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S. Chinnasamy Vs. Seed Inspector, Coimbatore & Another

Posted on 24 June 2009 by jyoti

Title

S. Chinnasamy Vs. Seed Inspector, Coimbatore & Another



Coram

S.B. SINHA, DALVEER BHANDARI



Act

Essential Commodities Act



Subject

Essential Commodities Act, 1955-Section 3(2)(a), (h), (i) & 7(1)(a)(ii)-Seeds (Control) Order, 1983-Clauses 3(1), 8(a)& (b) & 18(1)-Conviction by Courts below for violation of Seeds Control Order-Imposition of sentence for three months-Accused already undergone imprisonment for one month-They pleaded for reduction of sentence to period already undergone-Plea upheld in view of concession made by State in the peculiar facts viz. accused 2 was a young boy aged 17 years at the time of commission of offence; quantity of seeds seized was small and the case registered was the first of its kind in the State.

Appellants were allegedly carrying out business in seeds without valid licence. The Special Judge (E.C./N.D.P.S. Act) convicted them for violation of clauses 3(1), 8(a) and (b) and 18(1) of the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 with reference to clauses (a), (h) and (i) of sub-section 2 of Section 3 punishable under Section 7(1)(a)(ii) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and sentenced them to undergo three months simple imprisonment. High Court upheld the judgment of the Special Judge.

In appeals to this Court, the Appellants submitted that the sentence imposed by the Courts below was disproportionate, excessive and harsh. They submitted that including the period of remission, they had already undergone imprisonment of about one month and that the ends of justice would be met if their sentence was reduced to the period already undergone. In response, the State made concession considering the peculiar facts of the case, viz. that Appellant No. 2 was a young boy aged 17 years at the time of commission of offence; that the quantity of seeds seized was small and that it was the first case recorded in the State of Tamil Nadu for violation under the Seeds (Control) Order.



Citation

2007 AIR 109 , 2006(6 )Suppl.SCR918 , 2006(11 )SCC486 , 2006(10 )SCALE7 , 2006(9 )JT1



Head Notes

Partly allowing the appeals, the Court

HELD: 1. In view of submission of State, it is not deemed appropriate to adjudicate and give findings on the various issues raised by the counsel for the parties. [925-d]

2. On consideration of the totality of the facts and circumstances of this case, particularly in view of the statement made by the State, the ends of justice would be met, if the sentence of the appellants is reduced to the period already undergone by them. The appellants were released by this Court during the pendency of these appeals and they are now not required to surrender. [925-e, f]

P. Anand Padmanabhan and Pramod Dayal for the Appellant.

V.G. Pragasam for the Respondents.



Judgment Made On

29/09/2006

CASE NO.:
Appeal (crl.) 1521-1522 of 2005

JUDGMENT:
J U D G M E N T
1. S. Chinnasamy
(Appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 1522/2005)

2. R. Soundararajan
(Appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 1521/2005)

 Appellants
Versus
Seed Inspector, Coimbatore
& Another ... Respondents




Dalveer Bhandari, J.

These criminal appeals emanate from the judgment
of the High Court of Judicature of Madras dated
3.12.2004 by which the learned Single Judge of the High
Court has upheld the judgment of the Special Judge
(E.C./N.D.P.S. Act), Coimbatore dated 9.9.1997 for
violation of clauses 3(1), 8(a) and (b) and 18(1) of Seeds
(Control) Order, 1983 with reference to clauses (a), (h)
and (i) of sub-section 2 of the Section 3 punishable under
Section 7(1)(a)(ii) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
The Special Judge sentenced the appellants/accused to
undergo three months simple imprisonment and to pay a
fine of Rs.1000/- each on three counts.

Brief facts which are imperative to dispose of these
appeals are recapitulated as under:-

The Seed Inspector, Coimbatore, PW1, went for
inspection of the shop of appellant no. 1 on 15.5.1996.
According to him, the shop was open but there was no
responsible person available in the shop, therefore, the
Seed Inspector could not conduct the inspection on that
day though he waited there for about an hour.

The Seed Inspector, on 25.10.1996 again had gone
to the shop of appellant no. 1, S. Chinnasamy, but
appellantno.1 was not there and appellant no. 2, R.
Soundarajan, his agent, was running the business of the
shop at that time. According to the statement of PW 1,
the appellants were transacting business in pesticides,
fertilizers and seeds. The Seed Inspector on inspection
found 2< kgs. of cotton seeds and 2 kgs. of tomato seeds
in the shop. Appellant no. 1 had not obtained any
licence for selling the seeds. According to the Seed
Inspector P.W.1, neither the price list nor the index was
displayed in the shop. Particulars of the seed varieties
were also not displayed. No books, accounts or records
were maintained. The above quantity of seeds found in
the shop was packed and sealed in the presence of
appellant no. 2, R. Soundarajan and the same was
entrusted to him with the instructions to the proprietor
to give his explanation on or before 30.10.1996. The
Inspection Report was prepared and on the same
appellant no. 2, R. Soundarajan had appended his
signature. The Bill Book - Exb.6 was also seized. The
Bill book revealed that appellant no.1 had transacted
business in seeds without any valid permit. The Seed
Inspector prepared the complaint on the instructions of
his superior officer, PW2, Thiru Isac Jesudas.

