The Calcutta High Court has acquitted Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) officials in case relating to Red Label Tea misbranding. It said that the deformity and discrepancies in the case cannot be cured by remanding the same.

The Court was dealing with a batch of two instant criminal revisions preferred under Section 397/401 read with Section 482 of CrPC for setting aside the judgments passed by the District and Sessions Judge whereby it allowed the appeal and remanded back the matter to the Municipal Magistrate for reconsideration of the same from the stage under Section 313 of CrPC and further directing to write a fresh judgment after considering the respective arguments on behalf of the parties.

A Single Bench of Justice Subhendu Samanta held, “When a judgment was challenged before an Appellate Court and when the Appellate Court is perused the discrepancies in the case of prosecution. Then it is the only option to the Appellate Court to dismiss the entire prosecution case by allowing the appeal itself. The deformity as well as the discrepancies appeared in the prosecution case cannot be cured by only remanding back the case from the stage of examination of accused u/s 313 Cr.P.C. Moreover, the appellate Court must not have allowed the prosecution to cure the defect by which the accused would be prejudiced.”

The Court said that the appellate court has only duty on finding the discrepancies of the case of prosecution to acquit the accused.

Advocate Sabyasachi Banerjee represented the petitioners while Advocates Gautam Dinha and Imran Ali represented the respondents.

Factual Background -

One Food Inspector of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) registered a criminal case against the petitioner company (HUL) and others for the offence under Section 16(1)(a) (i) and (7) of The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 for the alleged offence of misbranding of “Red Label Natural Care Tea”. In the said proceeding, the Municipal Magistrate convicted the petitioner along with others and thereby sentenced them to suffer simple imprisonment for 6 months and fine Rs. 5,000/-. Being aggrieved by the said order the petitioner preferred an appeal before the City Sessions Court.

The aforesaid appeal was heard by the Fast track 1st Court, Bichar Bhaban, Kolkata and after hearing the parties the court allowed the appeal by setting aside the order of conviction and sentence. However, the matter was remanded back to the Court of Senior Municipal Magistrate for fresh consideration from the stage of examination of the accused persons under Section 313 of CrPC and the Magistrate was directed to re-write the judgment after hearing the parties. Being aggrieved by and dissatisfied with the said order, the petitioner filed a revision before the High Court.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel noted, “The entire judgment passed by the Learned Appellate court has mentioned about the contradictions in the prosecution case. He also perused the Rule 38 and 39 PF Rules instead of which the appellate Court has remanded the matter back. Learned Appellate Court has assigned no reason for remanding back the case. On such score the impugned judgment appears to me in proper.”

The Court observed that the direction of the Appellate Court in the impugned judgment regarding remanding back the case before the Magistrate is erroneous in nature.

“The petitioners appear to be not found guilty to the offence as alleged against them and they are hereby acquitted from the case”, held the Court.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the criminal revision, affirmed the judgment of the appellate court, and acquitted the accused.

Cause Title- Hindustan Unilever Ltd. v. The State of West Bengal & Anr.

Click here to read/download the Judgment