1. This is a petition Under Section 4 of the Assam High Court Order 1948 - which runs as follows:
The High Court of Assam shall have, in respect of the territories for the time being included in the Province of Assam, all such original, appellate and other jurisdiction as, under the law in force immediately before the prescribed day, is exercisable in respect of the said territories or any part thereof by the High Court in Calcutta, or by the Governor of Assam exercising the functions of a High Court.
2. This petition relates to a criminal proceeding in the Court of the Deputy Commissioner, Naga Hills, at Kohima in which the Deputy Commissioner, Naga Hills has directed issue of warrant against the petitioner on the complaint of the Opposite Party filed on 3.7.46, on a charge Under Section 420, I.P.C.
3. It is not disputed that the facts as stated in the complaint, do not constitute a criminal offence, but our power to interfere in the exercise of the revisional jurisdiction under Section 439, Cr.P.C. in a case which is governed by rules framed for the Administration of Justice in the Naga Hills, is questioned.
4. The complainant's case was that the petitioner then acting as a contractor at Kohima was liable to pay a sum of Rs. 1153/- to the complainant - a sum which the complainant invested in securing labourers for the contract work undertaken by the petitioner; the accused admitted his liability in writing but left the place before paying the complainant's dues; the complainant then brought a suit against the petitioner for the above amount and obtained a decree for a sum of Rs. 1240/- on or about 2.2.1945. Some attempts were made to realize the decrial amount from the petitioner. The complainant admittedly realized a portion of the decrial dues but as the entire amount was not realized the complainant opposite party filed a complaint of cheating against the petitioner on 3.7.1946 before the Deputy Commissioner, Naga Hills. The Deputy Commissioner, Naga Hills issued a warrant of arrest against the accused on this complaint Under Section 420, I.P.C.
5. It is manifest that the so-called complaint does not disclose an offence, but merely a civil liability for which a decree has already been passed against the petitioner.
6. Mr. D. N. Medhi, learned Government Advocate, appearing for the State urges that this Court has jurisdiction to interfere only in cases of a conviction by the Deputy Commissioner or his Assistant or from an order of conviction passed by other competent Courts in the Naga Hills set up under the Naga Hills Regulation and that it has no jurisdiction to interfere at an earlier stage or quash criminal proceedings. He has relied on a decision of this Court reported in Province of Assam v. Lakhi Nayak ILR (1950) 2 Assam 62, where it was held that the Assam High Court exercising its powers of revision could not interfere with an order of acquittal passed by the Political Officer of Sadiya Frontier Tract which was governed by the Assam Frontier Tract (Administration of Justice) Regulation, 1945 (Regulation I of 1945). Ram Labhaya J. who delivered the judgment (Hon'ble Thadani C. J. agreeing) - made the following observations:
The Court may draw on its revisional jurisdiction in cases of conviction where no appeal lies to it. But it has no power to pass any order or to give any direction except such as affect the sentence or conviction. A sentence may be enhanced, reduced, or cancelled; a conviction may be set aside and a retrial ordered. These are the only orders which can be passed under the section.' (Section 28, Reg. I, 1945).
7. The language of Section 28 of Reg. I, 1950 (1945) is similar to the language of Rule 16 of the 'Rules for the Administration of Justice and Police in the Naga Hills District', the relevant portion of which runs as follows:
The Governor of Assam, Commissioner, or Deputy Commissioner may call for the proceedings of any officer subordinate to him and reduce, enhance, or cancel any sentence passed, or remand the case for retrial, but no offence shall be punished by a sentence exceeding that awardable under the Indian Penal Code.
8. Mr. Media's contention is that the power to quash a criminal proceeding is not mentioned in Rule 16 or in any other Rule framed for the Administration of Justice in the Naga Hills and that it was therefore not within the competence of the Governor and now of the High Court to pass an order quashing a complaint, and that this view finds support from the observation made by Ram Labhaya J. in the judgment to which we have referred.
9. Section 4 of the Assam High Court Order lays down that the High Court will exercise such original, appellate or other jurisdiction as, under the law in force immediately before the prescribed day, was done by the Governor of Assam exercising the powers of a High Court. The powers of a High Court with regard to criminal matters are exercised under the Cr.P.C. with respect to original, appellate and revisional matters. Upto the time of the establishment of the Assam High Court the Governor of Assam exercised the powers of an appellate court as well as a court of revision under Rule 16 of the Naga Hills Administration of Justice - except with regard to cases where sentence of death was passed by the Deputy Commissioner. The Governor in exercise of such powers could call for the proceedings of any officer subordinate to him and reduce, enhance, or cancel any sentence passed, or remand the case for retrial. Rule 22 of the said Administration of Justice Rules for Naga Hills prescribed that the procedure to be followed in such cases by the Governor of Assam or other courts mentioned therein, should be in the spirit of the Code of Criminal Procedure as far as it was applicable to the circumstances of the district and consistent with the Rules of Administration of Justice in the Naga Hills. In other words, the spirit of the Criminal Procedure Code was applicable to all the proceedings, and the Governor could exercise such powers in exercising his appellate or revisional jurisdiction in accordance with the spirit of the Criminal Procedure Code. Rule 16 provides that the Governor could set aside a sentence passed or remand the case for retrial, - which obviously implied that the Governor could hold a person not guilty and declare that the complaint disclosed no offence and as such, no process of the court should have been issued against a certain individual, as in the present case. We are not prepared to give in narrow interpretation to the Rule and hold that simply because the word 'quashing' does not occur in the said Rule, the Governor and now the Assam High Court has no power to quash a complaint which discloses no offence.
10. The case reported in Province of Assam v. Lakhi Nayak ILR (1950) 2 Assam 62 is no authority for the interpretation of Rule 16 as to the powers of the Governor of Assam, now the High Court, exercising its appellate or revisional jurisdiction under the Rules framed for the Administration of Justice in the Naga Hills District. In the case reported in the Assam Series, the High Court was not called upon to interpret the scope of the powers of revision as vested by Section 4 of the Assam High Court Order.
11. Our conclusion therefore is that the High Court in the exercise of its powers vested under Section 4 of the Assam High Court Order is competent to quash a complaint which discloses no offence and where the examination of the complainant is also silent upon the commission of any offence.
12. In our view the issue of summons or warrant against the petitioner Under Section 420, I.P.C., was uncalled for. The result is that the complaint is quashed and the order of the Deputy Commissioner, Naga Hills dated 3.7.1946 directing issue of warrant of arrest against the petitioner is set aside.
13. The petition is allowed and the Rule made absolute.
14. I agree.