1. The opponent, who is the Home Minister of Saurashtra, has filed against the applicant, an author and publisher, a complaint for an offence of defamation under Section 500, Penal Code. The learned Chief Presidency Magistrate is trying that case and in the course of trial the opponent has been examined-in-chief. The cross-examination of the opponent was commenced on 23-11-1954, when the applicant himself cross-examined the opponent for four hours. The cross-examination was continued on 24-11-1954, and Mr. 1. C. Dalai appearing for the accused-applicant cross-examined the opponent for two hours and forty minutes on that day. The cross-examination was then continued on the next day i.e., on 25-11-1954, and the cross-examination lasted for two hours. The cross-examination was again continued on 26th November, and it went on for four and a half hours.
It appears that, in all, the cross-examination has lasted so far for 13 hours. At the end of the day's hearing on 26-11-1954, the learned Magistrate asked Mr. Dalai as regards his estimate of time in concluding the cross-examination of the opponent and Mr. Dalai then stated, as appears from the order, that he would take three weeks more, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The learned Magistrate, therefore, made an order, telling Mr. Dalai that the cross-examination of the witness would not be allowed to be carried on after 5 p.m. on 30-11-1954.
2. The applicant has taken exception to this order and his contention is that the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate was not entitled to impose a time-limit as regards the cross-examination of the opponent and that there was nothing either in the Evidence Act or in the Code of Criminal Procedure to do so. Now, Mr. Dalai appearing for the applicant contends that the learned Magistrate was wrong in directing that the cross-examination of the opponent should be completed on 30-11-1954, by 5 p.m. As a general rule, it may be conceded that the Court would not be justified in imposing a time-limit upon the cross-examination of a witness. But' if the Suggestion is that the Court has no discretion in the matter or that the Court has no control over the cross-examination, I am not prepared to assent to that suggestion.
The object of cross-examination is to test the story of a witness given by him in the examination-in-chief and there are several sections in the Indian Evidence Act which allow an advocate to cross-examine the witness, with respect to matters other than those brought out in the examination-in-chief. But Mr. Dalai contends that even so, considerable latitude should be given to an advocate appearing for a party and that in such a case the Court has no discretion in the matter. I am prepared to agree that it would be futile to impose a time limit as regards the cross-examination of a witness, but the Court may, in the course of trial, come to the conclusion that the cross-examination has been unnecessary or irrelevant or even rambling and in such a case the Court has undoubtedly power to control the cross-examination of a witness by counsel of the opposite party.
In thus particular case, the cross-examination of the opponent went on admittedly for a period of 13 hours. The case is one of defamation. The applicant himself cross-examined the opponent for four hours on 23-11-1954. Mr. Dalai appearing for the applicant has himself cross-examined the opponent for at least nine hours, so that it cannot be suggested that indulgence has not been shown or latitude has not been given to the applicant or his advocate for the effective cross-examination of the opponent. The cross-examination has been, in part, rambling and according to the learned Magistrate again, Mr. Dalai appearing for the applicant has not even touched the fringe of the charges. If I may say so, with respect, that only shows that the cross-examination has been, at least in part, a rambling cross-examination.
If an advocate is not in a position to effectively cross-examine a witness for 13 hours, I doubt if he would at all be able to cross-examine the witness after a period of 13 hours. I quite agree that the length of the cross-examination may depend upon the 'matters in issue. The case may be a simple one. In such a case the cross-examination may not be long. But there may be cases in which there would be vast materials and in such a case it may well be that the cross-examination may take a long time to be completed.
3. However that may be, the principle is, I think, indisputable that the Court has, and should have, a discretion in controlling the cross-examination, and while the Court will allow reasonable latitude to an advocate or counsel to cross-examine a party or a witness, it should always be remembered that the Court has an undoubted control and 3 discretion in the matter of controlling the cross-examination of a party by counsel of the opposite party.
4. This principle is not new and its soundness has been recognised in several decisions, both of the Privy Council and of this Court. In the first place, there is a decision of the Privy Council reported in - 'Vassiliades v. Vassiliades', AIR 1945 PC 38, and the principle laid down in that case will be found set out at p. 41, This is what the Privy Council says :
(No doubt) cross-examination is one of the most important processes for the elucidation of the facts of a case and all reasonable latitude should be allowed, but the Judge has always a discretion as to how far it may go or how long it may continue. A fair and reasonable exercise of his discretion by the Judge will not generally be questioned by an appellate Court. As Lord Sankey L. C. said in - 'Mechanical and General Inventions Co. and Leh-wess v. Austin Motor Co.', 1935 AC 348:
'....a protracted and irrelevant cross-examination not only adds to the cost of litigation, but is a waste of public time'.'
This principle has been put in another form in a judgment of the Privy Council reported in -- 'Raj Kumar Sen v. Ram Sundar Shaha', AIR 1932 PC 39.
'The Court should check abuses in the cross-examination of witnesses on commission, when such examination is unduly protracted and is wholly irrelevant to the issues raised in the suit.'
