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Dr. Baburao Patel Vs. Bal Thackeray and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1977CriLJ1637
AppellantDr. Baburao Patel
RespondentBal Thackeray and anr.
Excerpt:
.....process of the court. it is well settled that unless a piece of evidence is admissible under the evidence act no question eliciting that evidence can be put to a witness. that the permission given under clause (3) of section 146 of the evidence act cannot be allowed to degenerate into a licence for the purpose of shaking the character of a witness indiscriminately is fairly well-established. has commented on a matter of which he regretted to find frequent recurrences in trial in rangoon magistrate's court, the question in issue in that case was whether the trade-mark claimed by the complainant as his own belonged to him, and if so, whether the accused had committed the offences complained of. state air1959all149 it has been held that sections 145, 148 and 155 indicate that the credit..........again on 1st october 1976, before framing the charge. after framing the charge he was offered for cross-examination and it appears that he was in the witness box for two days and was subjected to cross-examination for nearly eight hours. the length of the cross-examination of course is irrelevant for the determination of the point which has been raised in this petition. on 4th november 1976 a question was put to him in the course of the cross-examination on behalf of the accused which is as follows :--mr. patel you have written in your editorial of mother india of january 1975 as follows :--this is how the big nehru placed an unashamed premium on corruption. his daughter indira is carrying on the same policy by allowing her own son, sanjay, to collect overnight assets worth rs......
Judgment:

Jahagirdar, J.

1. The petitioner in this Petition is the complainant in Criminal Case No. 47/s of 1976 pending in the Court of the learned Metropolitan Magistrate, 33rd Court, Ballard Pier, Bombay. That criminal case has been initiated on a complaint filed by the Petitioner charging the Respondent who is accused in that case with offences punishable Under Sections 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. From the evidence which has already come on record in the case and from the averments made in this Petition it appears that the Petitioner is a Journalist and the editor of a magazine called 'Mother India' while the Respondent accused is also a journalist being the editor of a Marathi magazine called 'Marmik.' The evidence also shows that the Respondent is a leader of an organization known as 'Shiv Sena' in Bombay.

2. In the Marmik issue of 24th March 1974 there appeared an article containing several allegations against the Petitioner. From what has been shown to us of that article it appears this article was partly baseless. It is not necessary for us to refer to the contents of the article of 24th March 1974 because that is the subject-matter of the charge Under Sections 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. The Petitioner was offended by the contents of that article and therefore he filed a criminal complaint in the Court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, Bombay, charging the accused with offences punishable Under Sections 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.

3. The complaint was filed on 12th May 1975. In the complaint he has mentioned several parts of the article in the Marmik issue which according to him are objectionable for the grounds mentioned in that complaint. He alleges that the article contains several insulting words and threats and he says that looking at the nature of the insult and threats and in the present climate of murder, violence and terrorism, a serious view ought to be taken of those offences so as to restore a sense of security in him in relation to the threats of the accused. He accordingly charged the accused of the offences mentioned above.

4. The complainant was examined in the first place on 20th of August 1976 and again on 1st October 1976, before framing the charge. After framing the charge he was offered for cross-examination and it appears that he was in the witness box for two days and was subjected to cross-examination for nearly eight hours. The length of the cross-examination of course is irrelevant for the determination of the point which has been raised in this petition. On 4th November 1976 a question was put to him in the course of the cross-examination on behalf of the accused which is as follows :--

Mr. Patel you have written in your editorial of Mother India of January 1975 as follows :--

This is how the big Nehru placed an unashamed premium on corruption. His daughter Indira is carrying on the same Policy by allowing her own son, Sanjay, to collect overnight assets worth Rs. 448,00553/ without counting Rupees Two Crores and Nineteen Lakhs taken as Dealership deposits -- all on a starting capital of Rs. 60/- per month and without putting a single Maruti Car on the road.

To this an objection was taken on behalf of the complainant that the question was wholly irrelevent for the purpose of the inquiry before the Court. It was submitted that the question had no bearing on the issue involved in the case and if it was suggested that the question was being asked for the purpose of injuring the character of the witness it was not permissible on a proper construction of Section 146 of the Indian Evidence Act. To this effect the advocate for the Petitioner made an application to the Court, a copy of which has been annexed to this Petition at Exh. 2. He therefore submitted that the question asked by the learned Counsel for the accused and the cross-examination on the lines hitherto adopted and pursued by the Counsel for the accused may be disallowed. To this application filed on behalf of the complainant it was replied on behalf of the accused that the complainant had in his cross-examination denied the defence suggestion that he was in the habit of making false and offending allegations against many persons. It was further submitted on behalf of the accused that the purpose of the defence was to discover what is the position of the complainant in life as a journalist on the basis of which according to the complainant he wrote the articles. It was further submitted that the effort of the defence was to shake the complainant's credit by injuring his character as a journalist in the following manner :--

(a) By showing that he has no integrity.

