State of Uttar Pradesh v. Aman Mittal
In the Supreme Court of India
Criminal Appeal Nos. 1328-1329 of 2019
Before Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta
Decided on September 4, 2019
Relevancy of the case: Prevalence of special law over the general law
Statutes & Provisions Involved
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 467, 468, 471, 265, 267)
- The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 (Section 12 r/w 30, 51)
- The Information technology Act, 2000 (Section 43, 66, 67A, 67B, 79, 81)
Relevant Facts of the Case
- In April 2017, the State Police investigated an offence which dealt with short delivery of petroleum products such as high-speed diesel and motor spirit at retail shops in the city of Lucknow. The police searched the shops and found 15 nozzles connected to the dispensing units among which 13 of them were involved in the short delivery.
- It was later alleged that an electronic chip was fixed inside the dispensing units which could be operated by a remote as well. Also, the dispensing machines were opened to find that there were electronic chips fixed inside 24 dispensing units and is submitted to the Forensic Science Lab for the forensic report.
- An application was made by the Investigating Officer and the Magistrate allowed a judicial remand of the accused along with the permission to investigate the offences under Section 467, 468, 471, 265, 267 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 12 r/w 30 of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 as the retail outlet was charged for fraud, criminal conspiracy, and intent.
- Two applications were filed by the respondents challenging the grounds on which they were charged a case.
- As this was dismissed, a petition was filed in the High Court. The High Court directed the District Judge, Lucknow to determine the figures of the residual stock lying in the underground tanks and also, deliver the stock to the oil company for custody after due regulation of the installed dispensing pumps and also, offences under Section 265 and 267 were to be quashed.
- An appeal was filed challenging the order of the High Court. The question here is whether the offences will be charged under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009.
Prominent Arguments of Advocates:
Mr Mukul Rohatgi, Counsel for the Respondent:
- The learned counsel took the example of Gagan Harsh Sharma & Anr. v. State of Maharashtra & Anr. In this case, it was held that an offence cannot be lodged under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 when provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 are in play and he submitted that it should be considered in this matter. In Sharat Babu Digumarti case, offences were charged under Section 292 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The court struck down offences under Section 292 and 294 in the view of Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- The High Court of Bombay in Gagan Harsh Sharma found that dishonest and fraudulent acts fall under Section 66 of the IT Act and IT Act, in general, has an overriding power over the charges under IPC for the actions, thus, the offender is out of the charges as far as the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is concerned.
- In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, charges were as per Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and it was held that “We are inclined to think that it is a special provision with a specific purpose and the IT Act has to be in effect so as to stay true to the legislative intent. This is the mandate behind Section 81 of the IT Act.”
Opinion of the Bench
- The bench has held that the offences under Chapter XIII of IPC cannot be filed concerning the relevant provisions of the Act. At the same time, the prosecution under other offences of IPC has been found to be maintainable.
- The present appeal was partly allowed. The offences under Sections 265 and 267 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were quashed.
- The bench quashed the Directions given by the High Court.
This case summary has been prepared by Gitanjali Sadan, an undergraduate student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad, during her internship with The Cyber Blog India in June/July 2020.