The relevant part of the complaint reads as under:-
"The complainant is a notified Seed
Inspector, appointed under Section 12 and
empowered to act as per section 13 of the Seeds
(Control) Order, 1983. His jurisdiction extends
over the entire Revenue Taluks of Coimbatore
North and Coimbatore South. He is a Public
Servant by virtue of Notification No. S. O. 763 (e)
DT. 27.9.87 issued by the Govt. of India and is
empowered to institute prosecution.

The accused (1) is a dealer of seeds doing
seed business at the address mentioned above,
which comes under the jurisdiction of this Court.
The accused (2) is an authorized sales person of
the accused (1).

The Seed Inspector, Coimbatore on receipt of
reliable information visited the premises of the
accused on 25.10.1996. At that time, the accused
(2) was present on the spot. He was looking after
the business at the time of visit.

During the course of inspection, the
following offences were noticed.

(1) Seed business had been carried out
without obtaining a valid license.
(2) Stock / price list not maintained.
(3) Records not maintained.

The above defects have not been rectified
even after repeated instructions and reminders
since 15.5.96. The explanations offered by the
accused are not satisfactory.

The above acts of the accused contravene
section 3, section (8) (a), section (9) and Section
18(1) of the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983. Hence
the accused is punishable under Section 7(1)(a)(ii)
of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

Hence, it is prayed that this Honorable Court
must be pleased to take up this case on file,
summon them and render justice.

Sd/-
Seed Inspector
Coimbatore"

According to the prosecution, the incriminating
circumstances appearing in the evidence against the
appellants were unfolded to them in the form of a
questionnaire for the purpose of enabling them to
personally explain the same. Appellant no.1 had stated
that he was dealing only in cement and not in seeds. He
further stated that the officials took him to the office,
threatened him and obtained his signature. Appellant no.
2, on his part, stated that he had nothing to do with the
shop in question and did not work in the shop of
appellant no.1. The point for determination framed by
the trial court was whether the prosecution had proved
beyond all reasonable doubt the charges framed against
the accused.

To substantiate the charges against the appellants,
in the trial Court, PW 1, Thiru John Thadeus who was
working as the Seed Inspector and P.W. 2 Thiru Isac
Jesudas who was working as the Seed Inspection
Assistant Director were examined. Exhibits P-1 to P-6
were produced. The appellants were questioned under
Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Seed Inspector, PW 1, in his statement had
clearly stated that "I prohibited the sale of the seeds in
the shop and put them in a bag and sealed them and
handed over to the person (means appellant no. 2) in the
shop and obtained his signature. Thereafter, I prepared
an inspection memo Exhibit P-1". According to him, the
Seed Inspection Assistant Director, PW2 gave him
permission to file the case against the accused.

The relevant portion of the statement given by PW 1
in his cross-examination regarding the fact that the
agricultural land belonged to appellant no. 1 and his
father-in-law, reads as under:
"I cannot deny that he has properties at
Thadagam and Kothagiri which are the properties
of his father in law. It is common that the land
owners used to buy the seeds and keep it for their
own use."


It may be pertinent to mention that the sale of seeds
to the public has not been proved by examining any of
the purchasers.

The trial court (The Presiding Officer, Essential
Commodities & NDPS Act Cases, Coimbatore) arrived at a
definite finding that evidence on record established that
Seed Inspector PW 1 had visited the shop of appellant no.
1 and found that the seeds were being sold by appellant
no. 2 as an agent of appellant no. 1 without any valid
license. According to the trial court, on the basis of
evidence and documents on record, it could be concluded
that the appellants had violated Clauses 3(1), 8(a) and (b)
and 18(1) of the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 issued
under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act
punishable under Section 7(1)(a)(ii) of the said Act.

Clauses 3(1), 8(a) & (b) and 18(1) of the Seeds
(Control) Order, 1983 read as under:
"3. Dealer to obtain licence.- (1) No person shall
carry on the business of selling, exporting or
importing seeds at any place except under and in
accordance with the terms and conditions of
licence granted to him under this order."

8. Dealers to display stock and price list.- Every
dealer of seeds shall display in his place of
business 
(a) the opening and closing stocks, on daily
basis, of different seeds held by him;
(b) a list indicating prices or rates of
different seeds."

"18. Maintenance of records and submission of
returns, etc.  (1) Every dealer shall maintain
such books, accounts and records relating to his
business as may be directed by the State
Government."


The Special Court found the appellants guilty of the
aforesaid clauses of the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 and
convicted them thereunder and sentenced each of the
appellants to undergo three months simple imprisonment
on three counts and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/- each on
three counts, in default to undergo one month of simple
imprisonment on each count. The court also directed
that the sentence on each accused except the default
sentence shall run concurrently.

The appellants, aggrieved by the said order of the
Special Judge for Essential Commodities / NDPS Act,
preferred a criminal appeal under Section 374 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure to set aside the conviction
and sentence.

