The Supreme Court of India, on 23 March, acquitted the appellants who were convicted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court under Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act 1955.
Bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Rajesh Bindal heard the appeal whereby the allegations against the appellants was that they indulged in selling gas cylinders in black.
In the evidence led before the trial court, none of the independent witnesses or the alleged buyers of the cylinders in black supported the case of the prosecution. It was only two official witnesses who deposed in favour of the prosecution.
The only charge which could be proved was unauthorized possession of gas cylinders on the basis of which the trial court convicted the appellants and ordered imprisonment.
The argument of the appellant was that as per Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Regulation of Supply and Distribution) Order, 1988 only an an officer or the Department of Food and Civil Supplies of the Government, not below the rank of an Inspector authorised by such Government and notified by Central Government or any officer not below the rank of a Sales Officer of an Oil Company, or a person authorized by the Central Government or a State Government and notified by the Central Government may, with a view to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Order, for the purpose of satisfying himself that this order or any order made thereunder has been complied with, is authorised to carry out such exercise/seizure.
State, on the other hand, argued that appellants have been found in unauthorized possession of the gas cylinders. They have rightly been convicted. Merely for some technical default, they should not be allowed to go scotfree.
The Court observed that, “It is a settled law that where a power is given to do a certain thing in a certain way, the thing must be done in that way or not at all.“
The Court set aside the conviction.