The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the response of the Uttar Pradesh government to the bail plea of an octogenarian man who was convicted of selling adulterated buffalo milk and awarded jail sentence more than 38 years ago.
Virendra Singh, a native of Uttar Pradesh, was caught selling adulterated milk on October 7, 1981 and was convicted on September 29, 1984 by a trial court, which awarded him one year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.
He challenged the order before the Bulandshahr sessions court, which on July 14, 1987 affirmed the trial court's order and upheld his conviction and sentence under the Act.
Aggrieved by the sessions court's order, Singh moved the Allahabad high court on July 28, 1987.
The high court, by a verdict passed on January 30, 2013, upheld his conviction but reduced the sentence to six months rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 2,000.
Singh, who was on bail for nearly four decades, surrendered before the trial court on April 20, 2023 and deposited the Rs 2,000 fine, more than a decade after the high court order. He was arrested and sent to jail.
A vacation bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Rajesh Bindal told advocate Ajesh Kumar Chawla, appearing for Singh, to explain the reasons for the delay in filing the appeal.
Chawla conceded there was a delay of 10 years in filing the appeal against the high court order but said it was not intentional.
He said as Singh was residing at an address that was different from what is mentioned in the court records, he was unaware of the high court order.
"He (Singh) came to know about the high court order only when he was asked to surrender in the month of April following a non-bailable arrest warrant issued against him by the trial court. Since then no time was wasted and he has filed the appeal in the Supreme Court," he submitted.
The bench said it cannot pass an ex-parte order and is issuing notice to the state government on the issue of delay as well as on the petition.
"Issue notice on the application seeking condonation of delay as well as on the petition," the bench said in its order.
Chawla said as per the high court order, he has to serve six months in jail, and if the matter is not heard urgently, his appeal will become infructuous.
Let the state government file its response to the plea, the bench told the lawyer.
Singh, now more than 85 years of age, has moved the top court for suspension of his sentence and bail on grounds that he is suffering from various ailments including asthma.
On June 6, Singh, through his lawyer Satish Kumar, sought urgent listing of the petition due to his deteriorating health.
The octogenarian has claimed in his plea that he is undergoing treatment at the jail hospital in Bulandshahr where his condition continues to worsen.
Singh's petition says the case against him was lodged after he was allegedly found selling adulterated milk on October 7, 1981. It says a food inspector checked the milk and obtained samples.
"...one part was sent to the public analyst, and as per report of the public analyst, the milk was found adulterated as the alleged fatty solids were 28 per cent less than standard and non fatty solids were 12 per cent less than the standard," the plea said.
It said Singh has filed the Special Leave Petition seeking the indulgence of the court to suspend his conviction and sentence in view of his deteriorating health.
Singh, who is currently lodged in Bulandshahar district jail, has sought as an interim relief quashing of charges levelled against him on August 1, 1984 before the trial court under section 7/16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.
He has claimed he was a bus conductor by profession and had travelled from his native village Kiryawali to Kalyanpur for buying milk for religious rituals.
Singh said he was intercepted by food inspector H C Gupta when he was heading home from Kalyanpur.
Samples of the milk he was carrying were obtained and sent for analysis during which they were found to be adulterated.