The Law Commission of India, in its Report No. 264, has recommended life imprisonment for those convicted of manufacturing and selling adulterated food. It has, in this regard, presented the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017, proposing to amend Sections 272 and 273 of the Indian Penal Code, and bringing it in line with the Food Act as well as the punishments prescribed by the IPC amendments made by Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The Amendments have been proposed in light of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Swami Achyutanand Tirth & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., AIR 2016 SC 3626, wherein the Court had directed the Central Government to come up with suitable amendments in the Food Act and the IPC, to bring it at par with the State amendments. The court in that case was hearing a Writ Petition highlighting the menace of growing sales of adulterated and synthetic milk in different parts of the country and the inability of concerned State Governments and the Union to take effective measures for combating the adulteration of milk with hazardous substances.
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“After detailed discussions, the Commission felt that the punishment provided for is too inadequate in the present scenario. Therefore, the Commission is of the view that there must be more stringent punishment in offences relating to adulteration of food, which is a threat to human life. The Commission feels that the punishment must be seen in the light of the harm caused to the consumer by consuming adultered food items and drinks,” the report states.
The Commission has adopted the principle of proportionality to grade the injury caused due to consumption of adultered food products, and recommends different jail terms and fines accordingly. As per the recommendations, while non grievous injury may attract jail term of one year and a fine of Rs 3 lakh, a grievous injury may lead to a jail term of 6 years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh. In case of death of a person after consuming adulterated food items, the panel has recommended life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10 lakh.
In addition, the Commission has also proposed compensation for victims of food adulteration. It reasons, “Therefore, the tackling of food adulteration is required to be given due importance for its serious effect on the health of the public. From the above, it may be seen that though the offences covered under sections 357A and 357B of Cr.P.C. stand at a different pedestal than the food adulteration; yet, in case where the food adulteration causes grievous injury or where such adulteration results in death seems to be the cases which can be squarely covered under section 357B keeping in view the health hazards due to food adulteration which results in various ailments and premature deaths. Thus, keeping in view the serious nature of the crime, the aforesaid two cases be covered under section 357B of Cr.P.C.”
Read the report here.