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Friday, May 13, 2016

' no mens rea no crime' has long ago been eroded and several laws in India and abroad, especially regarding economic crimes and departmental penalties, have created severe punishments even where the offences have been defined to exclude mens rea. Therefore, the contention that Section 37(1) fastens a heavy liability regardless or fault has no force......"= 'blameworthy' conduct of the occupier which resulted in the commission of the statutory offence and not his criminal intent to commit that offence. The rule of strict liability is attracted to the offences committed under the Act and the occupier is held vicariously liable along with the Manager and the actual offender, as the case may be. Penalty follows actus reus, mens-rea being irrelevant.” In view of the above declaration by this Court, we are of the view, that it is not possible for us to interfere with the impugned order passed by the High Court, wherein the prayer made by the appellants for quashing the proceedings initiated against them, was declined.

                                                        REPORTABLE
                 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                 CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                 CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.442 OF 2016
            (Arising from SLP(Criminal) No. 6410/2015)

Hemant Madhusudan Nerurkar                        ..Appellant

                       versus

State of Jharkhand and another                    ..Respondents
                                  WITH

                 CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 443  OF 2016
            (Arising from SLP(Criminal) No. 6406/2015)

                                  J U D G M E N T


JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR, J.

            Leave granted in both the special leave petitions.

            The  controversy  arising  for  adjudication  emerges  from  the
provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 (hereinafter  referred  to  as  '  the
Act'), and the Bihar Factories Rules, 1950 (as applicable to  the  State  of
Jharkhand).  Insofar as the alleged violations committed by  the  appellants
are concerned, a summary of the same stands recorded in paragraph 3  of  the
impugned judgment, which is extracted hereunder:
“3.   It appears that an inspection carried out in the Growth  Shop  of  M/s
Tata Steel Limited on 14.09.2013 and in course of inspection, it  was  found
that in Fabrication Yard  No.1  about  100  numbers  of  contract  labourers
engaged.  However, on inquiry, it came to the notice of the Inspecting  Team
that though the Management took overtime service from them, but in terms  of
Factories Rules, 1950 (Form-10A) overtime slip not provided to  them,  which
is violative of Rule 103A of the  Factories  Rules,  1950.   The  Inspecting
Team further found that the  contract  labourers  were  not  provided   with
leave book in Form-15 of the Factories Rules, which is violative of Rule  88
of  Jharkhand  Factories  Rules,  1950.   It  is  further  alleged  that  on
inspection of canteen, the following shortcomings defected:
(a)         There is no partition for the female workers in the dining  hall
and service counter.

(b)         Doors and windows of the canteen are not fly proof.

(c)         Menu Chart, rate and  the  names  of  members  Canteen  Managing
Committee has not disclosed on the board.

(d)         for washing of utensils no arrangement of  hot  water  has  been
made.”


            Based on the above allegations,  cognizance  was  taken  against
the occupier – Hemant Madhusudan Nerurkar (the appellant in Criminal  Appeal
No. 442 of 2016 - arising out of SLP(Criminal) No. 6410 of  2015),  and  the
manager – Rupam Bhaduri ( the appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 443  of  2016
- arising out of SLP(Criminal) No. 6406 of 2015).
             Keeping  in  mind  the  apparently  trivial  issues,  on  which
proceedings were taken out against the appellants, this Court on  the  first
date of hearing, i.e., on 14.08.2015, recorded the following order:
“Heard Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan, learned senior counsel for the petitioner  and
Mr.  Tapesh  Kumar  Singh,  learned  Standing  Counsel  for  the  State   of
Jharkhand.

            Having heard learned counsel for the  parties,  it  is  directed
that the concerned Inspector shall verify the factory premises and find  out
whether the defects pointed out by him have been rectified or not.

            List the matter in the first week of September, 2015.

            The Registry is directed to  reflect  the  name  of  Mr.  Tapesh
Kumar Singh in the Cause List on the next date of hearing.”


A perusal of the above order reveals, that the  entire  purpose  of  passing
the same, was to ensure that violations if any are  rectified.    It  seems,
that the aforesaid course of action was taken on the basis of  the  decision
rendered by this Court in the Delhi Cloth and General Mils Co. Ltd. vs.  The
Chief Commissioner, Delhi and others, reported in (1970) 2 SCC 172, for  the
reason, that the appellants asserted that they needed to have been  afforded
an opportunity to cure the  defects  and  irregularities  found  during  the
course of  inspection,  and  only  if  they  had  failed  to  abide  by  the
provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 and the Rules, it  would  be  open  to
the authorities to proceed against the appellants.
            After 14.08.2015,  the  matter  came  up  for  consideration  on
30.11.2015, on which date the motion Bench passed the following order:
“It is submitted by learned counsel for the petitioner that  the  petitioner
has removed all the defects pertaining to  infrastructure  but  two  defects
pertaining to contract labour are not yet been removed  because  the  burden
lies on the contractor under the law.
Mr. Sinha, learned  senior  counsel  along  with  Mr.  Tapesh  Kumar  Singh,
learned counsel for the State shall obtain instructions in this regard.

