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Shahdara (Delhi)-saharanpur Light Railway Co. Ltd. Etc. Vs. the District Magistrate, Meerut and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Writ Nos. 10008 and 12057 of 1975
Judge
Reported inAIR1977All304
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 77, 166, 256 and 257(3); Authentication (Orders and other Instruments) Rules, 1968 - Rule 2; Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) - Sections 134 and 144
AppellantShahdara (Delhi)-saharanpur Light Railway Co. Ltd. Etc.
RespondentThe District Magistrate, Meerut and ors.
Appellant AdvocateS.D. Agrawal and ;Jagdish Swarup, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateBashir Ahmad and ;R.K. Jain, Advs. and ;Lalji Sinha, Standing Counsel
DispositionPetitions allowed
Excerpt:
.....rules,1968 - direction of chief engineer to magistrate - held, not a direction in pursuance of the executive powers of the union as vested in articles 77 and 257 of the constitution of india. - - track are being cut by certain persons he considered it necessary to order that no person shall 'fell such trees standing on the aforesaid land which come under the limit of district meerut''by order dated 7-8-1975 the same authority, after a detailed discussion of the circumstances ordered that the 'order dated 11-7-1975 shall continue to operate with the slight modification''that it shall apply to fruit bearing and other trees as well. firstly, that the impugned orders were not passed under any law and were accordingly bad. the contention seems to be well founded. even in a case of dispute..........existence in order to support an executive action of the state orunion. the powers of the state or union executive extend to matters upon which the state legislature or the parliament is competent to legislate. however in state of m. p. v. thakur bharat singh, and bennett coleman & co. ltd. (supra) it was held that 'every act done by the government or by its officers must if it is to operate to the prejudice of any person be supported by some legislative authority. 6. in this connection it may be pointed out that in lists i and ii of the viith schedule of the constitution there is a difference between the fields of legislation and the power of executive action. while list i contains a residuary entry in item no. 97, list ii contains no such entry with the result that while the union can.....
Judgment:

Gopi Nath, J.

1. These two writ petitions are directed against the orders of the respondents Nos. 1 to 3 dated 11-7-1975, 31-7-1976 and 7-8-1975. By these orders M/s. Sheikh Saeed Ahmad and Co., the petitioners in Civil Misc. Writ No. 12057 of 1976, has been restrained from cutting and removing certain trees standing on the land by the side of the railway track from Sahadra to Saharanpur. The orders dated 11-7-1975 and 7-8-1975 were passed by the Additional District Magistrate, Meerut and are annexures 8 and 9 to the writ petitions, while order dated 31-7-1975 was passed by the District Magistrate Saharanpur and is annexure 11 to the petitions. The petitioners have prayed for the quashing of these orders.

2. The petitioner in Writ Petition No. 10008 cf 1975 claims to be the owner of the trees in dispute having planted them on the land which was settled with them under an agreement with the Government of India for running a light Rly. from Sahadra to Saharanpur. They sold these trees to M/s. Sheikh Saeed Ahmad and Co., Saharanpur who are the petitioners in Writ Petition No. 12057 of 1975, Thus the petitioners in both the petitions claim to be the owners of the trees. The S.S. Light Railway Co. operated the light railway for some time but stopped it thereafter. The Northern Railway has now laid out a plan for the running of a broad gauge Rly. from Sahadra to Saharanpur. It. accordingly, made a request to the District Magistrates of various districts through which the railway passed to restrain M/s. Sheikh Saeed Ah-mad and Co. Saharanpur from cutting the trees as they were needed for oro-per landscape and soil conservation of the area. The impugned orders were passed by the respective District Magistrates restraining the felling of the trees standing on the land adjacent to the railway track. The order dated 11-7-1975 said that since it had come to the notice of the District Magistrate, Meerut. that certain fruit bearing trees standing on the land acquired for the Central Government (Railway Department) on Shahadra-Saharanpur old S.S. Light Rly. track are being cut by certain persons he considered it necessary to order that no person shall 'fell such trees standing on the aforesaid land which come under the limit of District Meerut''. By order dated 7-8-1975 the same authority, after a detailed discussion of the circumstances ordered that the 'order dated 11-7-1975 shall continue to operate with the slight modification'' that it shall apply to fruit bearing and other trees as well. Copy of this order was sent to the Additional District Magistrate (E), Meerut for implementation. The District Magistrate, Saharanpur also issued similar orders and the one dated 31-7-1975 was a direction issued to the Tahsildar that no trees standing on the land of the Railway Track shall be allowed to be felled within the limits of that district. Since the petitioners claimed to be the owners of the trees they were aggrieved by these orders and have challenged them by means of these writ petitions.

