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K.C. Sonrexa Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Misc. Appln. No. 124 of 1961
Reported inAIR1963All33; 1963CriLJ38
ActsCode of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) , 1898 - Sections 198B and 561A; Evidence Act, 1872 - Sections 126; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) - Sections 80; Indian Penal Code (IPC) - Sections 499 and 500
AppellantK.C. Sonrexa
RespondentState of Uttar Pradesh and ors.
Appellant AdvocateV.P. Misra, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateH.K. Ghose, ;Saraswati Prasad, ;R.K. Rai, ;B.C. Saxena, ;L. Chandra and ;S.B. Chaudhary, Advs. for Opposite Party No. 3 and ;Addl. Govt. Adv. for Opposite Parties 1 and 2
DispositionApplication dismissed
criminal - interpretation of statutes - section 561a of criminal procedure code, 1898 - section 126 of evidence act, 1872 - inherent power of high court - whether immunity can be granted for privileged communication between a client and lawyer - immunity from disclosure made to counsel not absolute but limited in its scope by evidence act - right given to a client of lawyer is restricted in its scope of defending his case and nothing else - not a privileged communication and no bar on counsel to make disclosure. - cantonments act[c.a. no. 41/2006]. section 346 & cantonment fund (servants rules, 1937, rules 13, 14 & 15: [h.l. gokhale, ag. cj, p.v. hardas, naresh h. patil, r.m. borde & r.m. savant, jj] jurisdiction of school tribunal constituted under maharashtra employees of private.....ordera.n. mulla, j.1. this is an application under section 561-a criminal procedure code praying that the prosecution of the petitioner sri k. c. sonrexa under section 500 indian penal code be dropped and the proceeding be quashed under section 561-a criminal procedure code.2. the brief facts of the case are as follows : sri k. c. sonrexa who was an employee of the uttar pradesh state was found guilty of misconduct by a tribunal specially appointed to en-quire into his case and on the findings of the tribunal the uttar pradesh state terminated his services. sri sonrexa was aggrieved by this dismissal as according to him it was illegal and he sent a notice under section 80 civil procedure code through a counsel sri h. c. saksena. according to the prosecution the said notice contained.....

A.N. Mulla, J.

1. This is an application under Section 561-A Criminal Procedure Code praying that the prosecution of the petitioner Sri K. C. Sonrexa under Section 500 Indian Penal Code be dropped and the proceeding be quashed under Section 561-A Criminal Procedure Code.

2. The brief facts of the case are as follows : Sri K. C. Sonrexa who was an employee of the Uttar Pradesh State was found guilty of misconduct by a Tribunal specially appointed to en-quire into his case and on the findings of the Tribunal the Uttar Pradesh State terminated his services. Sri Sonrexa was aggrieved by this dismissal as according to him it was illegal and he sent a notice under Section 80 Civil Procedure Code through a counsel Sri H. C. Saksena. According to the prosecution the said notice contained highly defamatory aspersions against the members of the Tribunal and so the Public Prosecutor, Lucknow, filed a complaint under Section 500 Indian Penal Code read with Section 198-B Criminal Procedure Code both against Sri Sonrexa and Sri H. C. Saksena.

The said notice was not signed by Sri Sonrexa and his contention is that he cannot be held liable for any defamatory aspersions if they exist in the notice and his lawyer alone was responsible for its contents. According to his contention his prosecution is absolutely illegal for there is no evidence to connect him with this crime and in view of Section 126 Evidence Act Sri H. C. Saksena cannot be permitted to disclose the instructions given by him to his lawyer. It appears that the defence of Sri H. C. Saksena is that he acted only on the instructions of Sri Sonrexa and the alleged defamatory imputations were made at the instance of Sri Sonrexa whom he believed and trusted. In other words he pleads good faith under exception 9 to Section 499 Indian Penal Code. Sri Sonrexa does hot want this plea to be advanced by Sri H. C. Saksena as it would prejudice his case and also because in his opinion this plea is not open to him under the law. He has, therefore, come up to the High Court with this petition.

3. The inherent powers of the High Court under Section 561-A Criminal Procedure Code are very wide but on account of this very reason they are to be applied in a very careful manner. Every time those special powers are used it amounts to a disturbance of the normal procedure of law and frequent use of such powers is bound to create a feeling that the normal procedure is not sufficient to maintain the rule of law. An extraordinary power should be used only in an extraordinary case. Section 561-A is not an instrument handed over to accused persons to short-circuit a prosecution and bring about its sudden death, whenever their counsel feel that the prosecution is not likely to succeed. The High Court should normally refrain from giving a premature decision in a case whose picture is extremely incomplete and hazy as the evidence has not been produced and the issues involved whether factual or legal cannot be seen in their true perspective. There are, several decisions in which I have already given my views as to when these powers should be used under this provision of law. It is, therefore, not necessary for me to cover the same grounds again. It is only where the High Court is satisfied that it amounts to an abuse of a process of law or that it amounts to a persecution of an accused person or that there is no reasonable possibility of the prosecution succeeding in the case or some similar reason that relief is granted under Section 561-A Criminal Procedure Code.

