Food, drug adulteration may invite life imprisonment: Rajasthan Assembly passes Bill

The Rajasthan Assembly on Saturday passed four bills including the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill-2021 by voice vote.

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill has provisions for life imprisonment for adulteration of food, or drugs and medicines, making their sale a cognisable and non-bailable offence.

The Bill mainly seeks to empower Food Safety Officers and Drug Inspectors, as well as address the differences in punishment for food adulteration under various laws.

Justifying the Bill, the government said, “On many instances during the raids by police, the offences of adulterated or unsafe food as well as adulterated or spurious drugs are detected in respect of which First Information Report is registered under said sections 272 to 276 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In such cases, arrest or detention of the accused is necessary for the purposes of adequate and effective investigation and collection of evidence in time.”

“Since the said offences under said sections of the IPC are non-cognisable and bailable, the police as well as Food Safety Officers and Drug Inspectors are facing difficulties in investigation of the crime which are affecting health of the public at large. Therefore, there is an urgent need for stringent punishments even for the said offences under the IPC that can equally act as a deterrent,” the government says.

Hence, the Bill amends sections 272 to 276 of the IPC, which deal with offences relating to adulteration of food, drink, drug or medical preparations.

Currently, these offences are punishable with imprisonment up to six months, or with fine which may extend to Rs 1,000, or with both. Also, these offences are non-cognisable and except offences related to adulterating any drug or medical preparation under section 274, all the other offences under sections 272, 273, 275 and 276 are bailable.

Following the amendment bill passed in the Assembly Saturday, the crimes falling under IPC sections 272 to 276 will be cognisable and non-bailable, once the law becomes an Act.

Additionally, the Bill seeks to address the differences in punishment for food adulteration under various laws.

Apart from the IPC sections 272 to 276, section 59 of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006, deals with punishment for unsafe food. And, depending upon the gravity of injury caused, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for life and such offences are cognisable under the Act. Then, section 27 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA), 1940, provides punishment for manufacturing for sale or distribution or for selling or storing or distributing any drug which is adulterated or spurious. The punishment under the offence is from ten years to imprisonment for life and, apart from a fine. Also, the offence under the section is cognisable.

The government noted that there are “drastic variations” in punishments for the offences related to adulteration of food and drugs with the IPC containing “mildest punishments of six months imprisonment or fine” and the FSSA and the DCA which contain stringent punishments of imprisonment for life.

During the debate on the bill, which was passed by voice vote, Parliamentary Affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal said that efforts are on to fill the vacancies of Food Safety Officers and that the state currently has nine laboratories to inspect food, apart from five mobile units. He also said that following Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s budget announcement, food investigation labs are to be opened in every district.

The House also passed the Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill-2021, Rajasthan Land Revenue (Amendment) Bill-2021 and the Rajasthan Agriculture Universities’ Laws (Amendment) Bill-2020.