3. The circumstances leading up tothis dispute were as follows:

An agreement dated 11-10-1905 was entered into between the Government of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and the Firm of Martin & Co. Under this agreement the Martin & Co. was given a right to construct and work what was subsequently known as Sahadara-Saharanpur Light Railway. Under one of the terms of the agreement the Government had agreed to provide free of charge sufficient land for the purposes of laying a railway track for operating a Light Railway. S.S. Light Rly. Co. started the railway and operated it for sometime. The land on which the Railway was operated was a part of United Provinces but later it was included in the Province of Delhi. The S.S. Light Railway Co. went into voluntary liquidation. During the time S.S. Light Rly. was operating between Sahadara and Saharanpur, numberof trees had come into existence on either side of the Railway track and according to S.S. Light Rly. Co. by their plantation. On liquidation, the Company sold the rails and the trees to M/s. Sheikh Saeed Ahmad and Co. They wanted to remove the rails as also the trees but the authorities of the State Government stopped them from doing so. Two writ petitions were filed in this Court, being Writ Petitions Nos. 1676 of 1973 and 1778 of 1973. Writ Petition No. 1676 of 1973 was filed by S.S. Light Railway Co. praying that the orders by which its purchasers were restrained from removing the properties sold, be quashed. M/s. Sheikh Saeed Ahmad and Co. by means of Writ Petition No. 1778 of 1973 prayed for a direction to the State Government restraining them from interfering with their right of cutting and removing the trees purchased. These writ petitions were grounded on the footing that the State Government had no concern with either the land or the properties purchased by M/s. Sheikh Sayeed Ahmad and Co. from S.S. Light Railway Co. and hence the State Government had no right to interfere with the purchasers right of enjoyment of the properties. It was held in those writ petitions that the land on which the track was laid and over which the trees stood vested in the Union Government and not in the State Government, hence the State had no right to issue directions in respect of them. The writ petitions were, accordingly, allowed. On special leave the order was affirmed. The Bench also held that the State Government had no power to interfere with the petitioner's right of removal of the properties purchased by them. It was observed that the land vested in the Union Government and the State Government had no right in the properties sold. Thus 'it had no right or jurisdiction to prevent the purchasers of the trees from the Railway Company from cutting and removing them'. After the decision of the two special appeals it appears that the Northern Railway planned to run a broad gauge Railway from Sahadra to Saharanpur and found the trees standing on the track useful for soil conservation and landscape. A request accordingly was made on behalf of the General Manager, Northern Railway to the District Magistrates of Meerut and Saharanpur to issue orders restraining the private parties, namely, M/s. Sheikh Sayeed and Co. the purchasers of the trees from S.S. Light Railway Co. fromcutting them. In the letter of request dated 10th July, 1975 it was stated that the Railway Ministry had undertaken to construct a broad gauge railway from Sahadra to Saharanpur and the trees standing on the track would be useful for proper landscape and soil conservation; hence orders be issued preventing the purchasers from felling them. In this letter no allegation was made about the commission of any offence in respect of the property involved or as to any apprehension of breach of peace. The request only was for executive action to assist the Northern Railway to implement its project. The District Magistrate, Meerut, gave directions to the field officers as follows:

'Please issue orders today and then send to me'. Similar orders were issued by the District Magistrates of Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur. When the petitioners came to know of the orders they made & representation to the District Magistrate concerned. The Additional District Magistrate, Meerut by the order dated 7-8-1975 affirmed its previous order and again directed the petitioners not to cut the trees until the question of title to them was decided by a competent court of law as between them and the Union, it observed that since the Union's title to the trees had not been decided in the earlier writ petitions it was an open question even though the petitions had been allowed in the petitioner's favour. Thus without deciding any question of title and without referring to any rule of law, the orders dated 11-7-1975 and 7-8-1975 were passed by way of executive action. The railway department had also approached the authorities for executive action and not for a decision of title to the property. A similar order was passed by the District Magistrate, Saharanpur. All these executive orders have been challenged on three main grounds:

Firstly, that the impugned orders were not passed under any law and were accordingly bad. Every executive action, it was submitted, has to have the support of some law and since the impugned orders lacked such support they were void.

