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Prem Chand’s haldi was not adulterated, says Supreme Court, 38 years after the case was filed

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on July 30, 2020 Published on July 30, 2020

The trial court had acquitted the trader in 1995 but the High Court had convicted him in 2009

Selling adulterated haldi powder can get you a jail term of six months or fine of ₹2,000 or both. But it took 38 years for the judiciary to finally clear a trader from the allegation of selling adulterated haldi powder.

The Supreme Court on Thursday closed the matter dating back to 1982 when it set aside a high court order and upheld a trial court order. In fact, the trial court took 13 years from the date of incident to say that the trader was innocent, while the High Court took another 14 years to convict the trader. Then the apex court spent another 10 years to decide that the High Court was wrong and the trial court was right and closed the matter.

The matter dates back to August 18, 1982, when a food inspector inspected shop of one Prem Chand and then sent a sample of haldi powder to check for adulteration. The investigation report revealed that the sample was found to contain four living meal worms and two live weevils. However, a trial court, in its order dared August 31, 1995, acquitted the trader.

The matter reached the High Court which in its judgement, dated December 9, 2009, convicted the appellant “under Section 2 (la) (f) of the Act (Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954) for selling adulterated haldi powder and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for six months and to pay fine of ₹2,000 in default whereof to undergo further imprisonment for one month under Section 16 (lA) of the Act.” This conviction took the case to the Supreme Court in 2010.

After detailed hearing, the apex court noted that the cross examination of the medical officer revealed that he did not find any weevils/worms in the sample on seeing it with naked eyes.

There is no receipt produced to prove that the sample was dispatched to the public analyst on the next date. The report was finalised after the delay of 18 days and during this intervening period there was no evidence that the samples were not tampered and therefore “benefit of doubt accrues in favour of the accused,” the court said.

Further, according to the court, the report of the public analyst does not mention that the sample was either “insect infested” or was “unfit for human consumption.” All these failed to establish the requirement of law to prove the offence.

Based on this the Apex Court set aside order of the High Court and upheld the order of acquittal passed by the trial court.

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Published on July 30, 2020
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