(b) By confronting him with his inconsistent statements which are baseless, false and offending.

(c) By showing that the complainant bears a journalistic reputation of scandalizing writings.

It is therefore clear that the accused Sought to resort to the provisions of Section 146 of the Indian Evidence Act as the basis for asking the question which has been objected to on behalf of the complainant. The learned trial Magistrate by his order dated 15th December 1976 rejected the application filed on behalf of the complainant and overruling the objection allowed the accused to put the objected question in the cross-examination. In so doing the learned Magistrate also relied upon the provisions of Section 146 of the Indian Evidence Act.

5. Against that order dated 15th December 1976 passed by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate the complainant has approached this Court in its inherent jurisdiction by this petition which has been supported before us by the arguments of Mr. Bad- kar. Mr. Badkar invited our attention to the course which the cross-examination of the complainant has taken place in the Court below and contended that looking to the several questions which have been put to the complainant in the cross-examination the accused is trying to abuse the process of the Court by opening the gates into the personal life of the complainant which is not relevant in the trial Under Sections 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. According to him the question of the type which has been impugned in this Petition are not relevant under any provisions of the Indian Evidence Act and they are not permissible even Under Section 146 of the Evidence Act. If this sort of cross-examination is allowed to be continued the accused will subject the complain to embarrassment and harassment not warranted by the necessities of the trial and will thus abuse the process of the Court. He therefore contended that in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction this Court should set aside the order passed by the learned Magistrate on 15th December 1976 and give proper directions that by persisting in the type of cross-examination which has been impugned the process of the Court should not be allowed to be abused by the accused.

6. We are not prepared to examine the evidence which has come on record in detailed cross-examination of the complainant and which has been annexed to this petition nor are we inclined to uphold Mr. Badkar's contention that the entire cross examination has been directed towards unjustifiably laying bare the private life of the complainant or even his journalistic life which is not relevant to the issue involved in the trial for the offences punishable Under Sections 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, There is some justification in the complaint of Mr. Badkar that the questions which have been asked and allowed to be asked by the learned trial Magistrate and the evidence so far recorded show that the trail is proceeding along the lines which are not strictly permissible in a trial of this kind. If the questions which were not permissible have been asked and the evidence which is not admissible has been admitted we have no doubt that the learned Magistrate at the time of reviewing the evidence will ignore such evidence and will base his judgment upon legal evidence only.

7. In so far as the complaint of Mr. Badkar relating to the order of the 15th December 1976 is concerned, we are inclined to accept his contention that the question as framed is not admissible Under Section 146 of the Evidence Act and has not been shown in the Court below to be admissible under any other provisions of the Evidence Act. It is well settled that unless a piece of evidence is admissible under the Evidence Act no question eliciting that evidence can be put to a witness. The accused has relied upon the provision of Section 146 of the Evidence Act for the purpose of justifying the impugned question.

8. Section 146 of the Indian Evidence Act appears in the chapter entitled 'of the examination of witnesses' and permits certain questions to be put in the cross-examination of a witness. Sections 133 to 145 of the Evidence Act prescribe the order and the manner of the examination of witnesses. Those Sections also deal with the provisions relating to other questions such as when the leading questions should and should not be asked and questions as to the evidence of matters in writing, Section 146 says that when a witness is cross-examined, he may, in addition to the question referred to in the earlier Sections, also be asked questions which tend.

(1) to test his veracity,

(2) to discover who he is and what is his position in life, or

(3) to shake his credit, by injuring his character, although the answer to such questions might tend directly or indirectly to criminate him, or might expose or tend directly or indirectly to expose him to a penalty or forfeiture.

Clauses (1) and (2) are self-explanatory. Clause (3) of Section 146 permits question in the cross-examination to shake the credit of a witness and for this purpose his character may he injured. In other words, injuring the character of a witness for the purpose of shaking the credit of that witness can be the subject matter of the assault. The assault on the character of a witness permitted by Clause (3) of Section 146 must be directed only for the purpose of shaking the credit of the witness and not for any other purpose, In other words, if the cross-examination was intended to shake the credit of a witness it must naturally be to impugn the credibility of that witness in relation to the matter which is involved and relevant under one or the other provisions of the Evidence Act. It is not permissible to have recourse to Clause (3) of Section 146 to ask all sorts of questions which are not necessary to shake the credibility of that witness.