Secondly, that the trees belonged to the S.S. Light Railway and Co. having been planted by them M/s. Sheikh Sayeed Ahmad & Co. being their transferee under a sale-deed acquired a title to them as owners; and

Lastly, that in view of the decision in Special Appeals Nos. 61 and ?1 of 1975 the petitioners were the owners of the trees and the respondents had no right to interfere with their possession.

4. We shall first take up the question of executive action and if the petitions succeed on that point other questions would need no consideration.

5. Respondents Nos. 1 to 3 passed the impugned orders as District Magistrates. A District Magistrate is an authority constituted under the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 10 of the Code, as it stood prior to its amendment, provided that in every district outside the Presidency Towns the State Government shall appoint a Magistrate of the First Class who shall be called the District Magistrate. Section 36 enumerated his powers and stated that he shall have the powers conferred under the Code end those conferred by other laws. The third schedule of the Code contained a reference to those powers. After the amendment of the Code in 1973, Section 20 of the Amended Code again stated that the executive Magistrate in the District shall have all or any of the powers conferred under the Code or under other laws referred to in Schedule 2. Learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the District Magistrate can thus exercise only the powers conferred on him and no other. It was submitted that the orders passed by the concerned District Magistrates were in exercise of executive authority, but they were not based on powers conferred under the Code or any other law; hence unless they were supported by a law they were without jurisdiction. Executive action of the Union, the State or their officers which operates to the prejudice of any person must have the authority of law to support it. See Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla (AIR 1976 SC 1207), Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (AIR 1974 SC 2192), Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. v. Union of India (AIR 1973 SC 106), The District Collector of Hyderabad v. M/s. Ibrahim and Co. (AIR 1970 SC 1275), State of Madhya Pradesh v. Thakur Bharat Singh, (AIR 1967 SC 1170), Bishan Das v. State of Punjab (AIR 1961 SC 1570), Rai Sahib Ram Jawaya Kapoor v. State of Punjab (AIR 1955 SC 549). In Ram Jawaya's case it was held that it was not necessary that there must be a legislation in existence in order to support an executive action of the State orUnion. The powers of the State or Union executive extend to matters upon which the State Legislature or the Parliament is competent to legislate. However in State of M. P. v. Thakur Bharat Singh, and Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (supra) it was held that 'every act done by the Government or by its officers must if it is to operate to the prejudice of any person be supported by some legislative authority.

6. In this connection it may be pointed out that in Lists I and II of the VIIth Schedule of the Constitution there is a difference between the fields of legislation and the power of executive action. While List I contains a residuary entry in Item No. 97, List II contains no such entry with the result that while the Union can exercise executive power even in respect of matters not covered by Entries 1 to 96 the State cannot travel beyond the entries in List II.

7. The action in the instant case was by an officer of the State. It was urged that it was neither under any provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure nor under any other legislative authority. Consequently the orders did not have the support cf any law and were void. The contention seems to be well founded.

8. Learned counsel for the respondent, submitted that the Union, the State and their authorities exercise power under the Constitution and it is not necessary to have a specific legislative authority to support the action if it can be covered under any of the entries of either the Union or the State list. It was further submitted that the Union can exercise its executive power through the agency of the State or its officers and the action of any authority of the State would not be invalid if it can be supported either on the basis of the Union or State List.

9. Attention was invited to Articles 256 and 257 of the Constitution. Article 256 provides that the executive power of every State shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose. Article 257 deals with the control of the Union over States in certain cases. Sub-Art. (2) of Article 257 states that the executive power of the Union shall also extend to thegiving of directions to .a State as to the construction and maintenance of means of communication, declared in the direction to be of national or military importance, Sub-Art. (3) states that the executive power of the Union shall also extend to the giving of directions to a State as to the measures to be taken for the protection of the railways within the State. Learned counsel submitted that since executive power can be exercised by the officers of the Union or the State, and the Union is competent to give directions to the State or its authorities, the officers of the Union are also competent to give directions to State officers to exercise executive powers of the Union in the State. The railway was a Union subject and the Union Government or its officers accordingly could give directions to the State Authorities in respect of the maintenance or protection of the railways within the State. The District Magistrate it was urged had, in the instant case, acted under the orders issued by the Railway administration for the protection of the Railways. The Chief Engineer, Northern Railway, had thus competently asked the District Magistrate to restrain felling of trees on the Railway track. In substance it was the exercise of Union executive through an officer of the State in respect of a matter specifically covered by Article 257(3). The orders thus were not without jurisdiction and were valid.

