Decided on April 01,1952

BHERA Appellant
STATE Respondents

Cited Judgements :-



- (1.)THIS is a revision by Bhera against his conviction under sec. 6 of the Rajasthan Essential Supplies (Temporary Powers) Ordinance, 1949 (No. XIII of 1949 ).
(2.)THE facts of the case are not in dispute. THE applicant was found in possession of 121 Maunds of food-grains on the 5th of December, 1949. This was in contravention of Rule 17 (1) of the Rajasthan Food-grains Control Order 1949 which came into force on the 12th August, 1949-Under that Rule no person, who was not a licensed grain dealer, could retain in his possession at any one time more than 50 Maunds of food-grains. THE applicant had, therefore, clearly contravened this provision and was liable to be convicted under sec. 6 of Essential Supplies Ordinance.
Two points have been urged on behalf of the applicant in this revision. In the first place, it has been urged that rule 17 (2) of the Food Grains Control Order provides that all food-grains in the possession of any person, not being a licensed grain dealer in excess of the limit of 50 Maunds, shall, if possession is acquired subsequent to the coming into force of the Food-grains Control Order, be disponed of by sale to a licensed grain dealer within one week This was obviously provided in order to allow those who grew foodgrains to dispose of excess amount within a certain time to licensed grain dealer at the market rate or in such other manner as may from time to time be prescribed by the authorities concerned. It is urged on behalf of the applicant that it was for the prosecution to prove that the applicant had been in possession for more than 7 days before the 5th of December, 1949, and that as the prosecution had failed to prove that the applicant cannot be said to have contravened rule 17 (1 ). This argument, in my opinion, has no force. Sub-rule (2) is an exception to sub-rule (1) of rule 17. Sub-rule (1) clearly prohibits any person who is not a licensed grain dealer from retaining in his possession at any time more than 50 Maunds of foodgrains. Sub-rule (2) establishes an exception for the benefit obviously of those who grow foodgrains and gives them 7 days within which they should dispose of their foodgrains. Sub-rule (3) provides that they should within a further three days send information to the Tehsildar of the sale made by them. If, therefore, any person who is charged for contravention of rule 17 (1) wants to take advantage of the exception provided under rule 17 (2), it is for him to plead and prove that his case is covered by rule 17 (2 ). If that were not so, it would generally be impossible to prosecute anyone for the breach of rule 17 (1 ). It was, therefore, for the applicant to prove that he had not been in possession for more than 7 days. He has done nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, in the lower court he had admitted that he had made mistake but he pleaded ignorance of the law. The applicant, therefore, cannot get the benefit of sub-rule (2) in this case, and has clearly contravened the provision of sub-rule (1 ).

The second point that has been urged on behalf of the applicant is that the law came into force only about four months before the offence took place and the applicant who is an illiterate villager had no knowlede of it.

This argument cannot be accepted in the form in which it is put forward; for everyone is presumed to know the law. There is not even a provision corresponding to rule 119 of the Defence of India Rules in the Essential Supplies Ordinance or in the Foodgrains Control Order and, therefore, everyone must be presumed to know the law as soon as it has been made. It has, however, been urged that in any case, it was for the prosecution to prove mens rea and that the prosecution has failed to do so in this case because the applicant did not know the law. This is really the same argument put in another form. Reliance, however, is placed on Srinivas Mail vs. Emperor (A. I. R. 1947 P. C. 135) and Bholaprasad Lata vs. The King (A. I. R. 1949 Cal. 348 ). Their Lordships of the Privy Council quoted the view expressed by the Lord Chief Justice of England in Brend vs. Wood (no, J. P. 317) in these words : - "it is in my opinion of the utmost importance for the protection of the liberty of the subject that the court should always bear in mind that, unless the statute, either clearly or by necessary implication, rules out mens rea as a constituent part of a crime, a defendant should not be found guilty of an offence against the criminal law unless he has got guilty mind. " This case was followed in the Calcutta case. It should, however, be remembered that both these cases are cases of vicarious responsibility; the first dealt with the responsibility of the master for the acts of the servant and the second with the responsibility of the servant for carrying out the orders of the master. Further, their Lordships envisaged that there could be an exception to the rule and this exception would arise if the statute ruled out mens rea as a constituent part of a crime either clearly or by necessary implication.

The present case is not a case of vicarious responsibility. Here the applicant is being prosecuted for his own possession of more than 50 Maunds of foodgrains. Further the manner in which rule 17 (1) is worded, in my opinion, rules out by necessary implication the requirement of mens rea and the mere fact of possession is sufficient to establish guilt. I am, therefore, of opinion that the applicant has been rightly convicted.

Lastly, it has been urged that in view of the applicant being an illiterate villager and in view of the possibility that he might not really have come to know of the law even though it was passed about four months before, the Magistrate was too harsh in forfeiting the grain. It does seem to me that the order forfeiting the entire amount of grain was somewhat harsh. It would have been enough if the amount in excess of 50 Maunds had been forfeited.

I therefore, accept this revision to this extent that the order as to for-feiture is varied and the amount of grain forfeited is reduced to the excess viz. , 71 Maunds. It may be that the grain has been sold, in which case 5o/121st part of the sale proceeds will be returned to the applicant under rule 29 of the Rajasthan Foodgrains Control Order. The revision is hereby dismissed with the modification mentioned above. .

Click here to view full judgement.
Copyright © Regent Computronics Pvt.Ltd.