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The State of Maharashtra Vs. Ibrahim Mohomed HusseIn Maddu - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revision Application No. 891 of 1973 with Criminal Revision Application No. 1028 of 1973
Judge
Reported in(1977)79BOMLR704
AppellantThe State of Maharashtra
Respondentibrahim Mohomed HusseIn Maddu
Excerpt:
.....1872), sections 145 and 132--whether a previous statement made by a prosecution witness before a commission of inquiry set up under the commissions of inquiry act can be used by the defence to contradict the witness under section 145 of the evidence act--whether such use of the statement made by the witness before the commission 'against him.' is barred under section 6 of the commissions of inquiry act.; sub-inspector n had filed an affidavit before justice madon commission constituted under the commissions of inquiry act, 1952 for inquiring into certain questions relating to communal riots at bhivandi and other places. the affidavit pertained to the course and causes of communal disturbances at bhivandi on may 7, 1970. in a sessions trial before the sessions judge at thana where the..........investigation pertaining to inquiry.13. it is in the context of these powers and the nature of the commission of inquiry that section 6 requires to be interpreted. the commission is also given the power to regulate its procedure under section 8. section 8b requires the commission to consider, if, at any stage of the enquiry, it considers necessary to enquire into the conduct of any person or is of opinion that the reputation of any person is likely to be prejudicially affected by the inquiry, whether the commission should give to that person a reasonable opportunity of being heard in the enquiry and to produce evidence in his defence. section 8b, however, makes it unnecessary for the commission to give such opportunity to a witness where the credit of the witness is being impeached.14......
Judgment:

Vaidya, J.

1. The above criminal revision application raises an important question under Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.

2. The application is filed by the State against an order passed on September 18, 1973 by the Additional Sessions Judge, Thana, over-ruling an objection raised by the special public prosecutor to a question being asked to the prosecution witness, in Sessions Case No. 36 of 1973, pending before the learned Additional Sessions Judge against the sixty-rive opponents in the above revision application. The said opponents are charged by the learned Additional Sessions Judge under Sections 143, 147, 148, 307, 332, 149, 152 and 353 of the Indian Penal Code, as mentioned in the charge, with regard to certain incidents which occurred in the communal riots in Bhiwandi in May 1970. It is not necessary to mention, for the purposes of this revision application, the details of the said charge.

3. After the examination-in-chief of prosecution witness No. 1 Jayasingh Sadashiv Nimbalkar, the police sub-inspector was over and in the course of the cross-examination, the witness admitted that he had filed an affidavit before Justice Madon Commission, constituted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 for inquiring into certain questions relating to the communal riots at Bhiwandi and some other places. The witnesses also admitted that the affidavit pertained to the course and causes of communal disturbances at Bhiwandi on May 7, 1970 and that he had described the incident dated May 7, 1970, in respect of which the opponents were charged in the sessions case, as it took place; and that the said affidavit was filed before Justice Madon Commission on September 24, 1970.

4. After this admission of the witness, the following question was asked to him:

Did you state in the said affidavit filed before Madon Commission that you had noticed Gulam Rasul accused No. 5 and his two sons aged 20 or 22 years throwing stones, acid bulbs, sticks and glass bottles through the two windows of Hidayatulla Manzil at the processsionists?

At this stage, the learned special public prosecutor who appeared for the State, objected to the question on the ground that Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act prohibits the use of the statement made before the Commission for the purpose of contradicting the witness.

5. He gave his submissions in writing relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar : [1959]1SCR279 . He also referred to the decision of a learned single Judge of this Court in Sohanlal Pahladrai v. State : AIR1965Bom1 and contended that the decision did not lay down good law inasmuch as the aforesaid Supreme Court decision was not brought to the notice of the single Judge. He relied upon a later decision of the division Bench of the M.P. High Court in Puhupram v. State of M.P. (1968) 13 M.L.J. 629 and contended that having regard to the said decision which followed the Supreme Court decision and dissented from the judgment of the single Judge of this Court, the defence should not be permitted to make use of the statement which the witness had made in his, affidavit before Justice Madon Commission.

6. The learned Additional Sessions Judge, however, over-ruled the objection raised by the special public prosecutor on the ground that in Dalmia's case, the Supreme Court was not called upon to consider whether the use under Section 145 of the Evidence Act of an earlier statement before the Commission was barred under Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.

