If the standards prescribed under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, are not complied with, the accused charged with adulteration cannot be acquitted only on the grounds that the deficiency is marginal, observed SC.
A division bench comprising of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose, in the present case, Raj Kumar vs. State of UP, on the contention raised before the Supreme Court on behalf of the accused was that when there is marginal variation from the standards prescribed, the court should not give benefit of doubt to accused. The accused in the present case was convicted by the trial court whereas the conviction was upheld by the Session Court and the High Court. The division bench observed that once standards are laid down by the Legislature then those standards have to be followed. It said:
"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 the article of food was injurious to health. 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."
While referring to the judgment in the State of Kerala vs. Parameswaran Pillai Vasudevan Nair the bench also observed that the Act does not provide for the exemption of marginal or border line variations of the standard from the operation of the Act. The bench observed:
“In view of the above-settled law, we hold that if the standards are not complied with, the Court is not justified in acquitting the accused charged with adulteration only on the ground that the deficiency is marginal.”
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