Whether an employer can be prosecuted simultaneously under provisions of Factories Act and Section 304 – A of the IPC

In case of accidents resulting into death on the factory floor, prosecution under the Factories Act, 1948 becomes inevitable and the Occupier is prosecuted under Section 92 of the Factories Act, 1948. However, there have been instances of simultaneous prosecution under the Factories Act as well as Section 304-A of the IPC.

Section 304-A of the IPC is attracted when there is a death caused to someone due to rash and negligent Act of a person. Therefore, upon the death of a worker, the local police station will register an FIR and will also file a Charge Sheet u/s 304-A of the IPC .

The question that is always predominant on the mind of the management and needs to be addressed is, whether for the same incident and same set of facts there can be two criminal complaints?

Though the Hon’ble Supreme Court is silent on the point, the question has been answered by various High Courts. There have been instances of some judgements, wherein it has been held that prosecution under Section 304A under the IPC is not maintainable when there is an existing prosecution under Factories Act, 1948. However, the Hon’ble High Courts of Chattisgarh and Jharkhand have held that the prosecution under Factories Act is for contravention of provisions of penal law and both the acts operate in different fields and flow in different channels. Therefore, prosecution is maintainable under both the acts.

The Hon’ble Karnataka High Court has taken a contrary view on his issue holding a number of times that if an act or omission constitutes an offence under two or more enactments, then the offender shall be liable for prosecution and punished under either or any of those enactments but shall not be liable to be punished twice for the same offence. However, the Hon’ble Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court in Mehrotra Y.P. V/s State of UP [1993 III LLJ 581 (All DB)] has held that;

“A combined reading of the provisions of Sections 92, 105 and 106 of the Act (Factories Act, 1948) clearly demonstrates that the inquiry contemplated in Section 88 read with Rule 110 is confined to the purposes of the Act and to the offences committed under the Act. They have no bearing whatsoever upon the inquiry into any contravention of any provision of the penal law of the land, the prosecution therefore and the punishment for its contravention…”

Further, the Court viewed that;

“An offence under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code and an offence under the Act (Factories Act) and the Rules operate in different fields. They flow in different channels. This position is clarified by Section 4 of the Code which enjoins that all offences under the Indian Penal Code shall be investigated, inquired into, tried and otherwise dealt with according to the provisions contained in the Code…”

Parallels may be drawn from the judgement of the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court under The Provident Fund Act in Lakshmi Narayan Engineering Works Ltd V/s Union of India, 1984 wherein the Hon’ble Court has observed that proceedings under the Indian Penal Code being a General Act and prosecution under the Provident Fund Act, being a special legislation are maintainable independently and the principal of double jeopardy herein is not attracted. You may view the said article here. A similar view has been adopted by the Hon’ble Madhya Pradesh Court and Hon’ble Calcutta High Court.

As long as another Division Bench or the Supreme Court overrules the judgement of the Allahabad High Court, the same shall be binding on all single judge Benches in the High Courts.

Therefore the judgement of the Division Bench in Mehrotra Y.P. V/s State of UP matter lays down the correct law.

This note has been prepared based on extensive research, however, no Supreme Court judgement or any contrary view has been noticed, we will be happy to bring the same to your notice once we come across one.