No Expert Opinion Produced To Show If Adulterated Mixture Was Sold Instead Of Petrol & Diesel : Supreme Court Quashes Chargesheet
The Supreme Court recently quashed a chargesheet in a case where it was alleged that the appellants were cheating thousands of customers by supplying an adulterated mixture instead of petrol or diesel. The Court emphasized that the prosecution's reliance on the charge sheet without a supporting expert opinion on the nature of the liquid seized makes the case untenable.The absence of an...
The Supreme Court recently quashed a chargesheet in a case where it was alleged that the appellants were cheating thousands of customers by supplying an adulterated mixture instead of petrol or diesel. The Court emphasized that the prosecution's reliance on the charge sheet without a supporting expert opinion on the nature of the liquid seized makes the case untenable.
The absence of an expert's report cast doubt on the entire foundation of the case.
The Court observed “The entire foundation of the charge sheet is that there was a hydrocarbon mixture in the seized tanker, which looks precisely like petrol and diesel and smells like petrol and diesel. Along with the charge sheet, the respondent did not produce an expert's report regarding the precise nature of the liquid in the tanker. Unless there was a material forming part of the chargesheet to show the nature of the liquid, no offense is made out.”
The Court in its scathing observation, highlighted the prosecution's negligence, noting that even after a notice from the court, the respondent failed to obtain the crucial report during the last seven months.
It added “Now, it is too late for the State to file a report after a gap of more than two years. The respondent has not attempted to get the report during the last seven months. Even an adverse inference can be drawn against the respondent. Hence, the continuation of the prosecution will be an abuse of the process of law.”
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal was hearing an appeal against a MP High Court judgment which dismissed the petition of the appellant for quashing an FIR under section 482, CrPC for offenses under sections 420(cheating), 120-B, and sections 3 and 7 of Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
The case originated in October 2021, where it was alleged that a hydrocarbon mixture was found in the seized tanker, which was being sold by the appellants, representing it to be petrol or diesel. The first appellant who was the driver of the tanker, was intercepted by police while unloading it at 3rd appellant’s petrol pump. The 2nd appellant was the manager of Shivam Industries. Meanwhile, the 3rd appellant faced a show-cause notice under Section 6(b) of the Essential Commodities Act (EC Act). The subsequent order imposed a fine, citing the appellant's failure to produce an authorized invoice for transportation through the involved tanker and a lack of permission to open its seal and lock. The charge sheet was filed on February 11, 2022.
The Court noted the BPCL laboratory had not submitted the result of the analysis till date. Whereas, the appellants relied on the test report dated 19th October 2021 submitted by the Quality Assurance Laboratory, Mangliya Depot, Indore of BPCL which confirmed that the samples conform to the HSD (BSVI) specifications
The Court expressed dissatisfaction with the prosecution after noting that though FIR was registered on 14th October 2021 and the charge sheet was filed on 11th February 2022. It noted that even as of today, the expert’s report on the nature of the liquid found in the seized tanker was not produced. In these circumstances, it opined that even an adverse inference can be drawn against the respondent.
The appeal was allowed and the impugned judgment of the High Court was set aside.
Case title: Suresh v. State of MP
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 1017
For Appellant: Adv. Vinam Gupta
For Respondent: Adv. Pashupathi Nath Razdan