7. On a comparison of Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 with Section 132 of the Evidence Act, 1872 and on considering it along with Section 145 of the Evidence Act, he held:

Taking all these aspects into account and reading the provision of Section 6 of the Act, I think that there is no force in the objection raised on behalf of the State and the earlier statement if otherwise relevant can be used for the purpose of contradicting the witness as contemplated by Section 145 of the Evidence Act. Of course, what weight has to be given to the contradictions will have to be determined, for before the Commission details which the witness may narrate in Criminal Prosecution may not be relevant or necessary. But that is an altogether different province with which we are not concerned at this stage when once the use of statement is held to be permissible, defence cannot be precluded from using it.

The learned Judge distinguished the decision of the M.P. High Court also on the ground that in that case no question was involved as to whether the earlier statement recorded before the Commission could be used for the purpose of contradicting a witness in a subsequent trial, having regard to the provisions contained in Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.

8. The order passed by the learned Judge is challenged in the above Criminal Revision Application. Mr. Barday submitted relying on the aforesaid Supreme Court decision and the provisions of Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act that any statement made by any person before the Commission of Enquiry was under Section 6 of the said Act 'wholly inadmissible in evidence' in any future proceedings, civil or criminal. He submitted that the decision of the learned single Judge of this Court in Sohanlal's case must be considered as a decision coram non-juice inasmuch as the decision in Dalmia's case was not brought to the notice of the single Judge. Mr. Barday also placed reliance on the aforesaid decision of the division Bench of the M.P. High Court in support of his arguments and contended that the decision of the single Judge must be overruled by us sitting as a division Bench.

9. The real question in our opinion is to determine the intention of the Parliament in enacting Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 in the light of the words used in that section which are as follows:

6. No statement made by a person in the course of giving evidence before the Commission shall subject him to, or be used against him in, any civil or criminal proceeding except a prosecution for giving false evidence by such statement:

Provided that the statement-

(a) is made in reply to a question which he is required by the Commission to answer, or

(b) is relevant to the subject matter of the inquiry.

The section, therefore, applies only to statements made in reply to a question which a person was required by the Commission to answer or which were relevant to the subject-matter of the enquiry. It is not disputed before us that the affidavit was filed by the witness in reply to the, questions which he was required by Justice Madon Commission to answer, and that the statements were relevant to the subject-matter of the enquiry by the Commission.

10. The remaining provisions of the section may be analysed as containing three propositions, viz.,

(1) No statement made by a person in the course of the evidence given by him shall subject him to any civil or criminal proceeding;

(2) No statement made by a person in the course of giving evidence before the Commission shall be used against him in any civil or criminal proceeding;

(3) Notwithstanding these two propositions, the person making the statement was liable to prosecution for giving false evidence by such statement.

The first proposition does not apply to the facts of the present case because it cannot be said that when the defence asked a question to the prosecution witness under Section 145 with reference to his statement before the Commission, the witness was subjected to civil or criminal proceeding. The real question is whether in making use of the Statement under Section 145 of the Evidence Act, the defence was using the statement made by the witness before the Commission 'against him' in any civil or criminal proceeding within the meaning of the second proposition indicated in Section 6.

11. It is argued by Mr. Barday, the learned Assistant Government Pleader that when the defence wants to contradict the witness, it wants to use the statement of the witness before the Commission 'against him.' Mr. Peerbhoy, the learned Counsel appearing for the opponents submitted, on the contrary, that it is a fundamental rule of a fair criminal trial that the prosecution witness must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, before the Court; and it must, therefore, follow that the accused must have a right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses with regard to the statements which he made before the Commission, under Section 145 of the Evidence Act, in exercise of his basic right of cross-examining the prosecution witnesses. He argued that the mere fact that the witness was likely to make a statement contradictory to his previous statement before the Commission or that he may thereby make himself liable to be prosecuted for perjury cannot amount to using; of the previous statement of the witnesses before the Commission 'against him' within the meaning of Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.

