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The Indian Penal Code
The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973
Section 501 in The Indian Penal Code
Section 500 in The Indian Penal Code

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Punjab-Haryana High Court
Tara Chand Verma S/O Des Raj Verma vs The State on 13 January, 1961
Equivalent citations: 1961 CriLJ 148
Author: Falshaw
Bench: Falshaw

JUDGMENT Falshaw, J.

1. This revision petition has been filed by Tara Chand, who is the editor, printer and publisher of an Urdu Weekly called 'Shola' published at Ambala Cantt. In the issue dated the 16th of December, 1969, under the heading "Scandal of the American milk powder in Punjab" there appeared an article in which serious imputations were made against Shri Benarsi Das Gupta, Deputy Minister of Food and Supplies in the Punjab Government.

2. In consequence of this, a complaint was filed by the Public Prosecutor, Ambala, in the Court of the Session Judge under Sections 500 and 501, Indian Penal Code, on the 15th of June, 1960. This step was taken under the provisions of Section 198-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The relevant provisions of this section read:

198-B, (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Code, when any offence falling under Chapter XXI of the Indian Penal Code Act 45 of 11860 other than the offence of defamation by spoken words is alleged to have been committed against the President or the Vice-President or the Governor of a State or a Minister or any other public servant employed in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State in respect of his conduct in the discharge of his public functions, a Court of Session may take cognizance of such offence without the accused being committed to it for trial, upon a complaint in writing made by the Public Prosecutor.

2.

3. No complaint under Sub-section (1) shall be made by the Public Prosecutor except with the previous sanction;

(a) in the case of the President or the Vice-President or the Governor of a State, of any Secretary to the Government authorised by him in this behalf;

(b in the case of a Minister of the Central Government or of the State Government, of the Secretary to the Council of Ministers, if any, or of any Secretary to the Government authorised in this behalf by the Government concerned;

(c) in the case of any other public servant employed in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State, of the Government concerned

4. No Court of Session shall take cognizance of an offence under Sub-section D unless the complaint is made within six months from the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed".

3. In the present case, as I have Said, the complaint was instituted by the Public Prosecutor just within the period of limitation prescribed under Sub-section (4) and I now reproduce the sanction under which the complaint was filed. It reads;

Whereas the Governor of Punjab is satisfied that on the 16th December, 1959, Shri Tara Chand Varma, then working as editor, printer and publisher of the Shola, an Urdu Weekly of Ambala Cantt. had edited, printed and published in the issue of the Shola, dated 16th December, 1959, a report captioned, "Punjab Men Amriki Dudh Re Safuf Ka Scandal Punjab Sarkar Ke Ek Deputy Wazir Ki Karamat

-- Dinon men Lakh pati Ban Jane Ka Nuskha", containing statements defamatory of Shri Benarsi Das Gupta, Deputy Minister, Punjab, in respect of his conduct in the discharge of his public functions and which he knew or had reasons to believe to be defamatory;

And whereas the report mentioned above discloses that the said Shri Tara Chand Verma has committed an offence punishable under Sections 500 and 501 of the Indian Penal Code; Now, therefore, as required by Section 198-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, the Governor of Punjab is pleased to sanction the prosecution of the said Shri Tara Chand Verma under Sections 500 and 501 of the Indian Penal Code Then follow the signature of Mr. E. N. Mangatrai, Secretary to the Council of Ministers, Punjab, and the date, 11th June, 1960.

4. On the 11th of July, 1960 the learned Sessions Judge passed an order to the effect that he had perused the complaint and that the accused should be summoned for the 27th of July, 1960, by which date the list of the prosecution witnesses was to be filed by the Public Prosecutor.

5. In the present petition, the legality of this order is challenged on the ground that it contravenes the provisions of Section 204(I-A), Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides that no summons or warrants should be ordered against the accused under Sub-section (1) until a list of the prosecution witnesses has been filed, but apart, from this, the filing of the complaint as a whole is challenged on the ground that there is no valid sanction.

6. The sanction set out above is headed "Order under Section 198-B of the Criminal Procedure Code", and it does not specify under which item under Sub-section (3) it was intended to fall, but it is to be presumed that it was intended to fall under Sub-section 3(b) in which case the power to sanction the filing of the complaint is given to the Secretary to the Council of Ministers, where such an official exists, and there seems to be no doubt about the fact that Mr. E. N. Managatrai, as well as being the Chief Secretary has been duly appointed as Secretary to the Council of Ministers; On the other hand, although the sanction in this case has been signed by him as Secretary to the Council of Ministers, the form of sanction itself is clearly in the form of sanction by the Government, which would be applicable in a case governed by Sub-section (3)(c), i.e., defamation of a public servant in connection with the affairs of the State.

7. I do not think that there can be any doubt that the difference in the forms of sanction required in Sub-sections (3)(b) and (c) was deliberately introduced, and that when the Secretary to the Council of Ministers was made the sanctioning authority in Sub-section (3)(b), it was intended that the sanction should be granted in exercise of his individual judgment and not under the direction of the Governor, acting either independently or on the advice of his Ministers. In practice, the distinction may be more apparent than real, but I do not think it was intended to be so since the idea underlying the distinction between the sanctions under Sub-sections 3(b) and (c) appears to be to provide for some semblance, at any rate, of independent judgment on the question whether a particular case is a fit one for invoking the special provisions of this section instead of leaving the defamed person to pursue his remedy by way of a private complaint.

