1. One Veerannagowda applied to the Stationary Sub-Magistrate, Bellary, for a copy of the judgment in C.C. No. 1882/54. The applicant described himself as a third party apparently meaning thereby that he was not a party to the proceedings in the criminal case. This application was supported by an affidavit in which also the applicant stated that he was a third party and added that the copy was required for production in the District Court. The learned Magistrate rejected the copy application. The material part of his order runs as follows:
'Section 548, Criminal Procedure Code, lays down that a person affected by a judgment of a Criminal Court is entitled for a copy of the judgment. In this case the applicant is neither a party nor was a witness -- His affidavit ................that ho is a party is false. The purpose for which copy is applied for is not stated. Lastly, the applicant has not shown how he is affected. Hence application is rejected.'
Against this order, the applicant preferred a revision petition before the District Magistrate, Bellary. The latter, after obtaining the remarks of the Stationary Sub-Magistrate, has made the reference.
2. In the course of the reference the learned District Magistrate observes that judgments of criminal courts are required by law to be delivered in open Court to which the public have a right of access, that if any member of the public can sit in Court while the judgment was delivered and hear it there is no reason why ho should not be entitled to take a copy of it.
Ho then refers to the decisions of the Bombay High Court and the ruling of the Allahabad High Court and indicates that in his view the ruling of the Allahabad High Court holding that every judgment of a Court lays down law to some extent or other and that every person belonging to the public is in some way or other affected by every judgment and that, therefore, he is entitled to it copy, indicates the correct position.
3. The applicant has not appeared and the learned Government Pleader who appeared on behalf of the Advocate General has supported the reference. The matter is undoubtedly one of importance, The judgment of a Court of law is a public document as defined in Section 74 of the Evidence Act. Under Section 76 of that Act any person who has a right to inspect a public document can obtain a copy as a matter of right. But the Evidence Act itself does not indicate who has a right of inspection. Such right may be inherent or governed by other statutory provisions-
Section 548 of the Code of Criminal Procedure enables any person affected by a judgment or order passed by a Criminal Court to obtain a copy of the Judge's charge to the Jury or of any order or deposition or other part of the record. The question in regard to the grant of a copy of a judgment to a person who was not a party to the proceedings came up for consideration in the case reported in Ladli Prasad v Emperor, AIR 1931 All 364, in which Young J., observed: 'As a matter of principle I am of opinion that the proceedings in, and specially the judgments of His Majesty's Courts ought to be accessible to the public, and unless by any statutory provision or by the rulings of any Court I am bound to the contrary, I would hold that it is the essenceof the administration of justice that judgments affecting the rights, and more particularly the liberties, of the people should be made as public as possible, in order that the public at large might at leisure consider those judgments, either in their own interests or in the interests, in a criminal cause, of the condemned person; for it is only by such publicity that the public can be satisfied that the law is being properly administered by those responsible for its administration, and that abuses in the administration, which might occur if the fullest publicity was not given to the proceedings in a Court, may be avoided.'
This view has been endorsed in ILR (1956) Trav-C. 1303: (AIR 1957 Trav. Co. 31), but dissented from in a decision of the Bombay High Court reported in In re, Pandurao Bhailal Desai, 34 Cri LJ 141: (AIR 1932 Bom 636). In that case, the Secretary of the Lawyers' Association applied for certified copies of depositions and the statement of the accused in a criminal case on the ground that the applicant wanted to apply in revision as a third party. The Magistrate refused the application on the ground that the applicant was not a person affected by the order. The Allahabad decision was relied upon by the applicant's Advocate-Beaumont C.J., declined to follow the decision stating that to hold that any member of the public is a person affected by the judgment of a Criminal Court would give no meaning at all to the words 'affected by a judgment or order', in Section 548 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The matter is not free from difficulty. It may, however, be noticed that the copies applied for in the Bombay case were copies of the depositions and of the accused's statements and not a copy of any judgment.
The Allahabad case related to the application for a copy of the judgment. Though the view of that Court was expressly dissented from in the Bombay case, the real character of a judgment pronounced by a Court of law and whether such a record was one which affected the public at large as distinguished from other parts of the record of the proceedings was not considered by the Bombay High Court.
It may also be added that Section 548 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, while it makes it obligatory on the part of the Court to grant copies to any person affected by a judgment or order, does not necessarily imply that there is no right for a copy outside the provisions of that section. There are indications in some reported decisions that the right to the copies of public documents may be in the nature of an inherent right or a common law right, vide Chundy Churn Dhur v. Boistab Chum Dhur, 8 Cal WN 125, in which after referring to Queen-Empress v. Arumugam, ILR 20 Mad 189 and Mutter v. Eastern and Midlands Rly. Co., (1888) 38 Ch D 92, Henderson J., proceeds.
'As I have said, there can be no doubt that the plaintiff is personally interested in the public document in question and it would seem therefore that in the absence of a right conferred by Statute, he has common law right to inspect it.' Similarly we find in Papaiya v. Govt. of Mysore, 84 Mys HCR 83: 'Owing to expediency the general inherent right, if any at all, is necessarily curtailed by the personal interest of the person in the document, and unless the right of inspection is conferred by any special statute it has to be determined with due regard to the interest of the person seekingthe inspection ................. which is the ruleof English common law and which in the absence of specific and clear provisions may also be taken here for guidance as being proper and convenient.'
4. It is no doubt true that the common law-right or the inherent right is limited by a consideration of the interest the applicant has in the document of which he wants a copy. Such interest will necessarily vary with the nature of the document. The question, therefore, is whether in the very nature of things the judgment of a Court of law is not a document in which every member of the public is prima facie interested.
It appears to me that, for the reasons mentioned by Young J., in the Allahabad High Court case, a judgment of a Court of law as distinguished from other parts of the record is an act in which every member of the public is prima facie interested and unless there is some specific reason to the contrary there can be no reason to refuse a copy of a judgment.
5. In the light of what is mentioned above Idirect that the copy applied for be given to theapplicant.
6. Order accordingly.