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Emperor Vs. R.K. Karanjia - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai
Decided On
Case Number Criminal Application No. 345 of 1945
Judge
Reported inAIR1946Bom322; (1946)48BOMLR151
AppellantEmperor
RespondentR.K. Karanjia
DispositionApplication dismissed
Excerpt:
.....of 1931), sections 4(1) (bb) and (f), 26 - official secrets act (xix of 1923). section 5(i)-' official secrets,' meaning of-news paper-article inviting readers to communicate official secrets to editor-offence.;the expression ' official secreta' as understood in the official secrets act, 1929, has reference to secrets of the one or the other department of the government or the state and not to any secret of a private office. the term ' official' by itself has obtained the meaning attached to it in the official secrets act.;section 5(1) of the official secrets act applies not merely to government servants but also to all persons who have obtained; that secret in contravention of the act.;reading section 4(1) (f) of the indian press (emergency powers) act, 1931, and section 5(1)..........much as rs. 1,000 and over for one such story....editor.2. it is the case for the crown that the words ' official secrets, confidential documents, leakages of such news as is sought to be suppressed from public knowledge' in the said article come within clause (bb) inasmuch as they directly or indirectly tend to convey confidential information as defined in the rules made under the defence of india act,. or are calculated to instigate the contravention of any of the rules. it is also contended that they come under clause (f) of the said sub-section which includes all the expressions directly or indirectly tending to encourage or incite any person to interfere-with the administration of the law or with the maintenance of law and order, or to commit any offence. as regards clause (f) it.....
Judgment:

Divatia, J.

1. This is an application by the publisher of a news magazine called ' Blitz ' for setting aside the order of the Government of Bombay dated February 24,, 1945, requiring the petitioner to deposit a sum of Rs. 3,000 as security under Section 7, Sub-section (3), of the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931. The reason for passing the order was stated to be that in its issue of January 20, 1945, the said news magazine had published an article which contained words falling under Sections (bb) and (f) of Sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the said Act. The article, which purported to be from the editor of the paper, was a short one as follows:-

INFORMATION PLEASE

Blitz's overall policy is to give its readers the fullest information on all topics-secret or otherwise-affecting them. As such, this paper is not bound by an antiquated convention which debars the press from releasing to the common people official secrets, confidential documents, leakages of such news as is sought to be suppressed from public knowledge. Such information is always most welcome; when brought to the editor, and will be paid for at lavish rates. Blitz has in the past paid as much as Rs. 1,000 and over for one such story....Editor.

2. It is the case for the Crown that the words ' official secrets, confidential documents, leakages of such news as is sought to be suppressed from public knowledge' in the said article come within Clause (bb) inasmuch as they directly or indirectly tend to convey confidential information as defined in the rules made under the Defence of India Act,. or are calculated to instigate the contravention of any of the rules. It is also contended that they come under Clause (f) of the said sub-section which includes all the expressions directly or indirectly tending to encourage or incite any person to interfere-with the administration of the law or with the maintenance of law and order, or to commit any offence. As regards Clause (f) it is contended that the offence mentioned in that clause, so far as it applies to the facts of the present case, Would be under Section 5,. Sub-section (1), of the Official Secrets Act, the material portion of which is to the effect that if any person having hi his possession or control any document or information obtained in contravention of this Act or which he has obtained or to which he has had' access owing to his position as a person who holds or has held office under His Majesty wilfully communicates such document or information to any person other than a person to whom he is authorised to communicate it, he is guilty of an offence, and' the punishment is provided for in Sub-section (4) of the said section. The petitioner's case is that these words in the article have not the meaning attributed to them by the respondent, that the expression ' official secrets ' does not mean secrets of Government Offices only but also of all offices or private institutions, and that the expression ' confidential documents' also does not necessarily mean Government documents of the-nature stated in the Defence of India Rules but includes any document of a confidential nature whether Government or private. It is further urged on behalf of the petitioner that this article was considered at a meeting of the Press Advisory Committee on February 19 of the same year and it was presided over by Mr. Drewe, the Secretary to the Government of Bombay, Home Department. The article was stated to have been objected to by the Chairman and an alleged agreement was arrived at that the objection of the Government would be satisfactorily met by the publication of a correction in the next issue of the paper. Thereupon a second article was published in the issue of February 24, in which it is stated that the readers should clearly understand that the information desired in the first article concerned such topics of public interest as the Gandhi-Jinnah talks and not secret or confidential information of any Government Department or the Defence Services or any matter, the disclosure of which may amount to a breach of faith on the part of the informant, and that any wrong impression which may have been created by the request was regretted. The petitioner says that he was given an assurance that no action would be takert against him if the correction was published with an expression of regret, but that the Government in breach of that agreement issued the notice against him under the Press Act on the same day on which the correction was: published. Mr. Drewe has filed an affidavit in this Court definitely stating that no such assurance was given rather petitioner who was told that it was open to Government to take action according to law, but that in doing so Government would take the apology into consideration, and that it was because of the apology that the petitioner was not prosecuted suit action was taken only under the Press Act.

