The Supreme Court has quashed a prosecution for alleged violation of Rule 32(e) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 after noting that the relevant information about the batch of the product was available in the barcode affixed to it.
Rule 32 mandates that every package of food should carry a label giving out information about the manfucturer, batch of the product, description of the food and its ingredients etc.
Sub-rule (e) of Rule 32 states as follows :
"A distinctive batch number or lot number or code number, either in numericals or alphabets or in combination, representing the batch number or lot number or code number being preceded by the words 'Batch No". or "Batch"or Lot No".or, Lot or any distinguishing prefix.
Provided, that in case of canned food, the batch number may be given at the bottom, or on the lid of the container, but the words "Batch No", given at the bottom or on the lid, shall appear on the body of the container"
The case before the Supreme Court related to the fruit juice "Snapple Juice Drink", a foreign brand. In 2012, a case was registered against the director of the Indian company which imported the juice product on the allegation that it did not have a label containing necessary information related to the batch/lot.
The accused sought discharge before the trial court stating that the product had a barcode with all the relevant information, which could be traced through a barcode scanner. However, the trial court dismissed the application for discharge. The HC also refused to allow the discharge accepting the argument of the accused.
The Supreme Court accepted the contention of the accused and held that the prosecution will amount to an "abuse of process of law" and "unnecessary harassment" as the relevant information required under Rule 32(e) was traceable by scanning the barcode.
"That the barcode was available on the sample is not in dispute. In view of the fact that the relevant information under Rule 32(e) with regard to the lot/code/batch identification to facilitate it being traced to the manufacturer are available in the barcode and which can be decoded by a barcode scanner, we are of the considered opinion that no useful purpose is going to be served by allowing the present prosecution to continue and it will be an abuse of the process of law, causing sheer waste of time, causing unnecessary harassment to the appellant, if the prosecution is allowed to continue", observed the order passed by a bench comprising Justices R F Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee.
Accordingly, the petition was allowed to quash the prosecution.
Title : Raghav Gupta vs State (NCT of Delhi)
Bench : Justies R F Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee
Appearances : Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra(assisted by Advocates Nitin Saluja(AOR), Anshul Duggal, Shivai Lohiya Luthra, Sasha Maria Paul) for appellant; Jayant K Sud, Addl Solicitor Genral, with Advocates Chirag M. Shroff, Sanjana Nangia, Abhilasha Bharti for State