This ruling again says that the Court has control over the cross-examination of witnesses and the Court has got power to control the cross-examination if such examination appears to the Court to unduly protracted and wholly irrelevant. Then there are two judgments of this Court reported in -- 'Emperor v. Rahimatalli', 22 Bom LR 166: AIR 1920 Bom 402 and 'Queen-Empress v. Sayad Surfuddin', Rat Un Cr C 344 (E). This is what shah J. observed in the former case (p. 178):
'...Making due allowance for all these circum-itances the arguments before us have left on my mind the impression that the length of the proceedings could have been and should have been appreciably reduced by the exercise of a more judicious control on the part of the Court over the proceedings before it consistently with the statutory rights of the parties to be heard and to examine and cross-examine witnesses under the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act and by a more active desire on the part of counsel on both sides :o save the time of the Court by avoiding questions and arguments which could have at best a re-mole bearing on the points arising in the case, and the omission whereof could involve no detriment :o their respective cases.'
Hayward J. expressed his view in similar terms by pointing out that (p. 184) :
'. .Counsel must exercise their right of audience in a reasonable manner. They have their obligations no less than their privileges. They have no right of unlimited argument or examination of witnesses but only so much as would be reasonably necessary in the particular matter.'
The observations in the latter case are more pertinent and I can do no better than quote a part of the head-note in that case :
'It is the duty of a Judge to control the cross-examination, so as to prevent any gross abuse and to protect a witness from being unfairly dealt with. The authority given by Section 152, Evidence Act ought to be exercised whenever the occasion arises; nor ought a counsel or a pleader to be allowed to terrify or browbeat a witness by vociferations or gratuitous suggestions of false-hood calculated rather to crush a weak man or to enrage an irascible one, than to elicit the truth. A witness giving evidence is, 'prima facie', performing a public duty. The degree to which he may properly be pressed depends on circumstances, but it is subject to the general principle that the purpose in view is to get out the truth, not to force on the witness admissions that confuse or distort it.'
5. Mr. Dalai has referred to a decision reported in -- 'William Smallman', (1914) 10 C A R 1, and the observations upon which he relies are set out at p. 3. This is what the learned Chief . Justice said :
'. .We shall not attempt to lay down any definite principle on which the Court should act in checking or preventing cross-examination on the accused's behalf except to say that great latitude should be allowed, and that care should be taken not to stop a cross-examination which, although it may appear lengthy and wide of the point, may subsequently prove to be of value.'
6. There can be, J think, no dispute or doubt about the principle. While the Courts will not interfere with the proper exercise of the right of cross-examination, the Courts must have and should have the power and the authority to control the cross-examination of a witness if the Court is satisfied that the cross-examination has been irrelevant or has been rambling. As I have pointed out earlier, it is quite true that neither the Indian Evidence Act nor the Code of Criminal Procedure contains anything which would justify a Court of law in imposing a particular time limit. But if the Court has a discretion and has control over the proceedings, surely the Court must be presumed to have the power, apart from the Indian Evidence Act or the Code of Criminal Procedure.
7. In the present case the record shows that the opponent has been cross-examined so far for a period of 13 hours and that the applicant has been given a further period of four or five hours within which to complete the cross-examination of the opponent. If the grievance is that the applicant has not been given a proper opportunity, I must - say that that grievance is entirely unfounded. If it is suggested that not even the fringe of the case has so far been touched, it would not be unfair to say that the right of the cross-examination has not been properly exercised and in this particular case I am satisfied that the learned Magistrate, who is a Magistrate of experience, has, looking to the record of the case, justifiably asked counsel for the applicant to complete the cross-examination, by 5 p.m. on 30-11-1954.
While, therefore, I quite agree that the Court should not as a rule impose a particular time limit as regards the cross-examination of a party or a witness, I am unable to assent to the proposition that the Court has no discretion or control in such a matter. Obviously, the Court must have such power. Otherwise, the work of the Court would be impossible. On the whole, therefore, I am satisfied that the order made by the learned Magistrate is not open to any exception and that there is no ground to interfere with that order.
8. Mr. Dalai has pointed out that the evidence which has been led in the case is, in part, inadmissible. He has also urged that the learned Magistrate was not right in characterising the cross-examination as rambling. I am not for the moment concerned with these questions. AH I am concerned with is to decide the question of principle, and on the question of principle, I am quite clear that while latitude has to be shown to the counsel in matter of cross-examination, the Court has a discretion and has control over the proceedings and the Court must and should exercise the power in a reasonable way, In this particular case, I cannot say that the power has not been exercised in a reasonable way, and, therefore, I see no adequate grounds to interfere with the order of the Court below.
9. In passing, I may point out that if the grievance of the advocate for the applicant is that he would be unable to complete the cross-examination by 5 p.m. on 30-11-1934, after availing himself of the opportunity given by the learned Magistrate, I have no doubt that the learned Magistrate would have given such further time as would, in his opinion, be reasonable to complete the cross-examination. But to suggest that the cross-examination has been stifled or interfered with, is obviously wrong and I cannot assent to this suggestion.
10. On these grounds, I think, the order made by the learned Magistrate is right and the rule will be discharged.
11. Rule discharged.