The Madras High Court quashed the criminal proceedings initiated against a man for offence under Section 3(4) of Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel (Regulation of Supply and Distribution and Prevention of Malpractices) Order, 2005 and 7(1)(a)(i) of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and said that the time period prescribed under the Acts for sample analysis must be strictly adhered to.

The Bench of Justice R.N. Manjula observed that “The very object of prescribing time limit to send the sample for analysis and get the test results in a prescribed time is to see that no further contamination is occurred in chemical products. Unless the mandatory time limits are complied, the test results will be unreliable.”

Advocate Mohamed Riyaz appeared for the petitioner and Government Advocate A. Gopinath appeared for the respondent.

In this case, Criminal Original Petition was preferred under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code to quash the FIR registered and the criminal proceedings initiated against the petitioner.

The petitioner was the sole accused. He was found to be uploading adulterated diesel and after conducting due search and seizure, the defacto complainant (Tehsildar) had given a complaint to the Deputy Superintendent of Police based on which the case was registered under the Acts.

The Counsel for the petitioner contended that as per law, a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police duly authorised by general or special order of the Central Government or State Government was the authorised person who had the power of search and seizure. But herein the search and seizure was conducted by the Tahsildar.

The Court noted that the search and seizure was conducted by the Tehsildar, an authority not authorised by the Government. Therefore, all consequential action would become unlawful as per the decision of this Court in the case of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited Vs. Geetha Kasturirangan 2010 SCC OnLine Mad 2551.

Further the Court noted that the sample were handed over to the police at the time of making the complaint but were sent to the laboratory after almost two months as against the 10 days deadline prescribed under law. The laboratory was supposed to submit the test results within 20 days of receiving the sample but the analysis report was given after a delay of one year. Moreover, the test results were never communicated to the accused.

The Court observed that delay occurred in each stage of investigation had deprived the accused from availing due opportunity to defend his case.

“Since the mandatory procedure and the prescribed time limit has been violated, the entire proceedings would get vitiated and no purpose will be served if the investigation is allowed to be continued. Hence, I feel it is a fit case where the powers of this Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C. should be exercised to quash the FIR.” added the Court.

Accordingly, the petition was allowed and the FIR registered was quashed.

Cause Title- Venkatesan @ Venkatesh v. State and Ors.

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