12. Having regard to these contentions, it is necessary to notice briefly the scheme of the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 and its objects. The Act was enacted by Parliament to provide for the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry and for vesting such Commissions with certain powers, as stated in the preamble. It enables the Central Government or the State Government with respect to their respective spheres of constitutional activities and powers to appoint commissions 'for the purpose of making an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance and performing such functions and within such time as may be specified in the notification' to be published in the Official Gazette, as per Section 3. Section 4 declares that the Commission, shall act with the powers of a civil Court, while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in respect of : (a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath; (b) requiring the discovery and production of any document; (c) receiving evidence on affidavits; (d) requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any Court or office; (e) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents; (f) any other matter which may be prescribed. Additional powers could be conferred on the Commission by the appropriate Government if it was of opinion having regard to the nature of the enquiry to be made and other circumstances of the case, under Section 5. Section 5A empowers the Commission to utilise the services of certain officers and investigation agencies for conducting investigation pertaining to inquiry.

13. It is in the context of these powers and the nature of the Commission of Inquiry that Section 6 requires to be interpreted. The Commission is also given the power to regulate its procedure under Section 8. Section 8B requires the Commission to consider, if, at any stage of the enquiry, it considers necessary to enquire into the conduct of any person or is of opinion that the reputation of any person is likely to be prejudicially affected by the inquiry, whether the Commission should give to that person a reasonable opportunity of being heard in the enquiry and to produce evidence in his defence. Section 8B, however, makes it unnecessary for the Commission to give such opportunity to a witness where the credit of the witness is being impeached.

14. It is not necessary to refer to the remaining provisions of the Act, which relate to the procedure and duties of the Commission. What is necessary to emphasise is that the whole object of setting up of the Commission of Inquiry is for the purpose of making an enquiry into any definite matter of public importance. As. a result of the enquiry, the Commission has to record its findings and forward them to the appropriate Government on which the Government may take such action as it deems fit. Such an enquiry necessarily involves investigation into material facts and recording of oral and documentary evidence adduced before the Commission or other materials brought to the notice of the Commission and making of findings on the basis of those facts and materials in its report to the appropriate Government, expressing the views of the Commission. It is, therefore, clear that the object of enacting the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 was to inquire into and to come to conclusions on some matter of public importance. Powers of Courts, conferred under Section 4 enable the Commission to make an effective enquiry into the true facts. It is in this context that we must understand the intention of the Parliament in enacting Section 6.

15. Section 6, in our opinion, gives protection to persons making statements before the Commission in reply to questions asked by the Commission or relevant to the matter of enquiry, so that the persons making the statements will state the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before the Commission, unhampered by any fear, that they would thereby render themselves liable to civil or criminal proceedings or to some prejudice or detriment as a result of the statements made before the Commission.

16. Thus, the first rule in Section 6 prohibits a suit being filed against a person, say X, who may have made a statement before the Commission 'I burnt the house of A.' A cannot file a suit against such person relying on that statement before the Commission. A cannot also file a suit for damages against the person without making use of the statement and then produce such a statement under Section 145 in the suit, as the use of such a statement would be 'against' the person within the meaning of Section 6. The Parliament never intended, in our opinion, to bar such statements being produced by way of cross-examining under Section 145 the person making the statements, if at all such statements are relevant or otherwise admissible. The bar is only to prevent use of statements to support some claim against him. There is no bar to the use of such statements in proceedings against third persons in which such person is examined as a witness as in the present case before us. The very fact that the third rule in Section 6 permits prosecution of such person for giving false evidence by making such statements before the Commission, manifestly indicates that the whole purpose of enacting Section 6 was to enable the person making the statement before the Commission to be unhampered by any adverse pending or impending or likely civil or criminal proceeding against himself, or by proceedings in which he was likely to be prejudiced in some manner other than prosecution for giving false evidence when making such statement before the Commission.

17. Whether a particular statement made by a witness before the Commission is used 'against him' will depend on the prejudice or detriment caused or likely to be caused to the person in civil or criminal proceedings or otherwise. It must, therefore, necessarily depend on the facts and circumstances relating to the use or intended use. Whether any particular prejudice or detriment can be said to result from the use of the statements will also depend on facts. Mere cross-examination under Section 145 can at the most expose his statement. That does not render the use of the statement 'against him' in law because law requires him to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before the Commission also and implies that he will be prosecuted for perjury if he tells lies.