4. Sri V. P. Misra, appeared on behalf of the petitioner and I have heard him at length. He drew my attention to the various passages whichhave been made the subject-matter of the proceedings against the applicant under Section 500 Indian Penal Code. A mere perusal of these statements is sufficient to indicate that imputations were made against the members of the Tribunal to the effect that they acted in an absolutely unjudicial manner, that they colluded with the prosecuting agency, that they even tampered with the record to suit the prosecution and they did all that was within their powers to help the prosecution distort the facts and throttle the defence. It is not for me to express any opinion at this stage whether these imputations were made at the instructions of the applicant or far beyond his instructious by his lawyer who alone was responsible for making them. I am satisfied that whoever made these allegations took a dip in the dictionary to find out all the choicest invectives and he used a completely unrestrained and intemperate language to express what he wanted to say. As I have to see whether these imputations amount to defamatory statement or not I feel no hesitation in observing that these imputations are clearly defamatory unless they are protected by some exception contained in Section 499 Indian Penal Code.

5. Before me no such exception was pleaded, but the counsel relied mainly on Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act. I carefully read the words of Section 126 of the Act and also saw through its provisos and the illustrations given in that section. The counsel contended that even if for argument's sake it is accepted that the imputations contained in the notice were made by his client or at his instructions they were privileged communications to his lawyer and they are not admissible in evidence on a correct interpretation of Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act. His contention is that it was a communication made by the applicant to his lawyer to fulfil the legal obligation of issuing a notice under Section 80 Civil Procedure Code and, therefore, it must be deemed to be protected within the meaning of Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act. I cannot accept this interpretation. In my opinion the purpose of Section 126 of the Act has been made clear and is manifest by the illustrations mentioned in the Section itself.

6. I was not inclined to say anything more at this stage but the counsel insisted that I should give my interpretation of Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act. He also cited the case Sakhi Gope v. Uchit Rai, AIR 1948 Pat 56 and wanted that I should accept the rule of law laid down in this decision. He drew my attention to the following two extracts at page 58, Meredith, J., observed : -

'Lastly, the petitioners would not, in any event, be liable, and if any one were liable for defamation it would be the lawyer. I have been referred to the notes in Ratanlal's Penal Code for a Madras case, Palaniappa Chettiar v. Emperor, 1935 Mad WN 460 which according to the learned commentator, laid down that where the accused was charged with defamation because his vakil put a defamatory question to the complainant and the vakil gave evidence that he did so on the instruction of his client, the accused, the instructions of the accused to his vakil were inadmissible under Section 126, Evidence Act and the accused was not guilty of defamation committed as it were by proxy through the mouth of his vakil'.

A few lines ahead the learned Judge again observed :-

'I have said that it is not possible to assume that the questions were put upon definite instructions. It would have to be proved, and having regard to Section 126 it could not possibly be proved, unless with the client's express consent which in the circumstances he would hardly be likely to accord. It follows from this that no one could ever be prosecuted for defamation in regard to any instructions which he might have given to his lawyer. It is the lawyer's business to decide whether he could properly act upon the instructions, and whatever responsibility might ensue from acting upon those instructions would be his and no one else's.'

Earlier at page 57 the learned Judge when considering the liability of a lawyer when prosecuted in such a case had observed :-

'The decision in Satish Chandra v. Ram Dayal, ILR 48 Cal 388 : (AIR 1921 Cal 1) (SB) has been followed by a Division Bench of this Court in Nirzu Narayan Sinha v. Emperor, ILR 6 Pat 224 : (AIR 1926 Pat 499), where it was laid down that the liability' of an advocate charged with defamation in respect of words spoken or written in the performance of his professional duty depends on the provisions of Section 499, Penal Code, and the Court will presume good faith, unless there is cogent proof to the contrary. The privilege is not absolute, but qualified. The common law of England under which an advocate can claim an absolute privilege for words uttered in the course of his professional duty is not applicable to India.'

