Mohamed Imranullah S.

Tea stall owner, his employee get six months RI for adulteration Court reverses acquittal order passed by the III Judicial Magistrate of Tiruchi in 1996

MADURAI: P. Saminathan, a tea stall owner at Srirangam in Tiruchi district, and his employee, S. Murali, would have never thought that they would be put behind bars now for an offence selling adulterated milk committed by them 15 years ago!

The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Thursday reversed an acquittal order passed by the III Judicial Magistrate of Tiruchi in 1996 and sentenced them to six months rigorous imprisonment.

Allowing an appeal moved by the Food Inspector in 1997, Justice G. Rajasuria also ordered the them to pay a fine of Rs.1,000 each or undergo a month of rigorous imprisonment in case of default. The trial court was directed to issue non-bailable warrants against the guilty.

Though counsel for the convicts contended that the magistrate's order need not be disturbed as more than 10 years had lapsed since the acquittal, the judge said: "I am of the view that in socio-economic matters of this nature, the time lag cannot be a criterion to refrain from reversing the acquittal order."

Pointing out several shortcomings in the acquittal order, the judge said: "The learned Magistrate for reasons best known to him has chosen to simply acquit the accused without application of mind and such a practice is deprecated and it should be condemned in unmistakable terms."

According to the Food Inspector, he purchased 750 ml of milk from the teashop on March 20, 1991 in the presence of a witness. After following all necessary procedures the bottles were sealed and sent for analysis. The public analysts, at Palayamkottai and in Chennai, said the milk did not conform to the standards prescribed for boiled mixed milk. under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and hence the case.