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Gujarat High Court has come down heavily on the state government for being slow in allowing tests and subsequent prosecution in food adulteration cases, which results in a case being quashed or the accused being acquitted.

Though a hearing in the case of Pepsico India Holdings Ltd vs the state of Gujarat is still going on, the single judge bench of Justice M.R. Shah in an order made available Monday pulled up the government and its health department for being sluggish in permitting the tests.

The court noted, ‘The courts are required to quash the criminal complaints or acquit the accused on ground of prejudice caused to the parties due to delay on the authorities’ part.’

Justice Shah has directed the state government and Surat Municipal Corporation to explain the reasons for delay and sought the remedial measures in this regard.

Pepsico India Holdings Limited (Pepsi) approached the high court seeking to quash and set aside a criminal complaint against it and others, which was pending before a magisterial court in Surat. The complaint was filed under Sections 7 and 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA Act).

Senior advocate S.V. Raju, who appeared for the company, contended that sanction for a laboratory test was granted three years after the sample was collected, causing a serious prejudice to them. He relied on earlier orders of the high court in this regard.

The court noted that considering the earlier orders, the petitioner’s matter required serious consideration. The court pulled up the government for its lethargy.

Samples of Laher Pepsi were collected Nov 29, 1997, and sent for analysis Dec 1, 1997. The analysis concluding that the sample was adulterated under the PFA Act was received Jan 8, 1998. However, the sanction to file a complaint was given after nearly three years. The complaint was filed Sep 18, 2000, and the sample was sent to the Central Laboratory on Dec 4, 2000.

The hearing is scheduled Tuesday.

Almost two months ago, in a separate case against Pepsico and others pending before a court in Jamnagar, the high court quashed and set aside a criminal complaint filed against them on grounds of delay and want of evidence.

The company and others were accused of supplying and selling an adulterated drink which was not fit for human consumption. The drink from which the sample was taken in that case allegedly contained ants, other insects and dust particles.

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