24 years ago
The milk sold by Raj Kumar was found to have 4.6% milk fat and 7.7% of milk solid non-fat (MSNF) against the prescribed standard of 8.5% under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act after it was tested by a public analyst in November 1995.Updated: Oct 05, 2019 11:45 IST
The Supreme Court has sent a milkman from Uttar Pradesh to jail for six months for diluting milk nearly 24 years ago, saying the accused cannot be acquitted even if the the deficiency was marginal.
The milk sold by Raj Kumar was found to have 4.6% milk fat and 7.7% of milk solid non-fat (MSNF) against the prescribed standard of 8.5% under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act after it was tested by a public analyst in November 1995.
Kumar was convicted by a trial court and his conviction was upheld by the Sessions Court and High Court. Kumar’s lawyers challenged his conviction and said there was a delay in analysing the sample and therefore the marginal shortfall should be overlooked.
His lawyer also said that marginal variations could have come up because of the food given to the cattle and the cow’s health. His counsel also requested the top court to be lenient as the incident took place 24 years ago.
The Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose, rejected the contentions raised during the appeal and observed that once standards are laid down by the legislature then those standards have to be followed.
“In items like milk which is a primary food, under the Act, it is not necessary to also prove that the food item had become unfit for human consumption or injurious to health. In cases of food coming under the Act, it is not required to prove that article of food was injurious to health,” the bench said on Friday.
“In this case, the only question to be determined is whether the article complies with the standards laid down or not? If it fails to comply with the standards then it will have to be treated as an adulterated article even if it is not rendered injurious to health. Even marginal deviation from the prescribed standard cannot be ignored,” it added.
The bench also referred the judgment of Kerala High Court, which had observed that the act does not provide for an exemption of marginal or borderline variations of the standard.
It said the accused could not be permitted to invoke the top court’s power under Article 142 of the Constitution to lessen the minimum prescribed punishment of six months as the legislature provided it.
“Considering the bane of adulteration and the effect sub-standard food has on the health of citizens, especially children when milk is involved, the legislature provided a minimum sentence of six months. Passage of time can be no excuse to award a sentence lesser than the minimum,” it said.
The court asked Kumar to surrender and serve out the sentence.
“We have no doubt in our mind that power under Article 142 cannot be exercised in such a manner that they make a mockery of law itself.”
First Published: Oct 05, 2019 11:40 IST