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S.P. Dubey Vs. Narsingh Bahadur - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revn. No. 1839 of 1959 connected with Criminal Misc. Case No. 2709 of 1959
Judge
Reported inAIR1961All447; 1961CriLJ185
ActsCode of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) , 1898 - Sections 4(1), 244, 247, 252, 417(3), 439, 439(5), 537 and 561A; Railways Act - Sections 112
AppellantS.P. Dubey
RespondentNarsingh Bahadur
Appellant AdvocateB.R. Trikha and ;P.C. Chaturvedi, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateS.N. Mulla, Adv.
DispositionRevision allowed
Excerpt:
.....administration cannot be treated as serving notice on complainant. (iv) non-appearance of the complainant on date of hearing - section 247 of criminal procedure code, 1898 - magistrate should satisfy himself whether the complainant knew the date of hearing before taking action under section 247- magistrate cannot assume knowledge. - - in the present case the unfairness of the procedure adopted by the learned magistrate is so patent and glaring that interference by way of revision is clearly called for; 8. learned counsel for narsingh bahadur further tried to argue that the order of acquittal passed by the magistrate was perfectly legal, being in strict conformity with the provisions of section 247 cri. it is argued therefore that the mere issue of summons to the complainant moti..........that the case would be heard in the officers' rest-house at allahabad on 28-7-1959; but on that date the accused put in an application asking for the case to be tried in the regular way, not summarily, and it was accordingly adjourned to the following day. then, however, the magistrate decided to hear the case on 29-8-1959 at ghaziabad and the witnesses were ordered to be summoned for that date.from the detailed order passed by the magistrate later on, it appears that summonses were issued on 11-8-1959 to s. p. dubey (the ticket examiner who had detected the accused committing the crime) and to moti ram kalra (the official who had signed the formal complaint) through the general manager, northern railway, new delhi; but these notices do not seem to have returned and there is nothing.....
Judgment:
ORDER

W. Broome, J.

1. This revision application is directed against an order passed on 16-9-1956 by Sri T. C. Hingorani, Special Railway Magistrate, Meerut, acquitting the opposite-party Narsingh Bahadur in a case under Section 112 of the Railways Act. Along with it is another application (under Section 561-A Cri. P. C.) praying for the expunction of certain strictures passed in the judgment on the conduct of S. P. Dubey, Ticket Examiner, and G. P. Misra, Assistant Commercial Officer (Tickets) of the Northern Railway.

2. The prosecution allegations were that on 25-8-1958 the opposite-party Narsingh Bahadur was detected by Ticket Examiner S. P. Dubey at Prayag Railway Station travelling without ticket in a third class compartment of the Pratapgarh-Allahabad Down passenger train. The defence plea on the other hand, was that the opposite-party had not travelled in the said train but had merely come on to the station platform to meet a friend, who was arriving by that train.

3. The alleged offender was produced before the Railway Magistrate Sri Hingorani, pleaded not guilty and asked for postponement of the trial. The Magistrate accordingly adjourned the case to 28-8-1958, intimating that the trial would be held at Meerut Cantonment. Subsequently, however, on the request made by the accused-opposite-party in a letter the Magistrate agreed to hold the trial at Allahabad and on 28-8-1958 passed the following order :

'Request granted. Put up the case at Allahabad when I encamp there. Accused to be then called there.'

It appears that the Magistrate did not find it convenient to come to Allahabad till the following year. On 10-7-1959 he directed that the case would be heard in the Officers' rest-house at Allahabad on 28-7-1959; but on that date the accused put in an application asking for the case to be tried in the regular way, not summarily, and it was accordingly adjourned to the following day. Then, however, the Magistrate decided to hear the case on 29-8-1959 at Ghaziabad and the witnesses were ordered to be summoned for that date.

From the detailed order passed by the Magistrate later on, it appears that summonses were issued on 11-8-1959 to S. P. Dubey (the Ticket Examiner who had detected the accused committing the crime) and to Moti Ram Kalra (the official who had signed the formal complaint) through the General Manager, Northern Railway, New Delhi; but these notices do not seem to have returned and there is nothing on the file to suggest that they were ever served. The result was that no one appeared for the prosecution on 29-8-1959. Again the accused applied by letter for his trial to be held at Allahabad, and the Magistrate agreed and fixed 15-9-1959.

