SUPREME COURT HOLDS THAT IN CASE OF CONFLICTING PENAL PROVISIONS, THE FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS ACT 2006 WOULD HAVE PRECEDENCE OVER THE PREVENTION OF FOOD ADULTERATION ACT, 1954
A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Sanjay Karol passed a Judgment dated 14-12-2023 in the matter of Manik Hiru Jhangiani Vs. The State of Madhya Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 3864 / 2023 and observed that after the implementation of Section 52 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA) (Penalty for misbranded food), if a person commits an act of misbranding, which is an offence punishable under Section 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (PFA) (Penalties), and also attracts a penalty under Section 52 of the FSSA, the provisions of Section 52 of the FSSA will take precedence over the provisions of PFA.
i) That the aforesaid Appeal was filed before the Apex Court by one, Manik Hiru Jhangiani against the State of Madhya Pradesh (Respondent), who challenged the decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh (High Court) which dismissed the Appeal bearing MCRC-10611/2015 by impugned Judgment and Order dated 03.05.2016.
ii) The Appellant, at the relevant time, held the position of Director at M/s. Bharti Retail Limited, a Company involved in operating retail stores under the name ‘Easy Day’ with outlets nationwide. A Food Inspector appointed under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (PFA) visited a Bharti-owned shop in Indore on 29.11.2010 and purchased specific biscuit packets. Subsequently, on the next day, a Panchnama was executed, and the acquired samples were dispatched to the State Food Laboratory in Bhopal for analysis. Further, the Public Analyst’s Report was received on 04.01.2011.
iii) Subsequently, a Notification dated 04.08.2011 was issued under subsection (1) of Section 97 of the FSSA, declaring 05.08.2011, as the date on which the PFA would be repealed. Notably, Section 97(1) of FSSA stipulates that despite the repeal of the PFA, any penalties, forfeitures, or punishments incurred for offences committed under the PFA would not be affected. Additionally, Section 97(4) of FSSA outlines a sunset period of three years from 05.08.2011, for taking cognizance of offences under the PFA.
iv) Thereafter, on 11.08.2011, a Sanction was granted to the Food Inspector to prosecute the Directors of Bharti under the PFA. The Food Inspector filed a Charge Sheet on 12.08.2011, and on the same day, the Ld. Judicial Magistrate took cognizance of the offence, issuing a bailable warrant against the Appellant.
v) The Appellant subsequently filed a Petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) challenging the Order of Cognizance dated 12.08.2011. The High Court, vide the impugned Judgment dated 03.05.2016, dismissed the said Petition.
HIGH COURT FINDINGS:
Aggrieved by the Order dated 12.08.2011 of the Ld. District Court, Madhya Pradesh (Magistrate) in CN-15830/2011 that took cognizance of the offence the Appellant, the Appellant filed a Petition bearing MCRC-10611-2015 before the High Court and the High Court, vide impugned Judgment dated 03.05.2016, made the following observations:
The High Court observed that the Appellant was accused of misbranding, which happened before the repeal of the PFA. Section 97(4) of FSSA outlines a sunset period of three years from 05.08.2011, for taking cognizance of offences under the PFA. Therefore, within three years from the date of repeal, the Ld. Magistrate had the authority to take cognizance of offences under the PFA under sub-section (4) of Section 97 of FSSA.
SUPREME COURT OBSERVATIONS:
Aggrieved by the Order of the High Court dated 13.05.2016, the Appellant filed an Appeal before the Hon’ble Apex Court on 11.08.2016, wherein the Bench made the following observations:
I) The issue before the Supreme Court in this case appears to revolve around the conflict between the penal provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) and the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) regarding the offence of misbranding of food products.
II) Additionally, the Apex Court discussed a clause in Section 97(4) of the FSSA, stating that no Court shall take cognizance of an offence under the repealed Act of PFA after three years from the commencement of the FSSA. This provision limits the time within which offences under the PFA can be prosecuted after the enforcement of the FSSA.
1) The Appellant was accused of misbranding under Section 2(ix)(k) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA). The corresponding provision in the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) is clause (zf) of Section 3, which defines “misbranded food.”
2) Under Section 16(1)(i) of the PFA, misbranding is punishable with imprisonment and imposition of fine. Section 52 of FSSA provides for a penalty for misbranded food without imprisonment, with a maximum penalty of Rs. 3 Lakhs. The Court noted the inconsistency between the penal provisions of the PFA and the FSSA regarding misbranding.
3) The Court invoked Section 89 of the FSSA, which states that the provisions of the FSSA will have an overriding effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent in any other law. Emphasized that in cases of inconsistency, the provisions of the FSSA would prevail over those of the PFA. Section 97(4) of the FSSA imposes a three-year limitation on taking cognizance of offences under the repealed PFA.
4) The Court addressed the issue of potential double jeopardy if a person could be subjected to punishment under both the PFA and the FSSA for the same misbranding offence. The Court concluded that in cases where the offence of misbranding is committed after enforcement of the FSSA, the penal provisions of the FSSA would override those of the PFA. The Court quashed the proceedings under the PFA, stating that the violator would be liable to pay a penalty under the FSSA, not subject to imprisonment.
5) The Court clarified that this judgment would not prevent authorities under the FSSA from taking recourse to Section 52 thereof in accordance with the law.
Based on afore-mentioned observations, the Apex Court concluded that in cases where the offence of misbranding is committed after enforcement of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), the FSSA penal provisions would prevail over those of the repealed Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA). The Court invoked Section 89 of the FSSA, emphasizing its overriding effect in cases of inconsistency with other laws. The three-year limitation under Section 97(4) of the FSSA was noted, thereby, restricting the period for taking cognizance of offences under the repealed PFA. The Court addressed potential double jeopardy concerns and quashed the proceedings under PFA, thereby, clarifying that the violator would be liable to pay a penalty under the FSSA without imprisonment.
This judgment highlighted the legal precedence of the FSSA’s provisions and affirmed that the FSSA’s penalties would be applicable to offences of misbranding committed after its enforcement. The decision provided a clear legal interpretation of conflicting statutes, thereby, ensuring uniformity and clarity in the application of penal consequences for food misbranding.
The Indian Lawyer
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