1. A criminal case under S. 171H of the I.P.C. has been filed by the first respondent against the petitioner herein on the grounds that elections for filling a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu were held in the month of November December 1984 in the constituency of Diu. The complainant was a supporter and election agent of the candidate, Dr. Shamjibhai B. Solanki who was returned. During the election campaign, the petitioner was the agent of the candidate, Mr. N. S. Fugro, who had stood as an independent. He is a partner in the family business of Mr. Fugro, he used to do propaganda work and was handling the election office in the same manner as the candidate, he acted as the counting agent of the said Fugro and he used to give advertisement and also gave materials for printing to different printers and editors of the newspapers. After the elections, Mr. Fugro filed an election petition in this Court and the same is pending. In the course of his deposition, Fugro stated that for want of knowledge, he denied that an advertisement was published in the newspaper 'Meri Awaz' in furtherance of his election prospects by the petitioner in the issue dt. 16-12-1984. He denied the suggestion that the said advertisement has been published with his knowledge and consent. Then, instances of the advertisements were given and it is stated that each of such advertisements must have cost more than Rs. 10/-. It was further averred in the complaint that the complainant approached the accused and asked him whether he had general or special authority and the petitioner has answered to these inquiries in the negative. Along with the complaint, an application for condonation of delay in filing the said complaint was also moved.
2. The learned Magistrate, Diu, by his impugned order dt. 7th August 1985, held that the complaint was within time and was covered by Clause (b) of S. 469 of the Cr.P.C. It is against the said order that the present revision application was preferred.
3. Mr. J. Dias, the learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the impugned order is manifestly erroneous and is liable to be set aside. He contended that the offence complained of is the one which is contemplated in S. 171-H of the I.P.C. The said offence is meant to maintain the purity of an election and, as such, only the authorities concerned with the process of the election have locus standi to file a criminal case under the said Section, for only they are aggrieved persons. He then contended that the complainant has no locus standi and could not be said to be an aggrieved person and, therefore, could not have prosecuted the petition. Then, the learned counsel invited my attention to the circumstance that the offence under S. 171-H of the I.P.C. is punishable with the fine which may extend to Rs. 500/- and that S. 468 of the Cr.P.C. provides a period of limitation of six months if the offence is punishable with fine only. The advertisement had been published in December 1984 and the complaint was filed only on 27th July, 1985, that is beyond the period of limitation laid down in S. 468(2)(a) of the Cr.P.C. He further contended that the provision of S. 469(1)(b) of the Cr.P.C. is not attracted at all to the facts and circumstances of this case, for the complainant cannot be said to be an aggrieved person for the reasons already stated. In this respect, the learned counsel placed reliance on the decisions of the Mysore High Court in State v. Gangamma : AIR1965Kant235 and of the Madras High Court in Sulochana v. State Registrar of Chits, Madras . The learned counsel submitted that the expression 'person aggrieved by the offence' occurring in S. 469(1)(b) and (c) of the Cr.P.C. should be given a limited or restricted coverage, that is to say, one who is personally and directly affected by an offence, and not to any member of the Public or even an officer who is charged with the duty of enforcing the prohibitory regulations under a statute.
4. It was, however, contended by Mr. Gopal Tamba, the learned counsel appearing for the first respondent, that in election matters any citizen of India has a direct interest in seeing that the elections are conducted in a fair manner and that the purity thereof is maintained. In this case, the complainant came to know that no permission or authority has been given by the candidate, Fugro, to the petitioner to publish the said advertisement and, therefore, it was clear that the petitioner has taken recourse to prohibited methods during the course of the election process. In the circumstances, the first respondent has locus standi to file the complaint and, for all purposes, was and is an aggrieved person. Reliance was placed, in this connection, on the decision of the Supreme Court in Thammanna v. K. Veera Reddy : 1SCR73 . Then, the learned counsel submitted that, in any event, even if the complaint was filed beyond the limitation period, there were good reasons to condone the delay in filing the complaint, since the complainant came to know about the offence only when Fugro deposed in the Court in the course of the proceedings of the election petition. He also submitted that it is clear that the learned Magistrate has applied his mind to the facts and circumstances of the case and, therefore, there is no reason for interference by this Court.
5. Before entering into the merits of the case, I think it expedient to deal first with the argument of Mr. Tamba that if at all the complaint was filed beyond the period of limitation, then, a sufficient cause was shown to justify the condonation of delay by the exercise of the powers conferred by S. 473 of the Cr.P.C. I am afraid that this stand of the learned counsel cannot be accepted. In fact, on one hand, it appears that the complainant realised that his complaint was time barred and, therefore, filed an application seeking the condonation of delay. But on the same breath, surprisingly, the learned advocate who was appearing before the trial Court held that view that the complaint was entirely in time. This is clear from para 2 of the impugned order. In my view, the complainant was bound to take a definite and clear stand in this respect, namely, he ought to have either sought only condonation of delay or said that the complaint was in time. It is not possible to take both these stands at the same time. Be that as it may, however, it may be pointed out that the very fact that an application for condonation of delay was filed is a clear indication that, in fact, the complainant was fully aware that his complaint was time barred.
