Restaurant owner acquitted of passing off beef as mutton

Mr Kumar's lawyer had argued that the charges were invalid because he was not charged within the time limit. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Mr Kumar's lawyer had argued that the charges were invalid because he was not charged within the time limit. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The proprietor of two restaurants accused of passing off beef as mutton was awarded a discharge amounting to an acquittal by a district court yesterday.

Mr Rakesh Kumar, 50, was said to have committed the offences on Oct 17 last year at the Khansama and Jungle Tandoor restaurants in Serangoon Road.

His lawyer, Mr Nirmal Singh, had argued earlier that the charges were invalid as the law stipulated that Mr Kumar should be charged no later than 56 days after the food was seized.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) had maintained that the time period applied only to the laboratory testing of the seized food, which had been done on the same day.

At a previous hearing last month, the NEA prosecutor said that the agency wished to consult the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Mr Singh told The Straits Times after yesterday's hearing that the summonses against his client were issued only in January this year - long after the deadline of Dec 11.

It is believed that this is the first time the time period had been raised in court.

Mr Singh also said the decision to grant Mr Kumar a discharge amounting to an acquittal could have repercussions on previous cases in which guilty pleas were entered and fines imposed even though the 56-day restriction had been breached.

These could include setting aside convictions and returning the fines paid.

The NEA was unable to give the number of such cases and the amount of fines involved by press time.

Outside the courtroom, Mr Kumar told The Straits Times that he was "very pleased with the outcome".

khush@sph.com.sg