Executive Magistrate Not Empowered To Record Confession For Offences Under Essential Commodities Act: Orissa High Court
The Orissa high court has held that an Executive Magistrate is not empowered to record confession for offences committed under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 in the case of Ananda Ch. Sahu v. State of Odisha (JCRLA No. 37 of 2020), passed by the Division Bench of Justice Debabrata Dash and Justice Sashikanta Mishra.
Facts of the Case:
On March 24, 1984, during an examination at M/s. Minati Stores, it was discovered that although there was no record of any groundnut in shell stock, a total of Qt. 40.95 KGs of groundnuts in shell were discovered during physical verification at two different locations. Additionally, it was discovered that the company did not have a license and had purchased and sold groundnuts in excess of what was legal. Furthermore, neither the shop nor the godown displayed a stock and price declaration board. Accordingly, it was claimed that the aforementioned constituted a violation of Clause 3 of the 1973 Orissa Declaration of Stocks and Prices of Essential Commodities Order. To find the accused guilty of the claimed offense, the court below relied on a confessional statement of one of the accused, the complainant’s testimony, and the Executive Magistrate’s recording of one of the accused’s confession.
The defendants then appealed the judgment of conviction to the High Court on the grounds that (i) the trial court could not have relied on the defendant’s confessional statement because it is illegal to admit such evidence and (ii) the evidence on file does not even remotely connect the defendants to the incident.
The court noted that the Essential Commodities Act does not specify any particular procedure to be followed for the trial of offenses under the Act before deciding whether the accused persons were complicit in the alleged activities. Thus, it was made clear that, in accordance with Section 4(2) of the CrPC, the investigation, inquiry, trial, etc. for offenses under that Act will be governed by the CrPC’s procedure.
Because there is no special method outlined in the Act in this regard, the court decided that, taking into account the language used in Section 164(1) of the CrPC, the provisions relating to recording confessions under the CrPC shall likewise be relevant to the offenses under the said Act. Under Section 164(1), CrPC only a Judicial Magistrate or a Metropolitan Magistrate is empowered to record confession. Thus, an Executive Magistrate has not been conferred any authority under the Code to record confession.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY HARSHEEN KAUR LUTHRA, RGNUL, PUNJAB