6. Coming now to the impugned order, it is apparent that the learned Magistrate proceeded on the footing that the complainant was an aggrieved person within the meaning of S. 469(1)(b) of the Cr.P.C. He did not at all discuss the point and did not, accordingly, give any reason as to why he held the view that the complainant was an aggrieved person. This was absolutely necessary, for otherwise the said Clause (b) of sub-section (1) of S. 469 of the Cr.P.C. would not be attracted. By failing to address himself to this question, the learned Magistrate has manifestly committed a substantial irregularity and impropriety which vitiates his order. On this count alone, the impugned order is liable to be set aside.
7. For this reason, therefore, ordinarily, the case was to be remanded to the trial Court. However, I feel that such remand is not needed, for all the necessary data is before this Court and the question can be settled immediately.
8. In para 1 of the complaint, it is alleged that election to fill a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu was held in the month of November December 1984 and that the complainant was the election agent of Dr. Shamjibhai Solanki, who was returned in the election. This fact clearly shows that the complainant and the aforesaid Dr. Solanki were not, in any manner, prejudiced by the activities attributed to the petitioner in the complaint. Now, Clause (b) of sub-section (1) of S. 469 of the Cr.P.C. provides that the period of limitation, in relation to an offender, shall commence, where the commission of offence was not known to the person aggrieved by the offence or to any police officer, the first day on which such offence comes to the knowledge of such person or to any police officer, whichever is earlier. Therefore, the question is whether the complainant can be said to be an aggrieved person in the present case. Though the authorities cited by Mr. Dias as well as by Mr. Tamba deal with the matter, I do not think it necessary to advert to all of them, since it suffices to make a reference to the observations made by the Supreme Court in Maharaj Singh v. State of U.P. : 1SCR1072 . In the said case, Their Lordships of the Supreme Court, relying on Dabholkar's case : 1SCR306 as well as on the observations of Lord Denning in Attorney-General of the Gambia v. Peirra Serr N'Jie 1961 AC 617 and on the American jurisprudence, observed that the test is whether the words 'person aggrieved' include a person who has been made which prejudicially affects his interests. This test was approved by the Supreme Court in Thammanna's case : 1SCR73 relied upon by Mr. Tamba. In the light of the averments made in para 1 of the complainant to the effect that the complainant was the election agent of Dr. Shamjibhai Solanki and that the latter was the successful candidate, it is clear that by no stretch of imagination he could be said to have been prejudicially affected by the activities attributed to the petitioner. It may also be relevant to note that, as observed in Sulochana's case (supra), the expression 'person aggrieved by the offence' occurring in Clause (b) of sub-section (1) of S. 469 is limited or restricted only to those persons who are personally and directly affected by an offence. In the present case, the complainant cannot be said to be directly affected by the alleged offence. In the circumstances, therefore, the complainant could not be held to be an aggrieved person within the meaning of Clause (b) of sub-section (1) of S. 469, Cr.P.C. This being the case, Clause (b) was not attracted and the period of limitation had to be counted under Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of S. 469, Cr.P.C. The learned counsel appearing for the first respondent however contended, placing reliance on the decision of this Court in P. D. Palkhandwar v. Siddayya Shivamurtaya Hiremath that discretion under S. 473 is to be used in the interest of justice while dealing with a complaint filed beyond time. In this case, according to the learned counsel, the learned Magistrate has exercised his jurisdiction judiciously and, therefore, there is no reason whatsoever for this Court to interfere. It is true that when the ends of justice so require the Court should exercise its discretion and condone the delay in filing the complaint beyond the period of limitation under S. 473, Cr.P.C. But at the same time, we cannot forget that, as observed by the Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Sarwan Singh, : 1981CriLJ722 , the object of Cr.P.C. in putting a bar of limitation on prosecutions was clearly to prevent the parties from filing cases after a long time, as a result of which material evidence may disappear and also to prevent abuse of the process of the Court by filing vexatious and belated prosecutions long after the date of the offence. The object which the statute seeks to subserve is clearly in consonance with the concept of fairness of trial as enshrined in Art. 21 of the Constitution and it is, therefore, of the utmost importance, the Supreme Court observed, that any prosecution, whether by the State or a private complainant must abide by the letter of law or take the risk of the prosecution failing on the ground of limitation. In the present case, it may be pointed out that the ends of justice, in no manner, were requiring the Magistrate to condone the delay. I say so, because it is common ground that even if the petitioner had indulged in the activities mentioned in the complaint and even if Mr. Fugro had been declared as the successful candidate, such activities would not vitiate the election of the candidate. Thus, the observations of the Supreme Court in Sarwan Singh's case are most relevant and were to be borne in mind, in any event, by the learned Magistrate and no condonation of delay could have been granted.
9. The result is that this revision application succeeds and, consequently, the impugned order is hereby set aside. Accordingly, the complaint stands dismissed.
10. Revision allowed.