The Case of State of Maharashtra vs Mayer Hans George (1965)

July 10, 2024

When looking up precedents on several legal matters such as mens rea, ignorance of the law, strict liability, and consequences of delegated legislation, the State of Maharashtra v. Mayer Hans George (1965) case is quite important. Because this case involves a foreign national, readers can investigate and comprehend a variety of legal ramifications related to a foreign national committing a criminal offense.

state of maharashtra vs mayer hans George Case Facts

  • German smuggler Mayer Hans George took out from Zurich on November 27, 1962, via plane, carrying 34 kg of gold that he planned to transfer to Manila.
  • The aircraft touched down in Bombay on November 28.
  • George stayed inside the aircraft.
  • George was discovered by the customs authorities who were searching the aircraft to determine whether any passengers had consigned any gold.
  • When the jacket George was wearing was taken off, it was discovered to have 28 specifically designed pockets, nine of which were empty and the other 19 of which had 34 bars that each weighed around one kilogram and were seizing the item.
  • The Presidency Magistrate of Bombay found George guilty and sentenced him to a year of rigorous imprisonment.
  • Following the High Court’s appeal, the HC cleared George, recognizing his valid defense.
  • A state appeal was submitted as a special leave petition in accordance with Article 136 of the Indian Constitution, 1950.
  • Honorable Justices K. Subbarao, N. Rajgopala Ayyangar, and R. Mudholkar made up the bench.
  • Whether mens rea is a necessary component of the offense charged according to Section 23(1)(a) of the foreign exchange regulation act, 1947 (FERA) was the case’s central question.
  • Respondent George argued that mens rea was a necessary component of the offense in question in an attempt to bolster the High Court’s decision.

state of maharashtra vs mayer hans George Issues

  • Does the offense according to Section 23(1A) of the foreign exchange regulation act, 1947 need mens rea or not?
  • Under Sections 8(1) and 23(1A) of the foreign exchange regulation act, 1947, would the respondent be found guilty of the offence of importing gold into India?
  • Whether the transportation of gold across Indian territory by someone lacking the necessary authorizations is prohibited by Section 8 of the foreign exchange regulation act, 1947, as enforced by the Central Government and Central Board of Revenue, and whether respondents are accountable for this violation or not?

Contentions by the Parties


  • All commodities transported in a ship or aircraft are considered “cargo,” according to the counsel for the appellant H.N. Sanyal, Solicitor-General of India, and N.S. Bindra, Senior Advocate (R.H. Dhebar, Advocate).
  • The learned Solicitor-General depends on certain regulations that allow a traveler to carry minor gold items into India.
  • The appellant firmly cited this Court’s ruling in Indo-China Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. V. Jasjit Singh, Additional Collector of Customs, Calcutta to bolster their argument that mens rea is inappropriate for interpreting legislation like the one that is currently being investigated.


  • Learned counsel for the respondent, Soli Sohrahji Advocate, A.J. Rana Advocate, Bombay High Court, and J.B. Dadachanji, O.C. Mathur, and Ravinder Narain, Advocates of J.B. Dadachanji & Co., attempted to practically uphold his client’s acquittal on the grounds that the High Court found in favor of.
  • The respondent’s attorney counters that nothing constitutes cargo until it is listed in the manifest, which runs counter to the appellant’s claim.
  • The respondent’s learned counsel did not contest it, but he did make the case, based on the interpretation of the recently added second proviso, that, in the event that the respondent was found to have violated Section 8(1) of the Act, read in conjunction with the Explanation to the sub-section, he was culpable of an offense.

state of maharashtra vs mayer hans George Judgment

  • In this instance, the respondent was found guilty by the Bombay Magistrate and sentenced to one year in prison after being charged under Sections 8(1) and 23(1A) of the foreign exchange regulation act, 1947.
  • Nevertheless, the respondent was declared not guilty of the charge by the High Court, against which a further appeal was filed. Three judges comprised the Supreme Court bench.
  • The majority ruling was reached by Justices Rajagopala Ayyangar and Mudholkar, with Justice Subbarao voting against it. Typically, the court leaves the sentence handed down by the subordinate courts alone.
  • Nonetheless, courts only become involved in cases when there is a legal or philosophical dispute or when the lower court’s sentence appears to be unlawful.
  • The respondent in this case has already served out the sentence that the magistrate imposed.
  • In the end, the Supreme Court of India found the respondent guilty by a majority and imposed an imprisonment term, discounting the time already served.

Strict liability was enforced primarily because it portrayed the offense as a serious societal wrong. As with any other statutory offense, the use of assumptions in court proceedings must be done carefully because everything depends on the facts of the case.

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