H. N. O. FERNANDO, C.J.—Podiappuhamy v. Pood and Price Control 93
Present: H. N. G. Fernando, C.J.
P. R. PODIAPPUHAMY, Appellant, and FOOD & PRICECONTROL INSPECTOR, KANDY, Respondent
S. C. 676(66—M. C. Madugoda, 2877
Control of Prices Act—Contravention of a Price Control Order—Mitigatory circum-stances—Applicability of section 325 of Criminal Procedure Code.
The Regulation made on 27th November 1967 to the effect that section 326of the Criminal Procedure Code shall not apply in the case of a person chargedwith an offence under the Control of Prices Act aa amended by Act No. 16 of1966 does not exclude the application of section 326 of the Criminal ProcedureCode in the case of offences committed before the Regulation became law.
Observation that the fetter on the discretion of Court in regard to punishment,which the Emergency Regulation of 1967 imposes for offences which occur afterits enactment, is not prudent or necessary.
A. PPEAL from a judgment of the Magistrate’s Court, Madugoda.
J.W. Subasinghe, with T. Wicbremaeingfie, for the accused-appellant.A. N. Ratnayake, Crown Counsel, for the Attorney-General.
Cur. adv. vult.
May 17, 1968. H. N. G. Fkbnando, C.J.—
The accused in this ease is shown by the evidence to have sold two loavesof bread for 64 cents. The loaves were immediately weighed by a PriceControl Inspector who fonnd that the two loaves together weighed30J ounces.
The controlled price of a 16 oz. loaf is 32 omits and the Price Orderprovides that the controlled price of a loaf of a different weight must becalculated proportionately. "
34 H. N. G. FERNANDO, C.J.—Podiappuhamy v. Food and Price Control
The position for the accused was that he is not a manufacturer of breadbut that he buys about 15 loaves of bread every day from a Bakery.On each purchase all the loaves are weighed together in the scales atthe Bakery, and the accused is therefore not aware of the actual weightof any particular loaf. Because the loaves are sold to him from theBakery as 1 lb. loaves, he sells them as such and charges the controlledprice of 32 cents for each loaf.
The circumstances are certainly mitigatory, there being no proof ofactual intention to sell bread at a price over the controlled price,
There are conflicting judgments of this Court on the question whetherthere is power to act under s. 325 of the Criminal Procedure Code in thecase of contraventions of Price Control Orders. The latest of thesejudgments was that of Samerawickrame J., in S. C. Appeal No. 163/67with Application No. 186/67 decided on 6th December, 1967 x. In myopinion, it correctly sets out the legal position.
A Regulation was made on 27th November 1967 under s. 5 of the PublicSecurity Ordinance to the effect that s. 325 shall not apply in the case ofpersons charged with an offence under the Control of Prices Act as amendedby Act No. 16 of 1966. This regulation removes any doubt as to thequestion whether s. 325 was applicable despite the enactment of ActNo. 16 of 1966. In the present case the offence was committed and thetrial concluded prior to 27th November 1967, and even the petition ofappeal was filed on 3rd May 1967, long before the Emergency Regulationwas enacted. The Regulation does not exclude the application of s. 325in the case of offences committed before the Regulation became law.
I must take this opportunity to point out that s. 325 of the CriminalProcedure Code gives expression to the fundamental principle of Justicethat contraventions of the law, which are purely technical and notsubstantial, do not call for the exercise of the punitive powers of theCourts. The principle de minimis non curat lex receives practicalapplication through the discretion vested in the Courts by s. 325. I amfully conscious of the need to check profiteering in foodstuffs, and ourCourts have not in recent months hesitated to impose severe sentences inprofiteering cases. Thus the fetter on the discretion in regard topunishment, which the Emergency Regulation of November 1967 imposesfor offences which occur after its enactment, is not in my opinion prudentor necessary. I have rarely come across any case in which the discretionof leniency conferred on the Courts by s. 325 has been unreasonablyexercised. If the Courts have that discretion even in cases of homicide,why not also in cases of profiteering ?
Acting in revision, I set aside the conviction and sentence passed onthe accused, and without proceeding to conviction I warn and dischargehim.
Accused warned and discharged.
1 Don Edirisinghe v. De Alwis (71 N. L. R. 88).
L. P. R. PODIAPPUHAMY, Appellant, and FOOD & PRICE CONTROL INSPECTOR, KANDY, Res