9. The three types of questions which are permitted Under Section 146 may be relevant under the other provisions of the Evidence Act or they may not be relevant though they are permitted to be asked Under Section 146. In case the question relates to a matter relevant to the suit or the proceeding the provisions of Section 132 shall apply to that question as provided Under Section 147. If, on the other hand, such questions relate to a matter not relevant to the suit or proceeding, powers have been given to Court to decide whether the witness Shall be compelled to answer and prescribe the limits and the manner in which that question can be asked and answer to that question be given. This is provided by Section 148 of the Evidence Act which however is not applicable if the question which is not relevant relates to the shaking of the credibility of the witness by injuring his character as provided in Clause (3) of Section 146. The question aimed at injuring the character of a witness must be only with the object of shaking his credit and therefore limitation on that question is contained in Clause (3) of Section 146 itself. That the permission given under Clause (3) of Section 146 of the Evidence Act cannot be allowed to degenerate into a licence for the purpose of shaking the character of a witness indiscriminately is fairly well-established. In S. Pillay v. G. S. T. Shaikh Thumby AIR 1940 Rang. 113 : 41 Cri LJ 790 the practice of asking questions indiscriminately by having recourse to the provisions of Section 146 has been rightly frowned upon. Mosley, J. has commented on a matter of which he regretted to find frequent recurrences in trial in Rangoon Magistrate's Court, The question in issue in that case was whether the trade-mark claimed by the complainant as his own belonged to him, and if so, whether the accused had committed the offences complained of. Possession of tins with a counterfeit trade-mark, or possession of dies of that trade-mark. The complainant was however subjected to a long cross-examination on matters entirely unconnected with the case as to profit and loss and as to stock-in-trade, as to account books and as to loans incurred by him. Even the Income-tax Officer was cited as a witness to give inadmissible evidence as to the complainant's account books. Mosley, J. proceeded to say :--...Section 146, Evidence Act, allows question in cross-examination to shake the credit of the witness by injuring his character. Section 148 of the Act lays down that where a question is only relevant to character, the Court should decide whether the question should be asked, and such questions are improper if the imputation which they convey is of such character that the truth of the imputation would not affect or would only slightly affect the opinion of the Court as to the credibility of the witness on the matter to which he testifies.

He commented that there was an impression prevalent that any witness may be asked any questions at any time as to whether he is a man of substance, and that if the accused can show that the complainant or other witness is in embarrassed circumstances, or is not a man of substance, that necessarily affects the credibility of the witness on any matter to which he deposes.

10. To the same effect are the following observations of the Privy Council in The Bombay Cotton Manufacturing Co., Limited v. Raja Bhadur Shivlal Motilal 17 Bom LR 455 : AIR 1915 PC 1

Cross-examination to credit is necessarily irrelevant to any issue in an action, its relevancy consists in being addressed to the credit or discredit of the witness in the box so as to show that his evidence for or against the relevant issue is untrustworthy ;

In R. B. Chari v. State : AIR1959All149 it has been held that Sections 145, 148 and 155 indicate that the credit of a witness can be said to have been shaken only if it can be shown that he is not a man of veracity, and not that he is of bad moral character. A black-marketer is not necessarily untruthful nor a non-black-marketer necessarily a man of veracity. There is therefore no reason for rejecting the evidence of a witness on the ground alone that he is a black-marketer.

It is not necessary to multiply the authorities but from what has been stated above and considering the clear terminology of Sections 146 to 148 it is clear that Clause (3) of Section 146 does not open the gates to unbridled cross-examination of a witness in order to assail his character except in so far as it is necessary to shake his credit in relation to the matter in issue. This proposition is now a matter of text-book knowledge. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen has been quoted in Sarkar on Evidence (on page 1318, 12th Edition) as follows :

I shall not believe, unless and until it is so decided upon solemn agreement, that by the law of England a person who is called to prove a minor fact not really disputed, in a case of little importance, thereby exposes himself to having every transaction in his past life, however private, inquired into by persons who may wish to serve the basest purposes of fraud or revenge by doing so, Suppose for instance, a medical man were to prove the fact that slight wound had been inflicted and been attended to by him would it be lawful under pretence of testing his credit, to compel him to answer upon oath a series of questions as to his private affairs extending over many years and tending to expose transactions of the most delicate and secret kind, in which the fortune and character of other persons might be involved? If this is the law, it should be altered.