10. As regards the State executive learned counsel could not refer us to any legislative Entry under which this power could be exercised. His main argument was that it was the exercise of executive power of the Union through a State Authority under the directions of a Union Officer. Annexure 10 to the writ petitions is the letter dated 10-7-1975 by one Sri Gauri Shanker for the Chief Engineer, Northern Railway to the Dist. Magistrate, Meerut Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur. By this letter the concerned District Magistrates were asked to issue instructions to their field officers to restrain the petitioners from cutting or felling trees standing on the railway track from Sahadra to Saharanpur. The letter stated that the Railway Ministry had undertaken to construct a broad gauge line from Sahadra to Saharanpur and the trees standing by the side of the track were required for proper landscape and soil conservation hence orders be issued restraining private parties from cutting them. On this letter the District Magis- trate, Meerut passed the order dated 11-7-1975 restraining the parties concerned from cutting them. The petitioners having come to know of this order approached the District Magistrate and filed their objections. The detailed order affirming the order dated 11-7-1975 was passed on 7-8-1975. Learned counsel for the respondent supported these orders on the basis of the provisions of Articles 256 and 257 of the Constitution, We are unable to agree with the contention raised. The executive power of the Union or the State is exercised in the manner provided by Articles 77 and 166 of the Constitution respectively. The manner in which the power is exercised was explained by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (AIR 1974 SC 2192). Paragraph 30 of the report stated the position thus:

'In all cases in which the President or the Governor exercises his functions conferred on him by or under the Constitution with the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers he does so by making rules for convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India or the Government of the State respectively or by allocation among his Ministers of the said business, in accordance with Articles 77(3) and 166(3) respectively. Wherever the Constitution requires the satisfaction of the President or the Governor for the exercise of any power or function by the President or the Governor, as the case may be, as for example in Articles 123, 213, 311(3) Proviso (c). 317, 352(1), 356 and 360 the satisfaction required by the Constitution is not the personal satisfaction of the President or of the Governor but is the satisfaction of the President or of the Governor in the constitutional sense under the Cabinet system of Government. The reasons are these. It is the satisfaction of the Council of Ministers on whose aid and advice the President or the Governor generally exercises all his powers and functions. Neither Article 77(3) nor Art 166(3) provides for any delegation of power. Both Articles 77(3) and 166(3) provide that the President under Article 77(3) and the Governor under Article 166(3) shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government and the allocation of business among the Ministers of the said business. The rules of business and the allocation among the Ministers of the said business all indicate that thedecision of any Minister or officer under the rule of business made under these two Articles viz. Article 77(3) in the case of the President and Article 166(3) in the case of the Governor of the State is the decision of the President or the Governor respectively.

Further the rules of business and allocation of business among the Ministers are relatable to the provisions contained in Article 53 in the case of the President and Article 154 in the case of the Governor, that the executive power shall be exercised by the President or the Governor directly or through the officers subordinate. The provisions contained in Article 74 in the case of the President and Article 163 in the case of the Governor that there, shall be a Council of Ministers to aid and advice the President or the Governor, as the case may be, are sources of the rules of business. These provisions are for the discharge of the executive powers and functions of the Government in the name of the President or the Governor. Where functions entrusted to a Minister are performed by an official employed in the Minister's Department there is in law no delegation because constitutionally the act or decision of the official is merely the machinery for the discharge of the functions entrusted to a Minister.........'

11. It is thus clear that there is no executive power of any officer of the Union or the State. Whatever executive power is exercised by the Union or the State through its officers is executive power of the Union or the State. As regards the exercise of executive power of the Union or the State the officer or the authority who, under the rules of business, is entrusted with the duty of exercising that power on behalf of the Union or the State is alone the competent authority to discharge that function. As regards the competent authority to exercise the Union Executive in the Ministry of Railways, 'The Authentication (Orders and Other Instruments) Rules 1968' enumerates the officers. Rule 2 (b) provides that in the case of orders and other instruments in the Ministry of Railways it has to be by a Secretary, Additional Secretary, Joint Secretary. Deputy Secretary, Under Secretary or Assistant Secretary to, or by a Director or a Joint Director or Deputy Director or Assistant Director of a Railway Board. The Chief Engineer does not fall under any of the categories of officers mentioned above. Consequently, the letter written on be--half of the Chief Engineer dated 10-7-1974, Annexure 10 to the petitions, was not an order or direction of the Union Government in exercise of its executive power. Further, we are of the opinion that this was not a case covered by Article 257 which provides for a control of the Union over the State so that it may not exercise its executive power to the prejudice of the Union. The executive action of the District Magistrates was accordingly invalid being without the support of any law or legislative authority. It could not be upheld as a Union executive either.