Summonses were again issued on 3-9-1959, but on 15-9-1959 no one appeared for the prosecution, and the learned Magistrate, without even waiting for the notices to come back, decided to dispose of the case. The accused, however, was also absent on that day and so the case could not be taken up until the following day (16-9-1959), when the statements of the accused and his witnesses were recorded, in the absence of any representative of the prosecution, and the Magistrate, holding the charge to bo unsubstantiated, false and vexatious, acquitted the accused and at the same time severely castigated the conduct of S. P. Dubey and G. P. Misra, who according to him were guilty of wrongfully arresting and detaining the accused on a trumped-up charge.

4. The revision application asking for the order of acquittal passed by the Magistrate on 16-9-59 to be quashed has been filed by the Ticket Examiner S. P. Dubey, who claims to have caught the accused-opposite-party committing the offence A preliminary objection has been raised that S. P. Dubey has no locus standi to file any such application, since he was not a party to the case under Section 112 of the Railways Act, but only a witness; but as far as I can see there is nothing in the provisions of the Cri. P. C. that would debar him. Reliance has been placed on Section 439 (5) Cri. P. C., but that only prevents a revision being filed at the instance of a party who could have appealed; and since S. P. Dubey could not file a valid appeal, not being the complainant, Section 439 (5) obviously cannot operate against him.

It is true that revision applications are not usually accepted from persons who are not directly affected by the illegality or irregularity that is sought to be cured, but at the same time there can be no doubt that the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain such applications from third parties if it chooses and there is no legal bar to their being entertained. In the present case the unfairness of the procedure adopted by the learned Magistrate is so patent and glaring that interference by way of revision is clearly called for; and in such circumstances the High Courtis obviously entitled to take cognizance of the matter, whether brought to its notice by the actual parties to the case or by anyone else.

5. Another objection that has been raised is that the revision application is not maintainable because the applicant did not approach the Sessions Judge first. The normal practice is for the High Court to refuse to entertain applications in such circumstances, but there is no hard and fast rule and in suitable cases the High Court has been known to depart from this practice and to accept revisions that have not been previously considered by a Sessions Judge.

In the present case the applicant's excuse is that he could not be sure of his legal status. The learned Magistrate whose order is sought to be revised had in his judgment expressly declared S. P. Dubey to bo the complainant; and consequently S. P. Dubey felt obliged to file an application in this Court under Section 417 (3) Cri P. C. for special leave to appeal against the order of acquittal.

But by way of precaution, anticipating that that application might be turned down on the ground that the applicant was not the complainant, the present revision application was also filed at the same time. A similar situation arose in Abdullahkhan v. Emperor, AIR 1932 Sind 28. In that case too the revision application was linked with another application exclusively within the jurisdiction of the High Court, and it was held that in such circumstances the by-passing of the Sessions Court should be excused.

6. Coming to the merits of the application, it is obvious from a mere perusal of the order sheet of the case that the Magistrate has not given the prosecution a fair deal. On 28-8-1958 he adjourned the case sine die. directing the case to be put up at Allahabad 'when I encamp there'; and after that, when he resuscitated the proceedings, it was obviously essential for him to inform the complainant of the fresh date fixed for the hearing,

Rut without waiting to make sure that the notices which he issued on 11-8-1959 and 3-9-1959 ever reached the complainant, he unwarrantably assumed that the complainant must know of the dates fixed and on 16-9-1959 proceeded to dispose of the case in the complainant's absence. A trial held in such circumstances, without affording any opportunity to, the prosecution to produce its evidence, is no trial at all and must be deemed a nullity.

7. Learned counsel for Narsingh Bahadur, the accused-respondent, has suggested that the real complainant in the case was the Northern Railway and that this Railway was duly informed of the fact that 15-9-1959 had been fixed as the date of hearing, when the summonses issued by the Magistrate on 3-9-1959 were received by the General Manager in Delhi for transmission to S. P. Dubey and Moti Ram Kalra, the prosecution witnesses. But this is a complete distortion of the legal position.