11. Fortunately that is not the law of this land.

12. Considering the abovementioned legal position which according to us is the correct legal position, it is obvious that the question which has been put to the complainant and to which the objection was taken on his behalf by an application made on 4th November 1976 is the question which is clearly inadmissible Under Section 146 of the Evidence Act. The article edited by him in the magazine in its issue of January 1975 regarding Nehru family is totally irrelevant and is not covered by any of the clauses of Section 146. It is for example not to test his veracity nor is it to discover who he is and what is his position in life because it is well-known to everyone concerned that he is the editor of the magazine. This question is not intended to shake his credit by injuring his character because the question is not aimed at his character at all in relation to a matter in issue. The question is patently asked for the purpose of scandalizing and embarrassing the witness. Such a question is not allowed Under Section 146 of the Evidence Act and as already mentioned in the Court below it was not shown how this question was relevant under any other provisions of the Evidence Act.

13. Mr. Badkar avers that looking to the past trend of the cross-examination and looking to the past other pieces of inadmissible evidence already admitted it is possible that same type of questions will be asked and the process of the Court will be abused. As stated earlier we do not comment upon the evidence which has already been brought on record and the learned Magistrate at the time of giving the judgment will undoubtedly ignore inadmissible evidence which has been inadvertently brought on record. If the questions of the type which has been impugned in this case are allowed to be asked without there being warrant for the same by the provisions of the Evidence Act the process of the Court will undoubtedly be abused. Normally it is not advisable for the High Court to interfere with the discretion exercised by the trial Court. Mr. Badkar's grievance that the complainant has been subjected to gruelling cross-examination of eight hours may or may not be valid. It is not possible for a court to impose an embargo on the time that can be taken for the cross-examination. Ultimately the extent and the manner of cross-examination will depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case and the issues involved in it as pointed out by this Court in Yeshpal Jashbhai Parikh v. Rasiklal Umedchand Parikh : AIR1955Bom318 , as follows--

As a general rule, the Court would not be justified in imposing a time limit upon the cross-examination of a witness. But the Court may, in the course of a 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 power to control the cross-examination of a witness by counsel of the opposite party. Such power should be exercised in a reasonable way.

It is therefore clear that the trial Court at no stage of the proceeding should lose control over the same and should see that the cross-examination does not go on in a rambling way or extend to questions impermissible under the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act. Subject to these qualifications the powers of a trial Court are wide and indeed they should be. We are sure that the learned trial Magistrate will bear in mind the observations made by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen quoted by us above and will not allow the cross-examination which is not permissible Under Section 146 or any other provisions of the Indian Evidence Act. To allow the accused to cross-examine the complainant merely because the complainant has chosen the arena of the Magistrate's Court and to assail his character not for the purposes covered by the provisions of the Evidence Act but for some other purposes such as embarrassing him and to ask such other further questions which are not relevant but which will only embarrass and expose him to other proceedings will amount to an abuse of the process of the Court.

14. Mr. Rane appearing for the Respondent-accused contended that it is possible for him to support the admissibility of the impugned question on grounds other than those mentioned in Section 146 of the Evidence Act, As we have already mentioned it is for the learned trial Magistrate to consider the admissibility of a question and this particular question having been allowed by him on the grounds mentioned in Section 146, it is not proper for us to examine the controversy which Mr. Rane now seeks to raise. Mr. Rane is however free to persuade the learned Magistrate to consider whether this question or any other questions which he may choose to ask later are permissible under One or the other provisions of the Evidence Act. He may, for example, show that certain questions are relevant for the purpose of his defence.

15. Mr. Rane further took objection to our interfering with the impugned order in the exercise of our jurisdiction Under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code on the ground that the impugned order being an interlocutory order and not being amenable to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court should not be interfered with in the exercise of our power Under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. He contended that since interference with an interlocutory order is barred by other provision of the Code (Section 397 of the Criminal Procedure Code), the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court should not be exercised towards that end. This submission of Mr. Rane ignores the basic issue involved in the proceedings i. e. that the Respondent-accused is abusing the process of the Court by asking questions not permissible under the law. We are exercising the jurisdiction of the High Court not for the purpose of merely setting aside what Mr. Rane has characterised as an interlocutory order but for the purpose of preventing the abuse of the process of the Court. This power which was in the High Court under the old Criminal Procedure Code continues to vest in the High Court Under Section 482 of the present Criminal Procedure Code despite the provisions contained in Section 397 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The scope of Section 397 is totally different from the scope of inherent power invested in the High Court Under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. We are rejecting the objection raised by Mr. Rane as to the maintainability of this Petition. We are therefore setting aside the order dated 15th Dec. 1976 passed by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate. 33rd Court. Ballard Pier, Bombay, in Criminal Case No. 47/s, of 1976 holding that the impugned question mentioned in that order is permissible Under Section 146 of the Indian Evidence Act. We further direct that the questions in the cross-examination shall be permitted keeping in mind the position in law as set out by us in this judgment and by bearing in mind the other relevant provisions referred to by us.

16. Rule made absolute.


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