Food Adulteration

Prevention of Food Adulteration Act

The Act is a welfare legislation to prevent health hazards by consuming adulterated food. The mens rea is not an essential ingredient. It is a social evil and the Act prohibits commission of the offences under the Act. The essential ingredient is sale to the purchaser by the vendor. It is not material to establish the capacity of the person vis a vis the owner of the shop to prove his authority to sell the adulterated food exposed for sale in the shop. It is enough for the prosecution to establish that the person who sold the adulterated article of food had sold it to the purchaser (including the Food Inspector) and that Food Inspector purchased the same in strict compliance with the provisions of the Act.
The sanctioning authority has to consider the material placed before it whether the offence of adulteration of food was committed and punishable under the Act. Once that satisfaction is reached and the authority is competent to grant the sanction, the sanction is valid. It is not necessary for the sanctioning authority to consider that the person sold is the owner, servant, agent or partner or relative of the owner or was duly authorised in this behalf. (See State of Orissa v. K. Rajeshwar Rao, 1992 CrLJ 300 : 1992 AIR (SC) 240 : 1992 (Cr) 177 : 1992 CAR 45 : 1992 CrLR (SC) 390 : 1991(3) Crimes 868)

Contempt and Mens rea

Standard of proof required for Contempt

The standard of proof required to establish a charge of ‘criminal contempt’ is the same as in any other criminal proceeding. It is all the more necessary to insist upon strict proof of such charge when the act or omission complained of is committed by the respondent under colour of his office as a judicial officer.

Even if it could be urged that mens rea, as such, is not an indispensable ingredient of the offence of contempt, the courts are loath to punish a contemner, if the act or omission complained of, was not willful.

(See S. Abdul Karim v. M.K. Prakash, 1976 CrLJ 641 : 1976 AIR (SC) 859 : 1976 CAR 124 : 1976 CrLR (SC) 102 : 1976 Ker LT 184 : 1976 SCC (Cr) 2170)

It must be realised that our system of courts often results in delay of one kind or another. The remedy for it is reform and punishment departmentally. Punishment under the law of Contempt is called for when the lapse is deliberate and in disregard of one’s duty and in defiance of authority. To take action in an unclear case is to make the law of contempt do duty for other measures and is not to be encouraged.

[Debabrata Bandopadhyay vs The State Of West Bengal,1969 AIR SC 189, 1969 SCR (1) 304 on 2 July, 1968]

However in English Law it is well settled that to prove contempt two ingredients must be established. First actus reus i.e. the relevant fact constituting contempt and mes rea i.e. the necessary intent or guilty mind.

Read more about contempt and mens rea here.


To hold a person guilty of the offence of cheating it has to be shown that his intention was dishonest at the time of making the promise. Such a dishonest intention cannot be inferred from the mere fact that he could not subsequently fulfill the promise. (see State of Kerala v. A. Pareed Pillai, 1972 CrLJ 1243 : 1973 AIR (SC) 326 : 1972 (3) SCC 661 : 1972 CAR 304)

An error of judgment or breach of performance of duty which, per se, cannot be equated with dishonest intention to establish the charge under Section 420 I.P.C. (Anil Kumar Bose v. State of Bihar, 1974 CrLJ 1026 : 1974 AIR (SC) 1560 : 1974 Cr LR (SC) 457 : 1974 (3) SCR 902)

Corporate immunity and Mens rea

Prosecution of Officers of the company

The persons managing the affairs of such company cannot use the juristic entity and corporate personality of the company as a shield to evade themselves from prosecution for offences under the Penal Code, if it is established that primary object of the incorporation and existence of the company is to defraud public. But, at the same time, while taking cognizance of alleged offences in connection with the registration, issuance of prospectus, collection of moneys from the investors and the misappropriation of the fund collected from the share holders which constitute one offence or other under the Penal Code, Court must be satisfied that prima facie an offence under the Penal Code has been disclosed on the materials produced before the Court.  For framing charges in respect of those acts and omissions, in many cases, mens rea is not an essential ingredient; the concerned statute imposes a duty on those who are in charge of the management, to follow the statutory provisions and once there is a breach or contravention, such persons become liable to punished. But for framing a charge for an offence under the Penal Code, the traditional rule of existence of mens rea is to be followed. The prosecution has to prove that the appellant as promoters or directors, had dishonest intention since very beginning while collecting the moneys from the applicants for the shares and debentures or that having collected such moneys they dishonestly misappropriated the same. The ingredients of the different offences under the Penal Code need not be proved only by direct evidence, they can be shown from the circumstances of a particular case that the intention of the promoters or the directors was dishonest since very inception or that they developed such intention at some stage, for their wrongful gain and causing wrongful loss to the investors.

Radhey Shyam Khemka v. State of Bihar, 1993 CrLJ 2888 : 1993 CrLR (SC) 358 : 1993(1) Crimes 1132 : 1993(3) SCC 54.