7. With all respect to the learned Judge, I have not been able to agree with the line of reasoning contained in the first two extracts though the rule of presumption laid down in the third extract is acceptable to me. A decision of our own High Court is on the same lines. Sapru, J., observed in Gendan Lal v. Rex : AIR1948All409

'The position appears to be that the immunity which an advocate or a pleader enjoys in a criminal proceeding for words uttered or written in the performance of his functions as an advocate is not in the nature of an absolute but of a qualified privilege and it is for the prosecution to prove absence of good faith.'

But before giving my reasons for disagreement I will cite the contrary view expressed in Ayesha Bi v. Peerkhan Sahib : AIR1954Mad741 . After exhaustively dealing with the questions which included a consideration of the Patna decision and the Madras case on which this decision was largely based Ramaswami, J., disagreed with the view contained in these decisions and observed :-

'This rule (Section 126 Indian Evidence Act) however covers only the private and confidential communications between the client and the lawyer and which cannot be disclosed either by means of direct question or elicited by means of indirect tactics. It does not however preclude the lawyer from replying to the opposite party who wants toproceed against him for stating that what all be did was in pursuance of the instructions given to him and not on his own volition. The rule under Section 126 Evidence Act does not require that a lawyer should vicariously make himself responsible for an offence which he never committed and in any event he will not be advancing his client's cause by remaining mute since in that case it is a fair inference to draw that what he did was either in violation or in excess of the instructions given to him or that he and the client conspired to defame the complainant and in which event both the lawyer and the client would find themselves in the dock ranged as co-accused.'

It is thus apparent that the Patna decision is not the only decision on the point and it has not been followed in later decisions. The weight of legal authority is against it. 'I am in entire agreement with the view expressed by Ramaswami, J. The Patna view is not acceptable to me not only because it is against the weight of legal authority but it is also in my opinion against the cardinal and fundamental principles of Criminal law, against the basic rights of an accused according to natural justice and also against a correct interpretation of the words of Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act.

8. I will now take up those points one by one.

9. It is one of the axioms of Criminal law that there is no crime which cannot be punished and there is a remedy for every wrong. Unless this basic principle is accepted the rule of law cannot be enforced. It is true that when the legislature enacts a statute sometimes the words of the statute do not seem to cover a particular situation and provide relief for a particular type of wrong which is brought to the notice of courts by aggrieved persons. In such cases two situations arise (1), that the words of the statute are incapable of being interpreted in a manner which would make them applicable to the case before the Court, unless unreasonable violence is done to its language and (2) that such an interpretation of the statuts is reasonably possible. Unless the second alternative is completely ruled out the courts of law on the correct rule of interpretation cannot accept the first situation for the theory of a lacuna existing in the law is highly repugnant to the administration of justice. A court will reluctantly come to this conclusion only when it is compelled to do so. If the Patna view is accepted then many cases would arise where the wrongdoers would escape punishment for though they have committed a crime evidence cannot be led against them to prove it.

The learned Judge was conscious of this position for he had observed that no one could ever be prosecuted for defamation in regard to any instruction which he might have given to his lawyer. He was ready to accept the helplessness of law to deal with those cases where a client may maliciouly give false instructions to his counsel who believing the spurious facts or evidence placed before him may act in good faith on his behalf and to-corporate the defamatory matter in a notice sent by him. I have very hesitatingly given the above illustration lest it should be misunderstood by the trial court and it may erroneously take it as asort of guidance that this is exactly what happened in this case. I want to make it perfectly clear that the illustration is hypothetical and was given only to make a point. It may be that the lawyer overstepped the instructions when he made these imputations in the notice. I express no opinion on the point and it would be for the trial court to determine on the evidence placed before it whether both of them are responsible for the defamatory imputations or only one of them or none of them can be legally held responsible for them. My only purpose in giving the illustration was that according to the Patna view there is a 'lacuna' in the law. The existence of this 'lacuna' is not acceptable to me both on the principle which i have enunciated above and also on the words of Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act which in my opinion are clearly against this view but I will come to this point later.

10. The Patna view is also in conflict with the basic principle of natural justice. The whole structure of criminal law is based on the principle that an accused has the right to defend himself against the charge levelled against him. As observed by Justice William C. Douglas in his book 'We the Judges' at page 30 :-

'' Legal history shows I think that man's struggle to be free is in large degree a struggle to be free of oppressive procedure -- the right to be free from torture, the right to know the charge and to have a fair opportunity to defend, the right to have a system of laws that is not a pitfall for the innocent.'

When a lawyer is prosecuted along with his client for making defamatory imputations against the complainant when he was functioning as an advocate fox his client one of the defences open to him under the criminal law is that he acted in good faith as he was duped by his client and that his conduct is covered by exception 9 to Section 499 Indian Penal Code, since he had no malice against the complainant. This defence may be good of had, maintainable or non-maintainable, complete or partial but no one can dispute that this is a defence under the criminal law. Can the lawyer be deprived of his right to defend himself under the provisions of any law? Even if it is admitted for argument's sake that there is any such provision in any general law, can it override the basic right of natural justice?

