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Indian Case Summary

State Of Madhya Pradesh vs Narayan Singh & Ors on 25 July, 1989 – Case Summary

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In the case of State Of Madhya Pradesh vs Narayan Singh & Ors on 25 July, 1989, the Supreme Court of India was faced with a dispute involving the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and the Fertiliser (Movement Control) Order, 1973. The respondents, who were lorry drivers, cleaners, and a coolie, were transporting fertiliser bags in trucks from Indore, Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra. They were intercepted at a Sales Tax Barrier near the border of Maharashtra State. The documents seized from the lorry drivers contained invoices and other records, but did not include permits issued under the Fertilisers (Movement Control) Order, 1973. Consequently, they were prosecuted under the Fertiliser (Movement Control) Order, 1973 read with sections 3 and 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 for exporting fertilisers from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra without a valid permit.

The Trial Court acquitted the respondents, holding that the prosecution had failed to prove mens rea (guilty mind) on the part of the respondents, and that the act of transportation of the fertiliser bags in trucks by the respondents constituted merely preparation and not attempted commission of the offence. Appeals were filed by the State against the acquittal under section 378(3) of the Cr. P.C. 1973, but the High Court declined to grant leave. The State then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, in its judgement, held that the words used in section 7(1) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 were comprehensive enough to include not only contraventions done knowingly or intentionally but even otherwise, i.e., done unintentionally. Therefore, the element of mens rea in export of fertiliser bags without a valid permit was not a necessary ingredient for convicting a person for contravention of an order made under section 3 if the factum of export or attempt to export was established by the evidence on record.

The court also found that the respondents were actually caught in the act of exporting fertiliser bags without a permit. The trucks were coming from Indore and were proceeding towards Maharashtra. The interception had taken place at Sendhwa Sales Tax Barrier which is only 8 miles away from the border of Maharashtra State. If the interception had not taken place, the export would have become a completed act and the fertiliser bags would have been successfully taken to Maharashtra State in contravention of the Fertiliser (Movement Control) Order, 1973. Therefore, the court held that the respondents were clearly attempting to unlawfully export the fertiliser bags and not merely preparing to do so.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court allowed the appeals, set aside the order of acquittal in each case, and convicted the respondents for the offence with which they were charged. However, due to the fact that more than fifteen years had passed since they were acquitted by the Trial Magistrate, the court did not pass any order of punishment on the respondents.