12. Learned counsel for the respondents then urged that the impugned order was passed under Section 144 of the Cr. P C. and was accordingly valid. That section falls under Chap. X which relates to maintenance of public order and tranquillity. The section empowers the District Magistrate to pass orders in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger. Sub-section (1) of Section 144 reads:

'In cases where, in the opinion of a District Magistrate, a Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered by the State Government in this behalf, there is sufficient ground for proceeding under this section and immediate prevention or speedy remedy is desirable, such Magistrate may, by a written order stating the material facts of the case and served in the manner provided by Section 134, direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management if such Magistrate considers that such direction is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury tc any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot, or an array.'

Sub-section (4) of Section 144 provides:

'No order under this section shall remain in force for more than two months from the making thereof.'

The State Government may, however, extend the period of the order to a period not exceeding six months.

13. The impugned order was passed on the letter of the Chief Engineer dated 10-7-1974 which asked for the preservation of the trees for soil conservation and landscape. No reference to any breach of peace, or apprehended danger to human life or any nuisance was madetherein. A mere perusal of it shows that it was not concerned with the maintenance of public order or tranquillity. The rest was in connection with the construction and maintenance of the Railway. There was no allegation that the trees belonged to the Railways or that the private parties had no right in them. The request was made only for the implementation of a plan of the Union Government. No dispute was raised as to the properties involved. Even in a case of dispute to property a Magistrate is not empowered to take action under Section 144 unless he is satisfied that sufficient ground exists for proceeding under the section to prevent obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed or to prevent danger to human life, health or safety or to prevent disturbance of public tranquillity. There was no suggestion in the letter in respect of any of these matters. The scope of Section 144 was explained in Madhu Limaye v. S.D.M. Monghyr (AIR 1971 SC 2486) by the Supreme Court as follows:

'The gist of action under Section 144 is the urgency of the situation its efficacy in the likelihood of being able to prevent some harmful occurrences. As it is possible to act absolutely and even ex parte it is obvious that the emergency must be sudden and the consequences sufficiently grave. Without it the exercise of power would have no justification.........'

'It is not an ordinary power flowing from administration but a power used in a judicial manner and which can stand further judicial scrutiny in the need for the exercise of the power, in its efficacy and in the extent of its application.'

In the counter-affidavit of the respondents no suggestion was made that the action taken was under Section 144, Cr. P. C. Firm the orders also it is clear that the respondents Nos. 1 to 4 did not intend to take action under Section 144. The order dated 7-8-1975 which is the main order does not refer to any breach of public tranquillity or obstruction or annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, Further the order was not passed in the manner prescribed, in that no notice was issued in the manner provided by Section 134 and no case of emergency was suggested. The petitioners appeared suo motu and the purport of the final order dated 2-8-1975 was that since the Railway Ministry sought for the co-operation of the U. P. Government in the construction and operation of the Rail- way, the trees found useful for soil conservation and landscape needed to be preserved; hence the petitioners were restrained from cutting them. None of the conditions for the exercise of the power under Section 144, Criminal Procedure Code were made out and if an order had been passed under it, it would have been bad in law. See Barium Chemicals Ltd. v. Company Law Board (AIR 1967 SC 295). Further as seen earlier the orders were not passed under that section.

14. The impugned orders were accordingly passed without the authority of any law and were manifestly void. They are liable to be quashed. The petitions accordingly succeed and are allowed with costs. The orders of the Additional District Magistrate (Executive), Meerut, dated 11-7-1975 and 7-8-1975 and the order of the District Magistrate, Saharanpur, dated 31-7-1976 are quashed. Further a direction in the nature of mandamus is issued restraining the respondents Nos. 1 to 6 from interfering with the petitioners cutting and removing the trees in question on the basis of the impugned orders dated 11-7-1975, 7-8-1975 and 31-7-1975 or otherwise except in accordance with law.


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