Let the mater be listed in the third week of January, 2016.”


A perusal of the  above  order  reveals,  that  two  defects  pertaining  to
contract labour had not been removed. Insofar as the instant aspect  of  the
matter is concerned, it has been the submission of the learned  counsel  for
the appellants, that these two allegations leveled against  the  appellants,
were the responsibility of the contractor  who  had  provided  the  contract
labour.  And, not of the appellants.
            Lastly, the matter came up for consideration on 27.4.2016,  when
this Court ordered as under:
“Learned counsel for the  petitioner(s)  states,  that  the  violation  with
reference to  the  contract  labourers,  depicted  in  paragraph  3  of  the
impugned judgment, will be rectified within four days from today,  and  that
the matter may be taken up for hearing again on 4.5.2016.

List again on 4.5.2016.”


            In compliance with the directions issued  by  the  motion  Bench
order dated 27.4.2016, an affidavit has been filed on  behalf  of  both  the
appellants, affirming that  the  two  defects  pertaining  to  the  contract
labour have also been rectified.
            Given the aforesaid factual position, the question  which  arose
for consideration is, whether the appellants could still be  punished  under
Section 92 of the Act, which provides as under:
“92.  General  penalty  for  offences  –  Save  as  is  otherwise  expressly
provided in this Act and subject to the provisions of Section 93, if in,  or
in respect of, any  factory  there  is  any  contravention  of  any  of  the
provisions of this Act or of any rules made thereunder or of  any  order  in
writing given thereunder, the occupier and  manager  of  the  factory  shall
each be guilty of an offence and punishable with  imprisonment  for  a  term
which may extend to two years or with fine which  may  extend  to  one  lakh
rupees  or  with  both,  and  if  the  contravention  is   continued   after
conviction, with a further fine which may extend to one thousand rupees  for
each day on which the contravention is so continued:

Provided that where contravention of any of the provisions of Chapter IV  or
any rule made thereunder or under section 87 has  resulted  in  an  accident
causing death or serious bodily injury, the fine  shall  not  be  less  than
twenty five thousand rupees in the case of an accident  causing  death,  and
five thousand rupees in the case  of  an  accident  causing  serious  bodily
injury.

Explanation – In this section and in  section  94  “serious  bodily  injury”
means an injury which involves, or in  all  probability  will  involve,  the
permanent loss of the use of, or  permanent  injury  to,  any  limb  or  the
permanent loss of, or injury to, sight or hearing, or the  fracture  of  any
bone, but shall not include, the  fracture  of  bone  or  joint  (not  being
fracture of more than one bone or joint) of any phalanges  of  the  hand  or
foot.”


