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Accused Must Be A Valid License Holder Under Essential Commodities Act For A Conviction Under Section 7 Of The Act: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

Nitish Kashyap
31 Oct 2019 4:06 AM GMT
Accused Must Be A Valid License Holder Under Essential Commodities Act For A Conviction Under Section 7 Of The Act: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]
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The Bombay High Court recently set aside the conviction of one Jayendra Talereja, in a 23-year-old case wherein the police conducted a search of his shop and found bogus gas regulators resulting in the his conviction under Section 7 read with 3 of the Essential Commodities Act for violating sub-clause (3) of clause 6 of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Regulation of Supply and Distribution)...

The Bombay High Court recently set aside the conviction of one Jayendra Talereja, in a 23-year-old case wherein the police conducted a search of his shop and found bogus gas regulators resulting in the his conviction under Section 7 read with 3 of the Essential Commodities Act for violating sub-clause (3) of clause 6 of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Regulation of Supply and Distribution) Order, 1988.

The 37-year-old Talereja was sentenced to suffer RI for 3 months, and to pay a fine of Rs.500 in a judgement dated November 4, 1997.

Justice SS Jadhav heard Talereja's appeal and held that since the appellant was not a valid license holder under the Essential Commodities Act he could not have been convicted under it. Moreover, Court held that under the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Regulation of Supply and Distribution) Order, an officer not below the rank of Inspector authorised by State Government and notified by the Central Government or any Officer not below the rank of a Sales Officer of an Oil Company can conduct the search and seizure.

Case Background

According to the complainant officer, on April 19, 1996 a "secret information" was received by Laxmipuri Police Station, Kolhapur that some shopkeepers in that area are selling bogus /duplicate gas regulators. Thereafter, the Police visited Geeta General Stores. The appellant was present in the shop. Upon intimation, the shop was searched in the presence of panchas and the police had seized 6 bogus gas regulators.

Bhikaji Gokhale who was a head constable, lodged a report against the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 3 read with Section 7 the Essential Commodities Act.

All the panchas turned hostile during the trial and prosecution only relied on the complainant's statement.

Judgement

APP YM Nakhwa argued that even if the regulators seized were genuine, the accused was selling them without a license for possession, distribution or sale. On the other hand, appellant's counsel Advocate Anand Patil submitted that the prosecution has failed to prove ownership of the shop and neither they have seized the license and therefore, the conviction of the accused has resulted into grave injustice.

After examining all the material at hand and the Essential Commodities Act along with the order of 1998, Court allowed the appeal and observed-

"The accused – appellant was not a license holder. Since the appellant is not a holder of valid licence under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, there could not be any conviction recorded under section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act. Moreover, the said Order of 1988 contemplates search and seizure by a person not below the rank of Inspector authorised by such Government and notified by the Central Government or any Officer not below the rank of a Sales Officer of an Oil Company, or a person authorised by the Central Government or a State Government and notified by the Central Government with a view to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Order, for the purpose of satisfying itself that this Order or any order made thereunder has been complied with. This issue was overlooked by the learned Special Judge while framing of charge.

In fact, no charge should have been framed against the accused appellant for an offence punishable under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act and therefore, no penalty could be imposed upon the appellant under section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act."

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