The proceedings started with a written information given to the Magistrate with a view to his taking action against the offender, which constituted a complaint as defined in Section 4(1)(h) Cri. P, C.; and the complainant was obviously the person who drew up and signed this paper (3A) viz. Moti Ram Kalra. There can be no justification in these circumstances for treating the whole Railway administra-tion as the complainant; and the mere fact that thesummonses for Moti Ram Kalra and S. P. Dubeypassed through the office of the General Managerin New Delhi would in 110 way justify the inferencethat the complainant had received information of thedate fixed in the case.

8. Learned counsel for Narsingh Bahadur further tried to argue that the order of acquittal passed by the Magistrate was perfectly legal, being in strict conformity with the provisions of Section 247 Cri. P. C., which runs as follows :

'If the summons has been issued on complaint, and upon the day appointed for the appearance of the accused or any day subsequent thereto to which the hearing may be adjourned, the complainant does not appear, the Magistrate shall, notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained, acquit the accused, unless for some reason he thinks proper to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other day.'

The contention is that this section empowers ai Magistrate to dismiss a complaint in a summons case for non-appearance of the complainant when summons has been merely issued and does not require that the summons must be served before the Magistrate can exercise this power. It is argued therefore that the mere issue of summons to the complainant Moti Ram Kalra was enough to entitle the Magistrate to pass orders under Section 247 when the complainant failed to appear on the date fixed, whether that summons had been served on him or not.

This however is an interpretation that I cannot accept in the wide form in which it has been stated. If by the summons referred to in Section 247 is meant the summons that is issued to the accused or to a witness (other than the complainant himself), I am prepared to concede that it makes no difference whether it has been served or not, and the Magistrate can dismiss the complaint for non-appearance of the complainant, without waiting for proof of service.

But if the summons in question has been issued to the complainant, the position is totally different. Normally notice or summons is not sent to a complainant, as he usually attends the court on each successive date, from the filing of the complaint onwards, and is personally informed of the next date-to which the case is adjourned on each occasion; in fact, in all cases that are adjourned to definite dates in accordance with the usual procedure, the complainant is expected to ascertain of his own accord the date that has been fixed and the court is under no obligation to give him any separate intimation by the issue of formal notice.

But notice or summons to the complainant is essential when a case is taken up after having been for some reason adjourned sine die. In such cases the complainant has no means of knowing when the court will decide to revive the proceedings or what date will be fixed for the hearing, for it would be unreasonable to expect him to attend court daily, possibly for months on end, in order to ascertain whether orders are being passed or not. The crucial question that poses itself with regard to Section 247 Cri. P. C. is what precise meaning is to be attached to the words 'if the complainant does not appear'. To me it seems that commonsense demands that these words should be construed as signifying 'if the com-plainant, having knowledge or information of the date, fails to appear on that date'. Any other interpretation would put the complainant in danger of being penalised for no fault of his own, which surely could not have been the intention of the Legislature. The main point on which I would insist is that before a Magistrate takes action under Section 247, Cri. P. C. and acquits an accused, he should be satisfied that the date of hearing was known to the complainant.

In most cases this knowledge can be assumed, the complainant having been present on the previous hearing, but in cases where this is not so and notice has had to be issued, the Magistrate must make sure that the notice has been served (or that the date fixed has come to the complainant's knowledge in some other way). The view taken by me in this matter receives support from a decision of the Madras High Court in Panakalu v. Subba Rao, AIR 1923 Mad 1158, in which it was held that a complainant who has no knowledge or information that his case has been adjourned to a certain date cannot be held to have 'failed to appear', within the meaning of Section 247 Cri. P. C., if he does not come to court on that date.

9. There is thus no force in the contention that the order passed by the learned Magistrate in this case was a legal order under Section 247 Cri. P. C. The order in question was clearly illegal and fundamentally unjust. As I have already remarked, the trial of the accused-opposite-party that resulted in his acquittal was no trial at all in the eye of the law, since the prosecution was given no opportunity to produce its evidence. In the circumstances I have no hesitation in pronouncing the impugned order of acquittal a nullity and in quashing the entire judgment of the learned Magistrate.

10. The revision application is accordingly allowed, the orders passed by the learned Magistrate on 16-9-1959 being set aside. Since the entire judgment has been quashed there is no necessity for any separate order expunging the adverse remarks against S. P. Dubey and G. P. Misra that were unjustifiably made therein.

11. A copy of this order may be placed on the file of Cri. Misc. Case No. 2709 of 1959.


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