FSS Act – Sec 77- Pankaj Mahajan Vs State of HP – Time limit for prosecution – April 24-2017

IN THE HIGH COURT OF HIMACHAL PRADESH, SHIMLA .

Cr. MMO No.277 of 2016.

Judgment reserved on :20.04.2017.

Date of decision: 26th April , 2017.

Pankaj Mahajan …..Petitioner.

Versus

State of Himachal Pradesh ….. Respondent.

Coram

The Hon’ble Mr. Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, Judge.

For the Petitioner : Mr.Nimish Gupta, Advocate

For the Respondent : Ms.Meenakshi Sharma & Mr.Rupinder Singh, Additional Advocate Generals with Mr.J.S.Guleria, Assistant Advocate General. Tarlok Singh Chauhan, Judge.

By medium of this petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C., the petitioner has sought quashing of complaint filed against him under the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (for short ‘Act’) primarily on the ground that the learned Magistrate has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the complaint in view of Section 77 of the Act.

2. It is not in dispute that on 16.05.2013, the Food Safety Officer visited the shop of the petitioner and collected samples of ‘Dalchini’ (Cinnamon). Thereafter, the same was sent to the Food Analyst, Kandaghat and the report prepared was received back on 21.06.2013. The report on the second part of the sample which had been sent to the Director, Referral Food Laboratory, Ghaziabad, on 07.08.2013, was received back by the Designated Officer, Chamba, on 23.01.2014. The Chief Medical Officer, Chamba, on 31.08.2015 after verifying the entire documents granted prosecution sanction against the petitioner. Lastly, on 27.04.2016 the complaint came to be filed against the petitioner.

3. Section 77 of the Act reads thus:-

“77. Time limit for prosecutions.- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no court shall take cognizance of an offence under this Act after the expiry of the period of one year from the date of commission of an offence:

Provided that the Commissioner of Food Safety may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, approve prosecution within an extended period of up to three years.”

4. It is evidently clear from the aforesaid provisions that time limit for prosecution under the Act is only one year from the date of commission of the offence. The language being clear and unambiguous, and there have been no doubt, and no two constructions being possible, this Court cannot make any other meaning. It has to adopt the simple grammatical meaning. Within the ‘one year from the commission of any offence’ means one year from the date, on which the offence is alleged to have been committed. It is only if the Commissioner of Food Safety records reasons in writing that the prosecution can be launched within an extended period upto three years.

5. Admittedly, the complaint in the instant case has been filed only on 27.04.2016 which is nearly three years from the date of commission of the offence and, therefore, the learned trial Magistrate cannot take cognizance of this complaint as even the Commissioner of Food Safety has not exercised the powers conferred upon him under the proviso to the aforesaid Section.

6. Having said so, I find merit in this petition and accordingly the same is allowed. Consequently, the complaint No.77-III/2016 pending before the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chamba and summoning order under Section 59(1) read with Section 3(1)(zz) (ii), 3(1) (zx) and Section 3(1)(zf) (A) (ii) of the Act are quashed. Pending application, if any, also stands disposed of.

7. However, before parting, this Court is constrained to observe that the offences under the Act are rather being dealt with in a very casual and callous manner by the authorities responsible for the enforcement of the Act under Chapter VII thereof. The authorities do not appear to be well conversant and well versed even with the bare provisions of the Act. It is, therefore, high time that those, who are responsible for the enforcement of the Act, are sensitized and imparted proper training and education on the subject. Accordingly, the Commissioner of Food Safety for the State is directed to take up the issue of training with the Director, H.P. Judicial Academy, and thereafter draw up a schedule for imparting regular training to these Officers manning the authorities. Let a copy of this order be supplied to the Commissioner of Food Safety for the State and to the Director, H.P. Judicial Academy , for compliance.

26th April, 2017. (Tarlok Singh Chauhan), Judge.

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