Mixing salt in red chilli powder lands vendor in jail

Mixing salt in red chilli powder lands vendor in jail

Adulteration of food even with non-injurious substance would amount to an offence in law as it lowered the purity of the article, the Supreme Court has said, sending a man to jail for three months for mixing salt in red chilli powder.

A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and A K Sikri declined to show any “benevolence” to convict Mithlesh noting that the Delhi High Court had already shown leniency to him by reducing the sentence from one year to three months’ rigorous imprisonment. Maintaining a tough stance, “more so, when it is a case of food adulteration,” the court said there was no special circumstances which may warrant reducing the sentence below the minimum prescribed under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and went on to dismiss his appeal.

The HC had, in its order in 2009, shown leniency saying that since the matter related to the year 1993 and the petitioner had already suffered incarceration of about 12 days out of the one-year sentence awarded to him by the trial court.  In his plea, 52-year-old Mithlesh contended that only salt was found as adulterant which was common in such cases as he was a petty shopkeeper, who kept things in open and there was every chance of spilling of this salt into the container of red chilli powder.

The apex court, however, did not agree. Relying upon the provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, the court said, “It is clear that an article of food may be adulterated once it does not meet the specifications and exceeds the limit prescribed under the law.”

“It is clear that if salt is added to chillies even if it would not be rendered injurious to health, nevertheless the quality/purity of the article would fall below the prescribed standards/its constituents as prescribed in limit. It would be adulterated,” the bench held, directing him to surrender within four weeks to serve his jail term.

Some officials from the Food Adulteration Department visited the shop run by Mithlesh in East Delhi here and collected a sample of red chilli powder from an open container of two kg.

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