3. We are not really concerned in this application with the alleged assurance of agreement. In fact it is frankly and rightly conceded by Mr. Setalvad on behalf of the petitioner that the alleged agreement is not relevant to this application where we have to consider whether the order was justified by the provisions of the Press Act and not whether Government was estopped from passing the order after the alleged assurance.

4. On the merits Mr. Setalvad has urged that the article does not fall either wider Clause (bb) or Clause (f) because it is merely an advertisement offered to the public the effect of which is not any incitement to break the law. It is further urged that what was really asked for was such information as could be published without violating the law, and that the paper was going to disregard not the law but ' an antiquated convention.' As regards the expressions themselves Mr. Setalvad has strongly urged that the word ' official' in 'the expression ' official secrets ' according to its dictionary meaning in the Oxford Dictionary means ' of or pertaining to an office,' and that it did not necessarily mean a Government office. The expression ' official secret' is not defined in the Official Secrets Act, and Mr. Setalvad contends that it must, therefore, be taken in its dictionary meaning. On the other hand it is urged that the expression ' official secret' is a well understood expression meaning any secret pertaining to any department of the Government. It is no doubt true that nowhere is the expression ' official secret' defined, but looking to the purpose and scheme of the Official Secrets Act, especially Sections 3 to 10, which create offences against the Government for publication of official secrets, they have all reference to secrets of one or the other department of the Government or the State and not to any secret of a private office. In our opinion the expression 'official secret' is ordinarily understood in the sense in which it is used in the Official Secrets Act. If the secret pertains to any private office such as, for instance, the dffice of the University or the Corporation, it would not be called an official secret but as a University secret or a Corporation secret. But the term ' official' by itself has obtained the meaning attached to it in the Official Secrets Act, and in our opinion that is the sense in which it would be understood by readers of this news magazine. We are, therefore, unable to hold that ' official secret' is a wider term including secrets of any private institution.

5. That being so, the question of an invitation to the public to send in official secrets to the editor of ' Blitz ' must, in our opinion, be considered with reference to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act. The relevant provision on this point in that R. 20. Act is Section 5, Sub-section (1), which is very comprehensive in its nature. It applies not merely to Government servants but also to all persons who have obtained that secret in contravention of this Act. Reading Clause (f) of Sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the Press Act and Section 5, Sub-section (4), together, it is in our opinion clear that the invitation to the public to send official secrets comes within Clause (f) as well as Section 5, Sub-section (1), and that therefore it is really an invitation encouraging or inciting any person to commit an offence. As held in In re Anandabazar Patrika I.L.R. (1932) 60 Cal. 408, the burden in such an application is on the applicant to prove that the tendency is otherwise than what it is alleged to be without going into the question of the intention of the writer. We are not, therefore, concerned with the intention or the motive underlying this article but only with the direct or indirect tendency of the words used in the article itself, and in our opinion that tendency is, as alleged on behalf of the respondent, to encourage or incite any person to commit an offence. This view of the article is, in our opinion, sufficient to dispose of this application, because if the words fall under Clause (f), the order requiring the deposit of security would be justified. It is not necessary, therefore, to go into the other question as to whether the other words, viz., ' confidential documents, leakages of such news as is sought to be suppressed from public knowledge,' come within either Clause (bb) or Clause (f), nor is it necessary to consider as to whether the term ' official secret' also comes under Clause (bb).

6. It was next contended by Mr. Setalvad that the subsequent article of February 24 must be read in conjunction with the first article of January 20 and the effect of 'their being read together Was that the writer had in the second article told his readers that the information desired in the first article did not concern any secret or confidential information of any Government department or the Defence Services or any matter the disclosure of which might amount to a breach of faith on the part of the informant. He relies on the provisions of Section 26 of the Press Act according to which any copy of the same newspaper published after the commencement of the Act may be given in evidence in aid of the proof of the nature or tendency of the words in respect of which the order may be made. In our opinion this section would apply where the article in question is to be read in its context with a previous or a subsequent article just as different parts of one article or different passages in one book are to be read along with the impugned article in order to ascertain its meaning. As observed in 'In re ' New Sind [1942] Kar. 127, Section 26 is an enabling section, permitting the words to be considered in their general context. In the present case we think there is no context between the two articles in the sense that they cannot be properly understood except in reference to each other. The first article purports to be complete by itself and the second article was written only because the writer thought that a wrong impression was likely to be created by the first article. That shows that the writer himself thought that such an impression may be created by the words used) in that article. But we are not concerned With what the writer thought was a wrong impression but with the direct or indirect tendency of those words. The writer in fact tries to explain away the possible effect of those words in the mind of the readers by saying that he did not intend to produce that impression. But the writer's state of mind is irrelevant. Even assuming that the writer's intention was what it was alleged to be in the second article, we have to look to the first article alone to' find out whether it has the direct or indirect tendency to produce the result stated in 3. 4(1), Clause (bb)', or (f), of the Press Act. In our opinion, therefore, that argument fails.

7. In the result, therefore, the applicant has not proved that the article does not come within Clause (f) of Section 4(7) of the Press Act. .

8. The application is dismissed. No order as to costs.


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