It has been submitted on behalf of appellant no. 1
that he was transacting business only in cement and not
in seeds and the seeds of cotton and tomato which were
kept in his shop were meant for personal use and not for
sale to the public. This defence of appellant no. 1 has
been discarded by the courts below because appellant no.
1 had failed to produce any document showing the
survey number or the extent of land owned by him or his
father in law. According to the impugned judgment, the
defence of appellant no. 1 is further falsified by Exb. P-6,
Bill Book, which revealed the sale of seeds to various
customers for a long time.

The appellants submitted that this was perhaps the
first case in the State of Tamil Nadu in which conviction
under the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 had been
recorded, therefore, some leniency and indulgence should
be shown to them, particularly when a very small
quantity of the seeds meant for personal use was
recovered from the shop of appellant no. 1.

According to the High Court, acceptance of this
contention would set a wrong precedent. The High
Court observed that with the definite purpose of bringing
out quality production, the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983
was brought into force. Reporting of violation cannot be
viewed lightly, lest it would have serious repercussions
on the quality of the yield, affecting the public at large.
It is also mentioned in the impugned judgment that the
huge quantity of seeds had repeatedly been sold to the
public for more than 1= years without license.
According to the conclusion arrived at in the impugned
judgment of the High Court, the reasoning and findings
of the Special Judge were in conformity with the evidence
and material on record.

The High Court, after consideration of the entire
evidence and documents on record, affirmed the findings
of the trial court. The appellants, aggrieved by the
impugned judgment of the High Court, have preferred
these appeals before this Court. The appellants have
highlighted serious procedural lapses in conducting the
entire case. According to the appellants, the respondents
in their anxiety to convict the appellants, (because this
was the first case registered in the State of Tamil Nadu
for violation under the Seeds (Control) Order), had given
a total go-bye to the established procedure. The
appellants also pointed out that, admittedly, Seed
Inspector, PW1, clearly stated in his statement that he
had taken the seeds from the shop of appellant no. 1, put
them in a bag and sealed them and handed over the
sealed bag to appellant no. 2. The procedure which was
followed by the Seed Inspector is quite contrary to sub-
clause (3) of Clause 13. Clause 13(3) reads as under:
"13(3) Where any seed is seized by an
Inspector under this clause, he shall forthwith
report the fact of such seizure to a Magistrate
whereupon the provisions of Sections 457 and 458
of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of
1974) shall, so far as may be, apply to the custody
and disposal of such seed."


According to sub-clause (3) of Clause 13, after
seizure, the Seed Inspector was under an obligation to
report the fact of the seizure to a Magistrate, whereupon
the provisions of Sections 457 and 458 of the Code of
Criminal Procedure shall apply to the custody and
disposal of such seeds. This was admittedly not done by
the Seed Inspector. The established procedure has been
flouted, therefore, any conviction based on such
prosecution evidence is unsustainable.

Admittedly, appellant no. 1, the proprietor of the
shop, was not there when the inspection was carried out.
The Seed Inspector ought not to have carried out the
inspection in the absence of appellant no.1.

It was also submitted that the respondents have
failed to show any evidence that the appellants had ever
sold seeds in the market. No purchaser of the seeds was
produced. This fact also seriously affects the credibility
of the entire prosecution version. It was submitted that
appellant no. 2 was not an agent of appellant no. 1, as
stated by the prosecution witnesses. Appellant no. 2 was
in fact an uneducated daily wage earner of about 17
years of age. He did not know the implication and
seriousness of the signature appended by him on the
inspection report. The appellants submitted that it was
the first case registered in the State of Tamil Nadu for
violation under the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 and the
sentence imposed by the courts below is
disproportionate, excessive and harsh.

The appellants submitted that, including the period
of remission, they had undergone imprisonment of about
one month. According to them, the ends of justice would
be met if their sentence is reduced to the period already
undergone.

The learned counsel appearing for the State fairly
submitted that the State will have no objection in case
while maintaining the conviction, the sentence of the
appellants is reduced to the period already undergone.

The learned counsel for the State submitted that
this concession is made while keeping the following
factors in view:
(i) the appellant no.2 was a young boy of 17
years of age at the time of the
commission of the offence;

(ii) a small quantity of seeds was seized; and

(iii) this was the first case recorded in the
State of Tamil Nadu for violation under
the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983.


In view of this submission of the learned counsel for the
State, we do not deem it appropriate to adjudicate and
give our findings on the various issues raised by the
counsel for the parties.

We have carefully perused the entire evidence and
documents on record and heard the learned counsel for
the parties at length. On consideration of the totality of
the facts and circumstances of this case, particularly in
view of the statement made by the learned counsel for
the State, in our considered view, the ends of justice
would be met, if the sentence of the appellants is reduced
to the period already undergone by them. The appellants
were released by this Court during the pendency of these
appeals and they are now not required to surrender. The
fine as imposed by the trial court, if not already paid,
would be paid within four weeks from the date of this
judgment.

These appeals are partly allowed and disposed of
accordingly.



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