            Insofar as the seriousness of the issues is  concerned,  learned
counsel for the State of  Jharkhand,  Mr.  Tapesh  Kumar  Singh,  vehemently
contends, that the violations committed  at  the  hands  of  the  appellants
should not be termed as trivial. It was submitted, that the enactment  under
reference has a laudable role, inasmuch as, the same extends to  ensure  due
facilities to the labour engaged in  factories,  and  provides  measures  to
regulate emoluments of factory employees.  In this behalf,  learned  counsel
for the respondents  has  placed  reliance  on  a  decision  of  this  Court
rendered in J.K. Industries  Limited  and  others  vs.  Chief  Inspector  of
Factories and Boilers and others, reported in (1996) 6 SCC 665,  and  placed
reliance on the following observations recorded thereunder:
 “40. In keeping with the aim and object of the Act which is essentially  to
safeguard the  interests  of  workers, stop their  exploitation,   and  take
care of their safety,  hygiene  and  welfare   at  their   place  of   work,
numerous restrictions have been  enacted in  public  interest  in  the  Act.
Providing restrictions in    a Statute  would  be  a  meaningless  formality
unless the statute also contains a provision for penalty for the breach   of
the  same.  No   restriction  can   be   effective  unless  there   is  some
sanction compelling its observance  and  a  provision   for  imposition   of
penalty  for breach  of the obligations under  the Act  or  the  rules  made
thereunder is a concomitant and necessary incidence  of  the   restrictions.
Such a      provision is  contained in   Section  92       of  the      Act,
which  contains  a  general  provision  for  penalties  for  offences  under
the Act      for which  no express provision has been  made   elsewhere  and
seeks to  lay down uniform  penalty  for  all     or  any  of  the  offences
committed under  the  Act.  The  offences  under   the  Act      consist  of
contravention of  (1)  any  provision  of   the  Act;(2)  any  rules  framed
thereunder; and (3) any     order in writing made thereunder.  It  comprises
both acts of      omission and  commission.  The persons   punishable  under
the  Section are occupiers and managers, irrespective  of  the  question  as
to who  the  actual  offender  is.      The  provision,  is   in  consonance
with the    scheme of the  Act  to  reach  out   to  those   who  have   the
ultimate control over the affairs of   the  factory   to  see      that  the
requirements      for safety and  welfare of the  employees  are  fully  and
properly  carried  out    besides     carrying    out   various       duties
and obligations under  the Act.  Section 92 contemplates a  joint  liability
of  the occupier  and the  manager for any offence  committed  irrespective,
  of  the       fact  as   to  who  is  directly  responsible    for     the
offence.    The    fact     that       the  notified/identified     director
is   ignorant      about  the  'management'  of    the  factory   which  has
been entrusted to a manager  or   some  other   employee  and    is  himself
not  responsible  for      the  contravention  cannot  absolve  him  of  his
liability.  The  identified /notified   director   is      held  vicariously
liable  for the  contravention of the provisions  of  the  Act,  the   rules
made thereunder or of any order made in writing  under it  for the  offender
company, which is the occupier of the factory.

41.    Mr.  Jain,   Mr.  Nariman   and  Mr.  Tripathi,  appearing  for   the
appellants,   however,   argued   that   since     Section   92  imposes   a
liability for   imprisonment  and/or   fine,  both  on  the  occupier   (the
notified director) and the manager of the factory,  jointly  and  severally,
for the contravention of any of the    provisions of the  Act  or  any  rule
made thereunder  or  of  any    order  in   writing  given       thereunder,
irrespective of the fact  whether the   occupier  (the   notified  director)
or manager, had  any mens-rea  in respect of that contravention or that  the
contravention  was not  committed by him or  was  committed  by   any  other
person in  the factory  without his knowledge, consent  or  connivance,   it
is  an      unreasonable  restriction.  Learned   counsel  argued   that  in
criminal law, the doctrine  of vicarious  liability is  unknown and   if   a
director is to be punished for some  thing  of  which  he  is  not  actually
guilty,  it would  violate his fundamental right as  enshrined  in   Article
21  of the  Constitution. It was urged that on     account  of   advancement
in   science  and   technology,   most   of       the   companies,   appoint
professionally qualified men to run    the factories  and nominate   such  a
person to be the 'occupier' of  the factory  and    make   him   responsible
 for proper implementation  of the  provisions of  the  Act  and  it  would,
therefore,  be harsh  and unreasonable  to   hold    any  director  of   the
company, who may be wholly  innocent,  liable  for  the       contraventions
committed under the Act etc. when he may be totally  ignorant  of  what  was
going on in the factory, having vested  the control  of the affairs  of  the
factory to such an      officer or  employee, by  ignoring the liability  of
that officer  or employee.  The argument  is  emotional  and attractive  but
not sound.

42.   The offences  under the  Act are  not a  part  of  general  penal  law
but arise from the breach of a duty provided in a special beneficial  social
defence legislation, which creates absolute  or   strict  liability  without
proof of any mens rea. The  offences   are  strict  statutory       offences
 for  which establishment of  mens rea  is  not   an  essential  ingredient.
The omission or commission of the statutory breach is  itself  the  offence.
Similar type of offences based on the principle of strict  liability,  which
means liability without fault or mens rea, exist  in many statutes  relating
to economic crimes as  well   as  in    laws   concerning    the   industry,
food adulteration, prevention  of pollution  etc.  In   India   and  abroad.
'Absolute offences' are not criminal offences in any real  sense   but  acts
which are prohibited in the interest of welfare of  the public      and  the
 prohibition  is  backed   by  sanction  of   penalty.  Such   offences  are
generally knows as public welfare offences. A  seven  Judge  Bench  of  this
Court in R.S. Joshi Vs.  Ajit Mills (AIR 1977 (SC), 2279, at page 2287:  SCC
p. 110, para 19):

"Even here we may reject the notion that   a   penalty   or   a   punishment
cannot be   cast in  the form  of an absolute  or   no-fault  liability  but
must be  proceeded by mens rea. The      classical view   that  '   no  mens
rea no crime' has long ago been eroded and  several   laws  in   India   and
abroad,     especially regarding      economic   crimes   and   departmental
   penalties,      have      created    severe punishments  even  where  the
offences have been defined to  exclude mens rea. Therefore,  the  contention
that Section  37(1)   fastens  a    heavy  liability  regardless   or  fault
has no force......"


