Thursday, October 29, 2009

HC orders retrial in food adulteration case

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has ordered a retrial in a food adulteration case after the police made out a weak case where the witnesses turned hostile leading to acquittal of the accused. The high court also came down heavily on prosecution as well as government officials for being careless in grilling the accused during the trial.

In most of the food adulteration cases filed by authorities, the public analyst's report confirms adulteration but when these come up for trial, prosecution cannot prove a case against the accused. The high court has observed that during last five years, conviction took place in 14 per cent cases only despite the fact that samples tested were found violating the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.

In this case, Shailendra Shah, Vinay Nayne and Alembic Limited were booked in 2005 for sale of misbranded food article. In place of table top sweetener, the company was selling an artificial sweetener in the name of Zero Calorie Sweetener. They were booked and a trial was initiated against them before a metropolitan magistrate, who acquitted the vendor Shah, the company official Nayne and the company itself after the witnesses, including the officers of the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Gandhinagar, turned hostile.

The local public analyst and the Central Food Laboratory from Mysore gave a certificate of the samples collected from the spot stating that it was a case of misbranded food. The reports also said that the statement printed by the company that the sweetener was safe for children was not proper.

Despite this, the accused got acquittal in the lower court. The state government filed an appeal in the high court against the acquittal order. Justice DH Waghela found that the charges framed against the accused during prosecution were weak in nature.

"Such curious conspiracy of circumstances clearly appeared to have resulted into miscarriage of justice and the court, complainant (officers) and the prosecutor are clearly found to be remiss in the discharge of their essential duties," said Justice Waghela about the trial that was conducted three years ago.

Making further comment on lower court, the judge said, "...Only a few questions by the court could have cleared the marginal would not be proper to confirm acquittal of the accused persons solely on account of such defects and to do so would tantamount to playing into the hands of defective prosecution."

With these remarks, the high court remanded the case back to the metropolitan court for retrial after framing proper charge.

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