18. Mr. Barday submitted that such a view is contrary to the observations made by the Supreme Court in Dalmia's case. At p. 547 Section Rule Das C.J., speaking for a unanimous Court observed inter alia as follows:.But seeing that the Commission of Inquiry has no judicial powers and its report will purely be recommendatory and not effective proprio vigore and the statement made by any person before the Commission of Inquiry is, under Section 6 of the Act, wholly inadmissible in evidence in any future proceedings, civil or criminal, there can be no point in the Commission of inquiry making recommendations for taking any action 'as and by way of securing redress or punishment' which, in agreement with the High Court, we think, refers, in the context, to wrongs' already done or committed, for redress or punishment for such wrongs, if any, has to be imposed by a Court of law properly constituted exercising its own discretion on the facts and circumstances of the case and without being in any way influenced by the view of any person or body, howsoever august or high powered it may be.

Now, these observations, with great respect, cannot be divorced from the facts of that case and the contention to repel which these observations were made. This is 'wholly inadmissible' means wholly inadmissible against a person in proceedings against him and nothing else. In that case, Ramakrishna Dalmia and other persons had filed petitions in this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution for quashing and setting aside the appointment of the one man Commission of Justice Tendolkar. The petitions were dismissed by the Court holding that notification making the appointment was valid. Dalmia and others carried appeals to the Supreme Court, raising various contentions regarding the constitutionality of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, with which we are not concerned in the present case. One of the contentions which called for the above quoted observations was that while the Commission may find facts and the Government may take action, legislative or executive, the Commission could not be asked to suggest any measure, legislative or executive, to be taken by the appropriate Government. A contention was made that the Parliament in authorising the appointment of a Commission and the Government in appointing this Commission had arrogated to themselves judicial powers which do not in the very nature of things, belong to their respective domains, which must be purely legislative and executive respectively. It was contended that Parliament cannot convert itself into a Court except for the rare cases of dealing with breaches of its own privileges for which it may punish the delinquent by committal for contempt or of proceedings by way of impeachment. While repelling such a contention and upholding the validity of the Act, S.R. Das C.J. made the aforesaid observations.

19. The question of the proper interpretation of Section 6 which arises before us in the instant case, with profound respect, was not agitated before the Supreme Court. The observations are also not even remotely connected with the question with which we are concerned in the present case. Mr. Barday submitted that even assuming that the observations were obiter, they are binding on us. The proposition cannot be disputed. But, are the observations at least obiter regarding the question before us? We do not think so. With utmost respect to the Supreme Court, the observation was made only in the context of the aforesaid contention made before them and for the purpose of repelling that contention. There is not even a hint anywhere in the passage relied upon by Mr. Barday to show that the Supreme Court intended to lay down an obiter regarding the question of the use for cross-examination being made of the statement made by a person before the Commission appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, where such a person is not a party but only a witness as in this case.

20. It is well settled at least since the time of Quinn v. Leathem [1901] A.C. 495 that every judgment must be read as applicable to the particular facts proved, or assumed to be proved, since the generality of the expressions which may be found there are not intended to be expositions of the whole law, but governed and qualified by the particular facts of the case in which such expressions are to be found. The other is that a case is only an authority for what it actually decides. See Earl of Halsbury L.C. (p. 506):.I entirely deny that it can be quoted for a proposition that may seem to follow logically from it. Such a mode of reasoning assumes that the law is necessarily a logical code, whereas every lawyer must acknowledge that the law is not always logical at all.

21. The Supreme Court was not called upon in Dalmia's case to decide the question of the precise meaning of the words 'be used against him' in Section 6 of the said Act. Although Section 8B was added in the Act by a subsequent amendment, viz., Act No. 79 of 1971, it is helpful to understand the scheme of the Act. The Act was never intended to bar the production of previous statements made by persons in the cross-examination of such persons when such persons are examined us prosecution witnesses as in the present case. This is clear from the provisions in Section 8B, making an exception to the procedure of giving notice to any one who is likely to be prejudicially affected by the enquiry before the Commission and by laying down that notice is not required to be given in the case of witnesses whose credit was being impeached.

22. In the instant case, we have to deal with the narrow question as to whether a statement made by the prosecution witnesses previously before the Commission can be used by the defence under Section 145 of the Evidence Act and whether such use is barred by the words 'or to be used against him' in Section 6 of the Act. The learned Additional Sessions Judge compared this section to Section 132 of the Evidence Act, which is also intended to see that the witnesses tell the truth before the Court and which runs as follows:

132. A witness shall not be excused from answering any question as to any matter relevant to the matter in issue in any suit or in any civil or criminal proceeding, upon the ground that the answer to such question will criminate, or may tender directly or indirectly to criminate, such witness, or that it will expose, or tend directly or indirectly to expose, such witness to a penalty or forfeiture of any kind:

Provided that no such answer, which a witness shall be compelled to give, shall subject him to any arrest or prosecution, or be proved against him in any criminal proceeding, except a prosecution for giving false evidence by such answer.

