S.S. Dhavan, J.
1. This is an appeal by the State of Uttar Pradesh against the order of the Additional District Magistrate Allahabad dated 31-10-1955 acquitting the six respondents of the offence under Section 7 of the Indian Copyright Act III of 1914.
2. The facts which led to the prosecution of the respondents are these. Messrs Law Book Company is a firm of publishers who have specialised in the publication of legal literature. The six respondents are the partners o this firm. Sri J. N. Bagga, respondent No. 1 is the Manager. It appears that they also published reprints of various Acts passed by the Central Legislature. In 1952 they received a communication from the Government of India objecting to the publication of 'bare texts of a number of Central Acts' by this firm. The letter pointed out that in doing so the firm was infringing the provisions of Section 18 of the Copyright Act of 1914.
It also directed the firm to stop forthwith the sale and distribution of these publications, to surrender to the Government of India the profits which the firm might have made by the publication and distribution of these Acts, and to apologise unconditionally to the Government for the infringement of their copyright. The letter contained a threat that failure to carry out the directions contained in the letter would result in criminal proceedings against them. The Manager or the firm sent a long reply in which he denied that the firm had committed any breach of copyright. Thereupon a complaint was made by Mr. P. C. Saxena, the then Additional District Magistrate, Allahabad, before the City Magistrate, Allahabad, alleging that the firm had published a reprint of the General Clauses Act (Act X of 1897) and had thereby rendered itself liable to punishment under Section 7 of the Indian Copyright (Act III of 1914).
3. On behalf of the respondents the publication of the aforesaid Act was admitted but it was. pleaded in defence that no permission was required from the Government for publishing it and that no offence had been committed by the firm. The firm also produced before the court in support of this contention a copy of the resolution of the Government of India purporting to give general permission to any one to publish the Acts of the Indian Legislature subject to certain conditions This is notification No. A-637 dated 22-11-1926, which was published first in the Government of India's Gazette and republished in the United pro-vices Gazette dated 18-12-1926. It is necessary to quote this notification verbatim:
'No. A-637 Under the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act, 1914, copyright in Government publication vests in the Crown, and any reproduc-tion, without consent of a work first publishedby Government ordinarily constitutes an infringe-ment of copyright. The Government of India consider it desirable that the public should be at liberty to reproduce certain Government publications, and they are pleased to grant general permission to reproduce.
(a) Any matter which has appeared in the Gazette of India except,(i) Acts of the Indian Legislature, (ii) Matter not first published by the Government of India;
(b) Acts of the Indian Legislature, subject to the condition that these are reproduced together with original material, e. g., commentaries;
(c) Vernacular translations of Acts of the Indian Legislature;
(d) Reports of any Committee appointed by the Government of India or the Indian Legislature,
(2) Permission to reproduce other Government publications will be given in special circumstances. Applications for permission should be forwarded to the Surveyor-General in the case of maps, charts, plans and other documents published by or on behalf of the Survey of India and to the Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Industries and Labour in all other cases.
(3) In the case of works first published by local Government application for permission to reproduce such works should be made, in the absence of any special orders 'passed by the local Government, to the local Government concerned.' It will thus be seen that the Government of India declared by this resolution that the public was at liberty to reproduce all Acts of the Indian Legislature subject to the condition that the reproduction included the original material. This probably means that the Government of India were anxious that there should be no alteration in the text of anything which was published by Government. This precaution was obviously taken for the purpose of safeguarding the public against harmful effects of incorrect or inaccurate reproductions of Governmentpublications. Subject to rhis condition, it was opento any publisher to publish the text of any Act of the Indian Legislature.
4. It was proved before the learned City Magistrate that the Government of India hadpublished the General Clauses Act of 1897 through the agency of the Manager of Publication, Delhi.
5. Reiving on this notification the learned City Magistrate held that the publication in dispute wasexempted from the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act. He acquitted all the accused on the ground that their prosecution was misconceived.
6. Aggrieved by this order of acquittal the State has filed this appeal.
7. I have perused the order of the City Magistrate. I agree with Mr. H. N. Seth, learned counsel for the State, that the reasoning of the learned Magistrate is not quite correct. He appears to have been under the impression that the publication in dispute is exempted from the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act because it has appeared in the U. P. Gazette. But learned counsel had to admit, and in my opinion very rightly, that the Government of India's resolution mentioned above exempts the publication of all Acts of the Indian Legislature from the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act Therefore the order of acquittal is correct, though the reasoning of the learned Magistrate is somewhat faulty. The order of acquittal is accordingly upheld and this appeal stands dismissed.
8. I am however constrained to observe that the prosecution of this firm was entirely misconceived and should not have been sanctioned. Theadvisers of the Government of India completely overlooked the notification of their own Government No. A-637 of 1926 when they decided to prosecute the members of this firms. Even alter the learned City Magistrate had acquitted the respondents and the notification must have been Drought to their notice the Government thought fit to file this appeal against the respondent's acquittal. It is deplorable that a firm of publishers, who were carrying on their lawful trade, should have been harassed by this patently misconceived prosecution.
9. The contents of the notice served by the Government of India on the firm in 1952 deserve comment. It demanded, inter alia, that the firm should 'apologise unconditionally to the Govern-ment for the infringement of their copyright.' The demand was backed by a threat that failure to comply with it would result in prosecution. I do not know of any provision of law under which the Government were entitled to demand an 'unconditional apology'. This was not a case of libel, but of alleged infringement of copyright. Government, as owners of copyright, were entitled to the civil remedies enumerated untder Section 6 of the Copyright Act as applicable to India.
They had asked for the stoppage of sale anddistribution of the publication and demanded thesurrender of all profits made by the firm from itssale. After this, there was as little justification forthe humiliating demand for 'unconditional apology'as for, say, asking the partners of the firm to shavetheir heads in token of repentence. This part ofthe notice smells of Nadir-shahi Firman thoughdressed up as a notice according to law. It isdeplorable that this fanciful demand should haveemanated from the Law Department of the Government who are supposed to give a lead to the peoplein observing the spirit of the rule of the law.