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Oscar H. Brown Vs. Nathmal Hirachand and Co. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal;Property
CourtMumbai
Decided On
Case NumberO.C.J. Appeal No. 17 of 1947
Judge
Reported inAIR1948Bom236; (1947)49BOMLR889
AppellantOscar H. Brown
RespondentNathmal Hirachand and Co.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
.....to be heard.;in holding an inquiry under section 45 of the city of bombay police act, 1902, the chief presidency magistrate is discharging quasi-judicial functions; he is not holding the inquiry in an executive capacity. the court would not interfere with the discretion of the magistrate as to the nature of the inquiry he should hold nor would it interfere by deciding whether the ambit and the scope of the inquiry should have been different from what the magistrate thought it should be. but if the magistrate while holding the inquiry contravenes any rule or principle of natural justice, the court has the jurisdiction to interfere by issuing a writ of certiorari and to prevent injustice being done to a party appearing before it.;if a judicial officer permits his mind to be affected by..........claim for compensation under section 45 of the bombay city police act, 1902, before the learned chief presidency magistrate. their claim was adjudicated upon by him and he dismissed their claim. the petitioners came before mr. justice bhgawati for a writ of certiorari on the ground that in investigating their claim the learned chief presisidency magistrate had violated the principles of natural justice. what happened before the learned chief presidency magistrate was this. the question which he had to determine was whether the shop of the petitioners contained the various articles which the petitioners contended had been looted and damaged by the rioters. the suggestion that was made was that they had removed most of the articles to an upper storey and that no damage whatever was.....
Judgment:

M.C. Chagla, Actiong C.J.

1. This is an appeal from a judgment and order of Mr. Justice Bhagwati by which he directed that a writ of certiorari should issue against the appellant, Mr. Oscar Brown, Chief Presidency Magistrate, Bombay.

2. The petitioners have a shop in the riot area, and on February 22, 1946, their shop which is on the ground floor of a building was looted. They gave notice of the loss to the insurance company and also made their claim for compensation under Section 45 of the Bombay City Police Act, 1902, before the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate. Their claim was adjudicated upon by him and he dismissed their claim. The petitioners came before Mr. Justice Bhgawati for a writ of certiorari on the ground that in investigating their claim the learned Chief Presisidency Magistrate had violated the principles of natural justice. What happened before the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate was this. The question which he had to determine was whether the shop of the petitioners contained the various articles which the petitioners contended had been looted and damaged by the rioters. The suggestion that was made was that they had removed most of the articles to an upper storey and that no damage whatever was caused to them by the rioters and they were not entitled to any compensation. The landlords who were interested in the compensation that might be awarded to the petitioners, inasmuch as ultimately they might have had to pay a riot tax, relied upon the evidence of one Dalichand and an affidavit was filed before the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate in which Dalichand swore that on the very day when the shop was alleged to have been looted he saw Maganlal, an employee of the petitioners' firm, carrying some parcels on the fourth floor of the building. Dalichand asked Maganlal where he was taking them and he informed Dalichand that he was taking all valuable articles to the room of one Parmanand for safety on account of the riot situation. Now this conversation was supposed to have taken place at 6 p.m. and the shop was looted at about 8-80 p. m. that night. Dalichand lives in the same building on the second floor. The learned Chief Presidency Magistrate allowed the petitioners' advocate to cross-examine Dalichand on the allegations made by him in his affidavit. At a certain stage when. Dalichand was being cross-examined, apparently the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate took the view that the cross-examination was being lengthened out unnecessarily and various irrelevant matters were being introduced. He therefore asked the advocate to close the petitioners' case within two minutes. The petitioners' advocate protested against this and also requested the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate to allow him more time as he wanted to call both Maganlal and Parmanand to controvert the statements made by Dalichand in his affidavit. The learned Chief Presidency Magistrate refused to give the petitioners any more time and summarily disposed of the petitioners' claim by dismissing it, Mr. Justice Bhagwati took the view that the procedure followed by the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate was contrary to the principles of natural justice.

3. The learned Advocate-General who appears for the Chief Presidency Magistrate has drawn our attention to Section 45 of the Bombay City Police Act which confers upon the Chief Presidency Magistrate the power to award compensation in riot cases. It is perfectly true that it is for the Chief Presidency Magistrate under-that section to determine what inquiry he should hold for the purpose of determining the claim put forward by any party. But it cannot be disputed, and the learned Advocate General has not disputed, that in holding the inquiry the Chief Presidency Magistrate is discharging quasi-judicial functions; he is not holding the inquiry in an executive capacity. It is perfectly true that the Court would not interfere with the discretion of the Chief Presidency Magistrate as to the nature of the inquiry he should hold nor would it interfere by deciding whether the ambit and the scope of the inquiry should have been different from what the Chief Presidency Magistrate thought it should be. But, in our opinion, if the Chief Presidency Magistrate while holding the inquiry contravenes any rule or principle of natural justice, the Court would have jurisdiction to interfere and to prevent injustice being done to a party appearing before it. We are fully conscious of the fact that a large number of cases have to be disposed of by the Chief Presidency Magistrate. We also appreciate his difficulty and understand that it is not possible to permit lengthy and meticulous cross-examination to be carried on as it is done in ordinary cases before Courts. If the matter had merely stopped at the Chief Presidency Magistrate asking the petitioners' advocate to bring his cross-examination to a close, very likely we would not have interfered. But what has impressed us more is the fact that the learrned Chief Presidency Magistrate prevented the petitioners from calling the evidence of Parmanand and Maganlal. Parmanand perhaps was not a material witness, but Maganlal certainly was, because the whole basis of the Chief Presidency Magistrate's conclusion that the petitioners' claim was not well-founded was the statement of Dalichand in his affidavit that he saw Maganlal carrying some parcels and Maganlal telling him that his masters were removing the valuables to an upper floor. The petitioners wanted to call Maganlal to controvert that testimony of Dalichand. The Chief Presidency Magistrate might not have ultimately believed Maganlal; he might have maintained the same opinion of Dalichand's evidence when he dismissed the petitioners' claim. But it seems to us that acting even in a quasi-judicial capacity it was his duty to hear the other side, to hear Maganlal, to find out whether it was Dalichand or Maganlal who was telling the truth before he made up his mind to dismiss the petitioners' claim. We do not know what evidence Maganlal might have given, but it might have been evidence so convincing that the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate might have come to a different conclusion. He therefore deprived himself of the opportunity of hearing material and relevant evidence on the other side. In doing that, in our opinion, he acted in a manner which is not in conformity with the principles of natural justice. If a judicial officer permits his mind to be affected by certain testimony, it is his duty if a testimony of an opposite character is sought to be adduced before him not to reject it, but to hear both the evidence and come to an impartial conclusion. It is with some reluctance that we are interfering with the the decision of the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate; but we feel that, however laudable despatch and expedition might be, it is equally important that parties must feel that justice has been done; and in this case there cannot be the slightest doubt that the petitioners must have felt that what was done was not in conformity with the principles of justice. The conclusion to which the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate came might have been the right conclusion; but it could have been arrived at a little differently more to the satisfaction of the parties who appeared before him. We, therefore, feel that the learned Judge below was right in issuing the rule.

4. The appeal, therefore, fails and must be dismissed with costs.

Coyajee, J.

5. I agree.


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