The accused was held to be in contravention of section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (Act X of 1955) on account of keeping a stockpile of 885 maunds and 2 1/4 seers of wheat for selling it later on, without having the proper license for the same. He appealed on the ground that he had already applied for the license and only kept the stock with the belief that it would be granted to him.
Whether mens rea is read into provisions where it is not otherwise stated.
This case uses sections 2, 3, and 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (Act X of 1955). Section 2 of the act deals with the definition of ‘dealer’, section 3 lays down the requirement of having a license, and section 7 lays down the punishment for having breached section 3 of the act.
In this case, the court contemplated the subject of including the principle of mens rea in the statute that does not otherwise require a mental element in the commission of a crime. The court reasoned that unless including the mens rea interferes with the main motive of the law and renders it futile, it was an essential part of criminal law and should always be considered. In this case, the accused pleaded that he never had the mens rea to be in contravention to the law. He further appealed that he had applied for a license and was under the impression that it would be issued to him soon. The court held that since he had already applied for a license, he could not be held to be in contravention of the law and that since the authorities did not inform him of the rejection of his application, he was under a bona fide belief that he would receive his license soon. Further, since he submitted routinely receipts of the sales made by him to the proper authorities, he could not be held to be guilty.
The court held that he was not guilty under the essential commodities act as he did not have the requisite mens rea of committing the crime.