11. It is a well known rule applicable to the interpretation of statutes that if there is a conflict between a basic natural right even though not specifically mentioned in the rights guaranteed under the Constitution and the provisions of any general or special law, it is the basic right of natural justice which would prevail and such provisions being in conflict with it must be held to he inapplicable. This does not mean that I am admitting that there is any such conflict between Section 126 Evidence Act and anv fundamental right of natural iustice. As a matter of fact they are not only reconcilable but perfectly in accord with each other. But even if they had been irreconcilable the basic right of an denied to defend himself must be held to override any immunity or protection given to the client under the Evidence Act.

The theory of sacrificing an accused for a co-accused by putting a seal on his lips and by not permitting him to defend himself is not only unknown to criminal law but is also basically against all Equity, Morality, Conscience and Justice. Even in civil disputes where there is a clash of interest between the client and his lawyer, the communication made by a client to his lawyer ceases to be a privileged communication and the lawyer can disclose it, for on the principles of Equity and Justice the interests of one party cannot be placed on a higher footing than the interests of the other party to the dispute. In Sarkar on Evidence (10th Edition) at page 1091 under the commentary on Section 126 Evidence Act the following extract is noted :

'It has frequently been held that the rule as to privileged communications of attorneys does not apply when litigation arises between attorney and client and when their communications are relevant to the issue (Naive v. Baird, 12 Ind. 318.)'

The clash of interest is far more acute in a Criminal prosecution than in a civil depute and, therefore, the lawyer cannot be stopped from defending himself by a client pleading absolute immunity from disclosure of the communications made to his lawyer on the ground that it will hurt him and it is inadmissible in evidence.

12. It would also be against public interests to hold that absolute immunity from disclosure should be guaranteed to such communications. The accused's interests are no doubt to be protected but certainly not in a manner which spells danger for the community. Where such a conflict arises the individual's rights must become a secondary consideration and priority must be given to the public welfare. In such a case the public obligation which a lawyer has to fulfil as a citizen must dispense with the private obligation to his client. In Gartside v. Outram, (1856) 26 LJ Ch 113 at p. 115 Wood V. C. observed :

'I shall first beg leave to consider whether an attorney may be examined as to any matter which came to his knowledge as an attorney. It he is employed as an attorney in any unlawful or wicked act, his duty to the public obliges him to disclose it; no private obligations can dispense with that universal one which lies on every member of the society to discover every design which may be formed, contrary to the laws of the society, to destory the public welfare.'

13. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the immunity from disclosure which can be claimed by a client in respect of a communication made to his lawyer is not absolute but limited in its scope and Section 126 Evidence Act prescribes these limits.

14. I now come to Section 126 Evidence Act. The relevant part runs as follows :

'No barrister, attorney, pleader or vakil shall at any time be permitted, unless with his client's express consent, to disclose any communication made to him in the course and for the purpose of his employment as such barrister, pleader, attorney or vakil by or on behalf of his client .....

Provided that nothing in this Section shall protect from disclosure-

(i) any such communication made in furtherance of any illegal purpose;

........................ '

15. This rule of law is based on the principle that in the interests of justice it is necessary that no one who comes to seek redress or relief before the Tribunals of Justice should be handicapped in any way in placing his case at its best either before the civil or criminal courts by seeking the advice of trained lawyers. Human experience tells us that to present a case at its best the lawyer should know the whole truth and not only a part of truth. The saying that you should not conceal anything from your doctor or lawyer is based on this experience, for only by reposing this confidence the best results can be achieved. At the same time it is human nature that one hesitates to disclose facts against one's own interests unless he is assured that his admission of such facts cannot be used against him. It was to remove this hesitation from the mind of the client that this rule of law was enacted. The client was to be given the fullest opportunity and latitude to make the best of his case. But it was inherent in the very nature of the right given to the client that it was restricted in its operation to the purpose of defending him or presenting his case and its protection extended no further.

16. In its application to criminal law the disclosure made by an accused to his lawyer may be described as an extra judicial confession or admission of an incriminating fact. Such extra judicial confessions or admission when made to other persons are admissible in evidence unless they fall under the prohibitory provisions of Sections 24 and 25 of the Evidence Act. There is a fiduciary relationship between the lawyer and his client, and before a court he may be deemed to be the client himself for he is the client's eye, ears and tongue. An extra judicial confession made by a client to a lawyer stands almost on the footing as if a client has made a confession to himself. The interests of justice require this unity of identity between the lawyer and his client and so a lawyer is precluded from making a disclosure of the communication made to him by his client.

