04 Aug 2121

Simply because a second request was made for the sample to be sent to the Central Insecticide Testing Laboratory, receipt of such an analytical report cannot be used to start the limitation period from that date - Supreme Court of India

Case : M/s. Cheminova India Ltd. & Anr. v. State of Punjab & Anr. Criminal Appeal No. 749 of 2021 [Arising out of S.L.P.(Crl.) No. 4102 of 2020]

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Justice Navin Sinha and Justice R. Subhash Reddy

Decided on : 04 Aug 2121

The Relevant Statutes

Section 3(k)(i), 17, 18, 33, 29, 24, 24(4) of the Insecticides Act, 1968 

Rule 27(5) of the Insecticides Rules, 1971

Section 202, 468, 469 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. The premises of M/s. Navneet Singh on Railway Road, Attari, District Amritsar, where its only proprietor Sh. Navneet Singh was present, were examined by the Insecticide Inspector of Attari, District Amritsar. M/s. Navneet Singh is a dealer for the first appellant-­firm, which manufactures pesticides. The Inspecting Officer discovered 60 tins of insecticide, namely Trizophos 40 per cent E.C., on the premises for sale on the day of the inspection. The Inspecting Officer has taken three tins out of 60 as test samples, alleging that samples sent for analysis revealed active ingredient to the extent of 34.70 per cent only, as opposed to the labelled declaration of 40 per cent, and that this amounts to "misbranding" within the meaning of Section 3(k)(i) of Insecticides Act, 1968, and that the sale of such an item is an offence under Section 3(k)(ii) of Insecticides Act, 1968. The first appellant-­company, second appellant Managing Director, and other individuals are sought to be prosecuted in the aforementioned complaint, along with the dealer from whose samples were taken.

2. The appellants and other defendants have petitioned the High Court to have the case dismissed, claiming that the complaint was prima facie prohibited by limitation and that the procedure set out in Section 24 was not followed. The appellants argued that there were unusual delays in testing the samples, and that as a result, the necessary timeframes set out in Section 24 were violated, and that the complaint should be dismissed. It was also the case of the appellants that the necessary undertakings had already been filed identifying the responsible officers of the quality control; as a result, the appellants are not liable for prosecution, and the complaint was filed hastily without considering the necessary aspects. The appellants further claimed that the Magistrate failed to follow the procedure outlined in Section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. By the impugned decision, the High Court rejected the petition in the case of the appellants while quashing the proceedings in the case of petitioner no.4 before the High Court, who was the firm's Godown Incharge.

3. This criminal appeal has been filed before the Honourable Supreme Court of India, after being aggrieved by the order of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Chandigarh.

The Issue(s) of the Case

Whether order dated 12 May 2020 passed by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh valid?

The Observations of the Court

1. Honourable Supreme Court of India observed that the complaint submitted is prohibited by limitation due to the uncontested fact that after drawing the sample from the dealer, a report of analysis was obtained from the Insecticide Testing Laboratory in Ludhiana.

2. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observed that The State's sole argument is that a new report from the Central Insecticide Testing Laboratory has been received, which is irrefutable proof of the facts, and thus the case is inside the statute of limitations. The Honourable Supreme Court of India is not persuaded by skilled counsel for the State's position. There is no need to seek calculation of limitation only from the date of receipt of the report of the Central Insecticide Testing Laboratory, Faridabad, since the wording of Section 469, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 makes it clear that the term of limitation begins on the day of the offence.

3. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observed that allowing the procedures to continue on such a complaint, which is ex facie prohibited by limitation, is nothing more than an abuse of the legal process. Although the learned counsel has presented additional grounds in favour of quashing, the Honourable Supreme Court of India is convinced to accept his position that the lawsuit filed is prohibited by limitation, thus will not address those other grounds.

The Decision Held by the Court

Honourable Supreme Court of India held that The High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh's impugned order dated 12 May 2020 in CRM­M No.1162­2020 (O&M) is set aside. As a result, the second respondent's complaint No.26, filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Amritsar on March 25, 2014, has been dismissed.

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