43.    What   is    made   punishable     under    the       Act    is   the
'blameworthy' conduct  of the occupier which resulted in the  commission  of
the statutory  offence  and   not  his   criminal  intent  to   commit  that
offence.  The  rule  of  strict  liability  is  attracted  to  the  offences
committed under the Act and the occupier is  held vicariously  liable  along
with   the Manager and the actual offender, as  the  case  may  be.  Penalty
follows actus reus, mens-rea being irrelevant.”


      In view of the above declaration by this Court, we are  of  the  view,
that it is not possible for us to interfere with the impugned  order  passed
by the High Court, wherein the prayer made by the  appellants  for  quashing
the proceedings initiated against them, was declined.  We  therefore  hereby
confirm the same.
                 Despite our  above  conclusion,  learned  counsel  for  the
appellants points out, that the factual position is clear, and that,  rather
than requiring the appellants to face a protracted  trial,  this  Court  may
consider the appropriateness of imposing  a  reasonable  punishment  on  the
appellants, by accepting the aforesaid violations , summarised in  paragraph
3 of the impugned order.
                 Learned counsel for the respondents – State  of  Jharkhand,
states that he has no objections to  the  suggestion  made  by  the  learned
counsel for the appellants.
                  Having  given  our   thoughtful   consideration   to   the
allegations levelled against the  appellants,  we  are  satisfied,  that  in
terms of the mandate of section 92 of the Act,  ends  of  justice  would  be
met, if a  penalty  of  Rs.50,000/-  each  is  imposed  on  the  appellants.
Ordered accordingly.  The aforesaid amount of penalty shall be deposited  by
the appellants before the trial Court, within four weeks from today.
                 The instant  order  shall  also  dispose  of  the  criminal
proceedings against the appellants in G.O. Case No.  252  of  2013,  pending
before the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Seraikella, after  the  penalty
amount is deposited by the appellants before the trial Court.
                 Disposed of in the aforesaid terms.


                                                  …......................J.
                                                  [JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR]


NEW DELHI;                             …......................J.
MAY 04, 2016.                                [C. NAGAPPAN]

ITEM NO.3               COURT NO.3               SECTION IIA
               S U P R E M E  C O U R T  O F  I N D I A
                       RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

PETITION(S) FOR SPECIAL LEAVE TO APPEAL (CRIMINAL) NO.6410/2015
(from the judgment and order dated 9.3.2015 in Crl.MP No. 1987/2014 of the
HIGH COURT OF JHARKHAND AT RANCHI)

HEMANT MADHUSUDAN NERURKAR                         Appellant(s)

                                VERSUS
STATE OF JHARKHAND & ANR.                          Respondent(s)
(with appln(s) for exemption from filing c/c of the  impugned  judgment  and
exemption from filing OT  and  permission  to  bring  additional  facts  and
documents on record and interim relief and office report)
WITH
SLP(CRIMINAL) NO. 6406 OF 2015
(With (With (With appln.(s) for permission to bring additional facts and
documents on record and appln.(s) for c/delay in refiling SLP and appln.(s)
for exemption from filing O.T. and Interim Relief and Office Report)

Date : 04/05/2016 These petitions were called on for hearing today.

CORAM :
         HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR
         HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE C. NAGAPPAN

For Petitioner(s)      Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan, Sr. Adv.
                       Mr. Abhijeet Sinha, Adv.
                       Mr. Arijit Mazumdar, Adv.
                       Mr. Abhinav Mukerji,Adv.
                       Mr. Shambo Nandy, Adv.

For Respondent(s)      Mr. Tapesh Kumar Singh,Adv.
                       Mr. Mohd. Waquas, Adv.

          UPON hearing the counsel the Court made the following
                             O R D E R

            Leave granted.

             The  appeals  are  disposed  of  in  terms  of  the  Reportable
Judgment, which is placed on the file.
            As a sequel to the above,  pending  miscellaneous  applications,
if any, also stand disposed of.
(Renuka Sadana)                        (Parveen Kumar)
 Court Master                                   AR-cum-PS

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