STATE OF MP vs NARAYAN SINGH Case dealt with two identical cases of attempted unlawful export of the fertilizer bags from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra together under a special leave petition – Cr. Appeal No. 49/78 and Cr. Appeal No. 24/78. The Trial Court and the High Court acquitted both the respondents on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove mens rea on the part of the accused.
BENCH: NATRAJAN, S. (J)
- The respondents were intercepted by a Sales Tax Barrier near the border of the state of Maharashtra. The documents seized from the lorry drivers contained the invoices and other records, but did not include the permits issued under the Fertilizers(Movement Control) Order, 1973.
- The lorry driver and the cleaners in the first case and the lorry driver and the coolie in the second case were prosecuted under the F.M.C Order read with sections 3 & 7 of the Exchange Commodities Act for exporting fertilizers from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra without a valid permit.
- However, the respondents were acquitted by the trial court on the following grounds–first, no mens rea on part of them was being proved by the prosecution and second, the act of exporting the fertilizer bags without permit constituted merely preparation and not attempted commission of an offence.
- Hence, an appeal is made by the State against the acquittal under Section 378(3) of Cr.P.C. 1973.
- Whether the respondents were liable for conviction for contravention of the F.M.C Order read with section 3 and 7 of the E.C. Act?
- Whether the mens rea need to be proved in order to determine the liability?
- Whether the offences were committed by the respondents deliberately?
- Whether the act of unlawful export of fertilizers constituted merely preparation and not commission of offence?
There are four stages involved in the commission of an offence- intention, preparation, attempt, and execution. The first two stages would not attract culpability, but the third and fourth would certainly attract culpability.
Regarding the above question, it was found that the respondents in both cases were actually involved in exporting fertilizer bags without a permit and would have led to a complete act if the interception had not been taken place, violating the F.M.C Order. Hence, it was not a case of mere preparation.
In this case, the decision made in Nathu Lal v. State of Madhya Pradesh was referred stating that an offence under Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act would be committed only if a person intentionally contravenes any order made under Section 3 of the Act as mens rea was an essential ingredient of the criminal offences.
Later, the change brought about by the legislature to Section 7 was being referred by the High Court-
Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act,1955 was amended in 1974 and the words “whether knowingly, intentionally or otherwise” were deleted, and a new provision in section 10 of the Act was added. The effect of this amendment is that a presumption of the guilty mind by the accused regarding offences under the Act, including Sec.7, would arise and it would be open to the accused to rebut the same.
It is to be noted that in both the cases, the accused did not deny the fact of the transport of fertilizer bags in their respective lorries or the interception of the lorries and the seizure of the fertilizer bags or about the fertilizer bags not being covered by a permit issued under the F.M.C Order. However, the defence was that the respondents were not aware of the contents of the documents seized from them and that they were not engaged in exporting the fertilizer bags from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra in conscious violation of the F.M.C Order.
In the light of the above discussions, the judgments of the Trial Magistrate and the High Court were declared erroneous and were held unsustainable.
Thus, the order of acquittal was set aside in each case and it held the respondents liable for committing the offence. However, no punishment was awarded to them.
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