The words are not identical because the corresponding words used in the proviso in Section 132 are 'or be proved against him.' The word 'used' in Section 6 is no doubt wider than the word 'proved'; but the words 'against him' in the two provisions are identical.

23. In our opinion, the bar under the said words can apply only when there is some sort of legal contest between the witness to whom the statement is intended to be put under Section 145 and some other person in civil or criminal proceedings (other than proceedings against the witness for perjury committed by such statements) which may result in some detriment or prejudice to the witness in such proceedings, pending or impending. The bar cannot be attracted in a case of using the statement under Section 145 for contradicting the witness and thereby discrediting his veracity. Private interest of a person in the witness box to be not discredited must be overridden by the public interest in discovering the truth in a Court of justice.

24. The right of cross-examination of witnesses is a valuable right in common law countries. It is guaranteed by our Constitution, the Evidence Act and the procedural laws. The object of the cross-examination is two fold-to weaken, qualify or destroy the case of the opponent; and to establish the party's own case by means of his opponent's witnesses. We do not think that the Parliament by enacting Section 6 intended to impair this right in any manner merely because the Parliament wanted persons making statements before the Commission to have immunity for the truthful statements made by them before the Commission.

25. It is a well established rule of interpretation of statute that a sense of the possible injustice of an interpretation ought not to induce Judges to do violence to well-settled rules of construction, but it may properly lead to the selection of one rather than the other of two reasonable interpretations. Whenever the language of the Legislature admits of two constructions and, if construed in one way, would lead to obvious injustice, the Courts act upon the view that such a result could not have been intended, unless the intention to bring it about has been manifested in plain words. See Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, 12th edn., 1969, p. 208.

26. It will be gross injustice, in our opinion, to deny the accused the right to cross-examine a witness under Section 145 in the light of the previous statement made by the witness before the Commission. If the statement is contradictory to the statement which the witness had made before the Commission, justice requires that such contradictory statement should be availed of by the defence under Section 145 and an opportunity should be given to the witness to explain the contradiction. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the learned Judge in the facts and circumstances was justified in over-ruling the objection raised by the Special Public Prosecutor.

27. Although Dalmia's case does not appear to have been brought to the notice of Chitale J. who decided Sohanlal's case, we concur with the view taken by Chitale J. in the said case for the reasons stated hereinabove.

28. So far as the decision of Dixit C.J. and G.P. Singh J. in Puhupram v. State of M.P., is concerned, it is true that the M.P. High Court has dissented from Sohanlal's case. With great respect, to the learned Judges, the decision was obiter. In that case they were not called upon to decide the question as to whether a statement made before the Commission could be used in the cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses. That was a case in which the petitioners applied to the High Court for stay of the enquiry against them before the Commission till the conclusion of criminal cases instituted against them in respect of offences under Sections 148, 149, 120B and 302, Indian Penal Code during the pendency of the enquiry before the Commission. One of apprehensions of the petitioners was that they would be compelled to make statements, which would be made use of against them in the criminal case which necessarily is a contest between the accused and the state. The division Bench observed as follows (p. 632):.It is not necessary for the Petitioners to participate in the inquiry held by the Commission if they think that their participation will prejudice the criminal trial. No doubt, the Commission has the power of summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person. But it is reasonable to think that the Commission, constituted as it is by one of the Judges of this Court, will not compel the petitioners or any of the persons standing trial to give evidence and thus will not give a chance to them to complain that they have been prejudiced in the criminal trial by being forced to give evidence before the Commission.

29. With great respect, we agree with those observations as they were concerned with the possible use of the statements made by the petitioners-accused against the accused. They rightly held that the use of such statements in the criminal case against the petitioners must be barred under Section 6 of the Act. The said decision will not help the petitioners in the present case in barring the use of the statement made by the prosecution witness before the Commission for purposes of cross-examination under Section 145 of the Evidence Act.

30. For the reasons stated above, we confirm the order passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, over-ruling the objections raised by the Special Public Prosecutor. Rule discharged.


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