Legal precedent on food adulteration standards: State of Punjab vs Ramesh Kumar

Explore a significant legal ruling by the Supreme Court of India in the case of State of Punjab vs Ramesh Kumar regarding food adulteration standards. The Court’s decision sets a benchmark for adherence to prescribed standards and highlights the importance of upholding minimum sentences. Stay informed about this pivotal judgment impacting food safety regulations.


  • Appellant was prosecuted and convicted for non-compliance with milk standards.
  • Delay in analyzing the sample cannot be used as a defense as the sample was preserved.
  • Sample of milk was collected on 30.10.1995 and analyzed for Milk Fat percentage and Milk Solid Non-Fat.
  • Milk Solid Non-Fat was found to be 7.7%, below the prescribed standard of 8.5%.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that the delay in testing caused the deviation in MSNF.
  • Public Analyst received the sample on 02.11.1995 for further analysis.

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  • Appellant was given the option to send the second sample to the CFL when the Magistrate took cognizance of the complaint.
  • Courts have consistently found that the signatures on the documents are of the appellant and cannot be disputed.
  • Various High Court judgments were quoted by the appellant’s counsel in support of their arguments.
  • Appellant claimed to be illiterate and unable to sign, but courts confirmed the notice was duly served to him.
  • Appellant argued that the option for CFL analysis was given late, but courts found this argument baseless.
  • Court concluded that the appellant waived his right by not applying for CFL analysis of the second sample.
  • Failure to file a list of witnesses did not impact the appellant’s right to send the second sample for CFL analysis.
  • Quality of milk depends on food given to cattle and the health of cattle.
  • Marginal deficiencies can be caused by natural factors beyond human control.
  • Benefit of doubt should be given to the accused in cases of marginal variations from prescribed standards.
  • Judgments cited by the counsel have been overruled.
  • The proposition in Karunan’s case was deemed not good in law by a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court.

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  • Ram Kumar’s case (supra) relied on Ujagar Singh’s case (supra) to conclude the accused is not guilty of adulteration.
  • A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in State of Punjab vs Ramesh Kumar held that Ujagar Singh’s case (supra) is no longer good in law.
  • Reference was made to the Full Bench judgment in State of Punjab vs Teja Singh by the Division Bench.
  • Quoting from Municipal Committee, Amritsar vs Hazara Singh, the Court took a similar view on the applicability of Ujagar Singh’s case (supra).
  • Approval was given to the judgment of the Full Bench of the Kerala High Court in State of Kerala vs Parameswaran Pillai Vasudevan Nair.
  • The judgment in M.V. Joshi vs M.U. Shimpi and Anr. was referred to for specific observations regarding acquittal.
  • Under the Act, in cases of primary foods like milk, it is not necessary to prove that the item had become unfit for human consumption or injurious to health.
  • Section 16(1)(a) of the Act mandates a minimum sentence of six months for non-compliance with food standards.
  • Exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution is not applicable as the incident took place over twenty years ago.
  • The power under Article 142 cannot be used against specific provisions of the law.
  • Standards laid down by the Legislature must be followed, and minimum sentences prescribed must be adhered to.
  • Adulterated food items must be treated as such even if not immediately injurious to health.
  • Power under Section 433 of Cr.PC can only be exercised by the appropriate Government.
  • Judgments citing Section 433 in such cases are considered per incuriam and legally incorrect.
  • Any deviation from prescribed standards, even marginal, cannot be overlooked.
  • Passage of time cannot be a justification for awarding a sentence lower than the prescribed minimum.
  • Article 142 cannot be used in total violation of the law; court can only recommend to the State Government.
  • Courts cannot direct the Government to pass a formal compliance order; only the appropriate Government can do so.
  • The critical question in such cases is whether the article complies with the laid-down standards or not.
  • In the case of Santosh Kumar vs Municipal Corporation and Anr., the Court commuted a sentence of six months imprisonment under similar circumstances.
  • The State Government was directed to pass formal orders of commutation in the Santosh Kumar case.
  • Judgments in N. Sukumaran Nair vs. Food Inspector, Mavelikara and Santosh Kumar’s case did not discuss the scope and ambit of Section 433 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
  • It is held that if the standards are not complied with, the Court is not justified in acquitting the accused charged with adulteration based solely on marginal deficiency.
  • Article 142 should not be used to make a mockery of the law
  • Article 142 powers cannot be misused to impose sentences lower than the minimum prescribed by law
  • Using Article 142 in a food adulteration case to lower sentences would set a dangerous precedent for other serious crimes like murder and rape

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  • The case has been dismissed due to lack of merit
  • Any applications made are also dismissed
  • Accused-appellant’s bail bonds are cancelled
  • The accused-appellant is directed to surrender within four weeks
  • The accused-appellant must undergo the remaining part of the sentence


Case Number: Crl.A. No.-001541-001541 / 2019

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