Amendment in criminal laws beneficial to accused can be applied in pending/earlier cases

Trilok Chand Vs State of Himachal Pradesh

Supreme Court

01/10/2019

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1831 OF 2010

About/from the judgment:

"Since the amendment was beneficial to the accused persons, it could be applied with respect to earlier cases as well which are pending in the Court."

 

The Supreme Court has reiterated that if the amendment in a criminal law is beneficial to the accused persons, it could be applied with respect to earlier cases as well which are pending in the Court.

 

In this case, Trilok Chand was convicted under Section 16(1)(a)(i) read with Section 7 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. He was sentenced to three months' imprisonment along with fine of Rs.500.His revision petition was dismissed by the High Court.

 

The only submission in the appeal before the Apex Court was that, under Sections 51 and 52 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the maximum penalty for sub-standard food or branding is only fine. Reliance was placed on an order of the Supreme Court in Nemi Chand vs. State of Rajasthan. In this case, the offence was registered under the 1954 Act and conviction was also under the same Act. While the appeal was pending in High Court, 2006 Act came into force repealing the old Act.

 

The court noticed that the said order had referred to a judgment in T. Barai Vs. Henry Ah Hoe and Another [(1983) 1 SCC 177] wherein it was opined that since the amendment was beneficial to the accused persons, it could be applied with respect to earlier cases as well which are pending in the Court observing thus:

 

It is only retroactive criminal legislation that is prohibited under Article 20(1). The prohibition contained in Article 20(1) is that no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence prohibits nor shall he be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. It is quite clear that insofar as the Central Amendment Act creates new offences or enhances punishment for a particular type of offence no person can be convicted by such ex post facto law nor can the enhanced punishment prescribed by the amendment be applicable. But insofar as the Central Amendment Act reduces the punishment for an offence punishable under Section 16(1)(a) of the Act, there is no reason why the accused should not have the benefit of such reduced punishment. The rule of beneficial construction requires that even ex post facto law of such a type should be applied to mitigate the rigour of the law. The principle is based both on sound reason and common sense.

 

The bench then allowed the appeal and modified the sentence by imposing a fine of Rs.5,000/- only.

Read the Judgment

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