The idea appears to be that if a Minister is defamed, it should be left to a responsible civil servant to decide whether the special procedure should be sanctioned, and if a civil servant is de-famed, it is left to the Government i.e., the Governor acting on the advice of his Council of Ministers, to decide whether the case is a fit one for sanction.

8. This view has already been expressed by Raman Nayar and Vaidialingam, JJ. in R. Sankar v. State AIR 1959 Kerala 100. In that case, the appellant was the editor, printer and publisher of a journal and the conduct of a Minister was impugned in an article with the result that the appellant was prosecuted and convicted under Sections 500 and 501, Indian Penal Code, on account of a complaint filed under Section 198-B of the Code.

9. In the appeal, the learned Judges, although they were of the opinion that the conviction of the appellant was fully justified on the merits of the case, set aside the conviction and sentence on the ground that there was no valid sanction under Section 198-B of the Code. The sanction in that case, but for five words which appeared immediately above the signature of the Secretary to the Council of Ministers, would appear to have been one under Sub-sections (3)(b) since it read:

Sanction is accorded to the Public Prosecutor, Trivandrum, under Sub-section (3) of Section 198-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, to make a complaint against Shri K. Karthikeyan, Editor, Printer and Publisher of the Newspaper 'Pothujanam' before the Court of Session, Trivandrum, for the offences punishable under Sections 500 and 501, of the Indian Penal Code, for having published a news item in its issue dated 21-8-1957 under the caption words in Malayalam omitted, and also the reply of the correspondent under the caption words in Malayalam omitted and the editorial in the issue dated 23-8-1957 which are highly defamatory of the Minister for Law in respect of his conduct in the discharge of his public functions.

By order of the Governor On this account alone, the learned Judges held that the sanction was not given in the exercise of the independent judgment of the Secretary to the Council of Ministers and that, therefore, it was not a valid sanction and consequently the trial was without jurisdiction. Their reasons were much the same as I have set out above and I am in entire agreement with them.

10. The question also arose whether the term 'Minister' in Section 198-B included 'Deputy Minister'. As a matter of fact, when the case was first argued before me, neither I nor the learned Counsel engaged in the case appeared to have looked at the provisions of Sub-section (4) or realised the effect thereof, and in the circumstances I merely intended, while holding the present sanction to be invalid, to suggest that the proceedings should be started afresh, on the basis of the sanction in the proper form, but when I Was considering my order I realised on perusing Sub-section (4) that this would have the effect of quashing the proceedings altogether, since a fresh complaint based on the proper sanction would by now have become barred by time. In these circumstances, I invited a fresh argument and apparently there was some idea on the part of the counsel for the State of arguing that under Sub-section (3), the term 'Minister' did not include 'Deputy Minister'. At the fresh hearing, however, this contention was abandoned. and in my opinion rightly.

11. The section as a whole is clearly intended to cover all the three branches of the administration namely, the Constitutional heads both of the Union and of the States, the Ministers of the Union and of the States, and finally the civil servants employed in connection with the affairs of the Union and the States and it would certainly be most extraordinary if a Deputy Minister were to be excluded from its scope. Tile term 'Minister' does not appear to be defined anywhere and in fact Deputy Ministers are not mentioned either in the Constitution or the Criminal Procedure Code or even in the Rules of Business compiled by the Punjab Government In the circumstances, I should have no hesitation in holding that under Section 198-B, the term 'Minister' must be construed as including 'Deputy Minister', This view appears to receive some confirmation from a series of notifications issued by the Punjab Government after the General Elections in 1957 when the present ministry was being formed and in particular a notification in Gazette Extraordinary dater the 30th of April, 1957. The heading of this notification reads:

In partial modification of notifications Nos. S001-PI(C)-57/6300, 3002-PI(C)-57/G301, dated the 9th April, 1957, 3035-PI(C)-57/6450 dated tie 10th April, 1957, and 3059/PKQ-57/ 6718 dated the 16th April, 1957, the Governor of Punjab on the advice of the Chief Minister has been pleased to appoint the following persons to be the other Ministers CABINET MINISTERS

1. Shri Mohan Lal.

2. Giani Kartar Singh.

3. Shri Gian Singh Rarewala.

4. Shri Amar Nath Vidyalankar.

5. Shri Gurbanta Singh,

6. Shri Birendra Singh.

7. Shri Suraj Mal.

DEPUTY MINISTERS

1. Shri Yashwant Rai.

2. Shrimati Parkash Kaur.

3. Shri Yash Pal.

4. Shri Dalbir Singh.

5. Shri Banarsi Dass.

6. Bakshi Partap Singh.

12. In the circumstances, I am of the opinion that the learned Sessions Judge had no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the complaint filed on the basis of the sanction dated the 11th of June, 1960, and I accordingly quash the proceedings.