17. But this rule of law is for very good reasons restricted in its scope by the two Provisos contained in the Section itself. No communication made to further any illegal purpose is protected. While an accused has been given the right to defend himself and any communication made by him for this purpose is protected he cannot be permitted to defend himself by committing a fresh breach of law, a further wrong and then plead the protection of Section 126 for the furtherance of this illegal purpose. If he does so the lips of the lawyer cannot be sealed. Section 126 provides shield to the accused but does not arm him was a dangerous weapon to be used from behind this shield. It cannot be the duty of a lawyer to advise his client how to commit a breach of the law or evade the law or commit a fresh crime in order to defend him against the charge of a crime which he has already committed. Such conduct would be fully covered by the first proviso as itwould be clearly in furtherance of an illegal purpose.

Similarly where a client in order to strengthen a civil claim instructs his lawyer to commit a breach of the law, a wrong, or a crime, such instructions having been given in furtherance of an illegal purpose are not privileged and the lawyer cannot be stopped from making a disclosure of such a communication. Coming to the facts of this case the first question which the trial court will be called upon to decide would be whether the defematory imputations contained in the notice were necessary or justifiable for the purpose of the civil suit filed by Sri Sonrexa. If it comes to the conclusion that there was no justification for making these imputations, the case would fall under Proviso (i) of Section 126 of the Evidence Act and not under the general rule of this section. It would not be a privileged communication and there would be no bar to the lawyer making 9 disclosure.

18. I may now give what in my opinion iathe test for determining whether a communication is privileged or not. It is the question of time when a client seeks the advice of his lawyer which is of paramount importance. When the client goes to the lawyer after the crime is completed and then makes a disclosure he can draw upon the provisions of Section 126 to protect himself. In the case of these crimes which are not committed up to that time or which are not completed, or which are yet to be committed or which are jointly committed by the client and his lawyer subsequently, Section 126 offers no protection for Proviso (i) negatives the general rule. Illustration (b) incorporated in the Section makes this position very clear. It runs as follows :

'A a client says to B (an attorney)-- 'I wish to obtain possession of property by the use of a forged deed on which I request you to sue.' The communication being made in furtherance of a criminal purpose is not protected from disclosure.'

19. In this illustration the crime was notcommitted when the client approached the lawyer. but it was to be committed later. I cannot accept the contention of the counsel for the applicant that the general rule must prevail in spite of Proviso (i) and the illustration cited above. Illustrations are deliberately introduced in certain enactments by the legislature to guide the courts in interpreting the words of the statute and they are almost on the same level as the words of the statute. It is impossible for me to imagine that the statute can be interpreted in conflict with the illustration given in the statute itself. If Sri Sonrexa had approached another lawyer for advice or his defence after the notice was given by him and made any disclosure to him this communication would have been a privileged communication and Section 126 Evidence Act would have been a bat to the second lawyer from making any disclosures-But the first lawyer cannot be stopped from making a disclosure and plead in his own defence that he acted in good faith under instructions. Pointing out this distinction Stephen J. observed in R. v. Cox and Railton, (1884) 14 Q.B.D. 153 atp. 175 :

' each particular case the Court must determine upon the facts actually given in evidence or proposed to be given in evidence, whether it seems probable that the accused person may have consulted his legal adviser, not after the commission of the crime for the legitimate purpose of being defended, but before the commission of the crime for the purpose of being guided 01 helped in committing it.'

The contrary view expressed in Doe d. Shellard v. Harris, (1833) 5 C and P 592 was overruled by this decision.

20. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the privilege can be claimed only by those clients who have already completed the crime and seek legal advice for defence but it is not open to those who commit subsequent crimes which, may be described as future wrong-doing. Whether the lawyer exceeded the commission or was a conspirator or was ignorant of 'the illegal purpose and became a dupe of the client will make no difference and in such a case Proviso (i) would apply. I think that it would not only be against the interests of justice but also against the clear directive of the law if Sri H. C. Saksena's lips are sealed and he is not permitted to defend himself by raising a plea which may be true or not but which is certainly open to him.

21. I am, therefore, of opinion that Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act does not help the applicant and the prosecution against him cannot be stopped at this stage.

22. Nothing else was urged before me.

23. In my opinion it would be too premature at this stage to hold that the proceedingspending against the applicant are illegal or without any justification or that there is no likelihoodof his being convicted. I, therefore, dismiss thisapplication. The order staying the proceedings isvacated.

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