Punishment should not be given without considering various factors like nature of the offense, prior record, age, education, employment, others, of the offender: Supreme Court



 (@Petition for Special Leave Appeal (Crl.) No.256 OF 2022)

Date of Judgment: 14th February, 2024

CORAM: Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice Sanjay Karol

Facts of the case:

The case commenced when Palani, the appellant, had his clinic inspected on October 13, 2015, by state officials. The inspection revealed the presence of 29 types of allopathic medicines intended for distribution without proper documentation. The drugs’ procurement details were also not provided upon inquiry. Subsequently, a complaint was filed by the Drug Inspector under relevant sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Following the complaint, prosecution proceedings began based on the evidence provided by six witnesses and 12 exhibits, including the confiscated medicines. The Trial Court found the prosecution’s case proven beyond a reasonable doubt and sentenced Palani to two years of rigorous imprisonment and imposed fines for offenses under specific sections of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Additionally, a cost for newspaper publication was also imposed.

Palani appealed the Trial Court’s decision to the Additional District & Sessions Judge, questioning whether the drugs were intended for sale or distribution. The Appellate Court overturned the conviction under one section of the Act but upheld it under another, and directed a refund of the fine.

A criminal revision was then filed against the Appellate Court’s decision, which was dismissed on the grounds that the Revisional Court’s scope is limited compared to an Appellate Court. The request to set aside the conviction under another section of the Act and substitute it with a fine was also rejected.

The present appeal before the Supreme Court arises from this sequence of events. Palani, the appellant, challenges the refusal of the High Court to interfere with the Appellate Court’s decision, particularly regarding the conviction and sentence under Section 18(A) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Laws Involved:

  • Section 18(A) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Issues framed by the court:

Whether the appellant, being a doctor, had any ill intention (mens rea) to contravene the law and undertake any action which may be scuttling the statutory provisions under Drugs and Cosmetics Act?

Courts Judgment and Analysis:

In the given case, the court considered the arguments presented by both the appellant’s legal representatives and the counsel for the respondent-state. They acknowledged that there was not a serious challenge to the appellant’s conviction under Section 18A read with Section 28 of the Act, which pertains to the disclosure or non-disclosure of the name of the manufacturer in relation to drugs or cosmetics. However, the appellant, being a doctor, argued that there was no ill intention (mens rea) to contravene the law, and thus, they requested a modification of the sentence of imprisonment to that of a fine.

The court referred to previous legal precedents, such as Mohammad Giassudin v. State of Andhra Pradesh, which highlighted that a proper sentence should consider various factors including the nature of the offense, prior record, age, education, employment history, home life, social adjustment, and the emotional and mental condition of the offender.

Regarding the specific provisions of the Act under which the appellant was convicted, the court noted the requirements of disclosing the name of the manufacturer and the associated punishment for violation, which includes imprisonment or a fine.

Considering the circumstances of the case, the court observed that the appellant, being a doctor, had only stocked small quantities of medicines in their clinic. They found that the non-disclosure of the manufacturer’s name did not endanger public interest significantly, especially since the intent to sell or distribute medicines under a specific section of the Act had not been proven.

Ultimately, the court held that imposing a sentence of imprisonment would be unjustified, particularly given the appellant’s profession and the lack of proof regarding intent to sell or distribute. Consequently, the court modified the impugned judgment, setting aside the sentence of imprisonment and instead imposing a fine of Rs.1,00,000 on the appellant. The court allowed the appeal to the extent indicated and made the exemption from surrendering granted earlier absolute.

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Written by- Aditi

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