Orissa High Court Sets Aside Conviction Of Food Seller For Not Possessing ‘Food Licence’ In 28 Years Old Case

In the case of Tengunu Sahoo & Anr. v. State of Orissa (CRREV No. 508 of 2000), the Orissa High Court has acquitted a ‘food seller’ after 25 years of his conviction for not possessing a ‘food licence’. While setting aside his conviction, a Single Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar also discharged his bail bonds.

Facts of the Case: Mr. Chittaranjan Das (P.W.1), the then Food Inspector, Bolangir visited Agalpur on 26th May 1994 along with the Food Peon Antabal Majhi (P.W. 2). He inspected the tiffin stall of the accused. He found that the accused Bhika Sahu (Petitioner No. 2) had exposed snacks items for sale for human consumption. P.W. 1 called persons from the locality to witness the inspection. One Laxmikanta Saraf (P.W.3) came to witness the inspection. Bhika Sahoo was asked to produce the food licence, but he could not do so.

After preparing a list of food articles exhibited for sale, P.W.1 put the signature of P.W. 3 thereon. Later, he verified the food licence register. It was found that Petitioner No. 1 (Tengunu Sahu, son of Petitioner No. 2) had a food licence which was valid up to 31st December 1988. However, that licence had not been renewed thereafter. Since both accused were selling food articles without licence, they were found to have contravened Section 7(iii)(v) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (‘PFA Act’) and Rule 50 of the PFA Rules. The local Health Authority-cum-CDMO after examining the documents granted sanction for filing of the prosecution case in the Court of the JMFC. The accused denied owning any tiffin stall at Agalpur or the visit of P.Ws. 1 and 2 to their shop and claimed that the prosecution case was a false one. The above three witnesses were examined, whereafter the JMFC was satisfied that the prosecution had proved its case and convicted the two accused for the offence under Section 16(1)(a)(ii) of the PFA Act and sentenced them to undergo rigorous imprisonment (RI) for six months and pay a fine of Rs.500/- each and in default to undergo to R.I. for one month, which was modified by reducing the term of imprisonment to three months RI without altering the fine amount. The petitioners had approached the High Court against such conviction.

Judgement: The Court noted that the Petitioner No. 2 died during the interim period. Hence, it stressed that the crucial part of the discussion is regarding the presence of Petitioner No. 1 at the time of inspection of the shop in question. Therefore, the Court held that the evidence was totally insufficient as far as the role and presence of Tengunu Sahoo at the shop at the time of inspection is concerned. Consequently, the Court was satisfied that no case was made out for sustaining the conviction and sentence awarded to Petitioner No. 1 by the trial court, which was also affirmed by the lower appellate court. Consequently, judgments of the JMFC and the lower appellate court were set aside.

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