IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on: 25.07.1989
APPELLANT: STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH
RESPONDENT: NARAYAN SINGH AND ORS.
Facts of the Case
- The case involves Export of Fertilizers without permit from Madhya Pradesh (Indore) to Maharashtra. There are two appeals both of which have similar facts. (Crl. Appeal No. 49/78 involving a lorry driver and two cleaners and Crl. Appeal No. 24/78 involving a lorry driver and a coolie).
- Both the Lorries carried certain bags of Fertilizers, starting from Indore towards Maharashtra.
- They were intercepted at Sendhwa Sales Tax Barrier situated at a distance of 8 miles from the Maharashtra border on the Agra Bombay road on different dates.
- The lorry driver (in both the cases) had the relevant invoices and records but not the permit for export of the fertilizers thereby exporting the same in contravention to the Fertilizers (Movement Control) order, 1973 r/w Sections 3 and 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
- Both were acquitted in the Trial Court as the State did have sufficient evidence against them and the High Court didn’t grant leave to their appeal.
- Both the Lorries hadn’t crossed the border yet as they were intercepted before the Maharashtra border.
- Whether The Lorry Driver knew of the contents inside the Lorry?
- Whether they were only in the stage of Preparation of Exporting without permit or they had attempted to export without permit?
- Whether they had the intention (criminal or mens rea) to do so?
- Whether Intention (Mens Rea) is necessary to determine their liability?
- Whether respondents are liable for violation of the Fertilizers (Movement and Control) order, 1973 r/w section 3 and 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955?
1. The defence argued that they were unaware of the contents in the lorry of which the documents were seized from them.
2. The defence also pleaded that they were not involved in the export of the fertilizers from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra in violation of the Fertilizers (Movement Control) order, 1973.
3. The defence pleaded that they did not attempt the export but it was mere preparation from their side and mere preparation does not constitute crime.
Opinion of the Court
- The bench was convinced enough that there wasn’t knowledge on the part of lorry drivers in both the appeals regarding the contents of the bags in the lorry.
- The bench opined that there are four stages of an offence- Intention, Preparation, Attempt and Execution. According to the bench in both the appeals they were in the stage of attempt of an offence, i.e. export of fertilizers without permit as they were intercepted before 8 miles from Maharashtra Border and if they were to be in the preparation stage they would still have been procuring the material to be exported or arranging for a lorry for transport and the later 2 stages attract culpability while the first 2 don’t. As they were in the 3rd stage, it would attract culpability.
- According to the Sec 3, Sec. 7 (1) and Sec 7 (1) (a) of the E. C. Act if any person exports fertilizers in contravention whether knowingly, intentionally or otherwise shall be punishable. Hence if a person does so without the intension also he/she can be held liable.
- The bench referred to the case – Swastik Oil Industries v. State of Gujarat  in which it was decided that intention is not essential whether one can be held liable for the same. The bench also referred to a case- Nathu Lal v. State of Madhya Pradesh wherein it referred to the section 7 of the E.C. act as it was originally mentioned that Intention is an essential part to determine one’s liability for the same. After Nathu Lal’s case Legislature brought a change in the sec. 7 of the E.C. Act through act 37 of 1967 by which the words “knowingly, intentionally or otherwise” were added and hence Intention as an essential part to determine the liability was removed. But this imposed a strict liability on the people who were trying to escape from such event and later through Amending Act 30 of 1974 the words “knowingly, intentionally or unknowingly” were deleted from sec 7(1) of the E.C Act and Sec 10(1) of the Act was amended so as to presume culpable mental state on any person prosecuted for any offence under the act and it shall be available as a defence to the prosecuted to prove that he/she didn’t have the intention. Hence it was opined that intention wasn’t necessary but the same is presumed on the part of the prosecuted and it is available as a defense to the prosecuted.
- The bench opined that the lorry drivers were not taking the bags of fertilizer for mere amusement or fun and they didn’t even have the intention to take back the lorry and the bags of fertilizer to Indore. So they can be held liable.
The bench held the Judgement of the Trial Magistrate and the High Court in appeal to be erroneous and unsustainable. It held the Respondents liable for the offence that was in contravention of the Fertilizers (Movement and Control) order, 1973 r/w sec. 3 and 7 of the E.C. Act, 1955. However, it did not award any punishment to the respondents as the court was more interested in setting out the correct position of the law and also fifteen years were passed since they were acquitted in the Trial Court.
References Essential Commodities Act, 1955  (1978) 19 GLR 1117  MANU/SC/0384/1965
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