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Smt. Mithan and anr. Vs. Municipal Board Orai and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberMisc. Writ No. 1206 of 1955
Judge
Reported inAIR1958All603
ActsUttar Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1916 - Sections 247 and 247(1); Constitution of India - Articles 14 and 19
AppellantSmt. Mithan and anr.
RespondentMunicipal Board Orai and ors.
Appellant AdvocateBrahma Nath Katju, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateStanding Counsel
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....he arrived and wrote an exhausive and a well-reasoned order. 357) 9. the above passage clearly indicates that in this judgment the bench laid down that it was incumbent on the magistrate concerned to hear the owner or the tenant etc. 13. in this connection the learned counsel for the petitioners further argued that the qualification of respectability is a vague one and the law therefore, is bad on that ground. it is well known and well understood in common parlance as well as in law......smt. mithan and smt. jaddan filed this writ petition which has come up for hearing before us.3. learned counsel for the applicants urged a number of points before us. his attack on the order of the magistrate was a double barrelled one. firstly he argued that the order in question contravenes the provisions of section 247 of the u. p. municipalities act. secondly, he argued that section 247 of the municipalities act itself is ultra vires of the constitution. to appreciate his argument it would be helpful to set out section 247 of the u. p. municipalities act. section 247 of the said act runs as follows:'247. brothels, etc. (1) when a magistrate of the first class receives information -- (a) that a house in the vicinity of a place of worship or an educational institution or a boarding.....
Judgment:

N.U. Beg, J.

1. This is a Writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. It has been preferred by two persons, namely, Srimati Nithan and Srimati Jaddan. The two petitioners in this petition, were alleged to be carrying on habitual prostitution in their houses situate in mohalla Surnagar, Chowkhandi in Oral town by collecting all sorts of disorderly persons till late in the night. They were further alleged to be carrying on prostitution in the said premises by allowing some outside females to stay in their houses to the great annoyance, of respectable residents of the said locality. This led the Municipal Board, Orai, to lodge a complaint to the District Magistrate on 31-7-1952.

In this complaint a grievance was made of the aforementioned undesirable activities of the two petitioners, and it was prayed that an order under Section 247 of the Municipalities Act be passed against them prohibiting them from using their houses in the aforesaid manner. Thereafter the case was taken up by Sri Wahajul Haq, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Orai. Before the said Magistrate, a large number of witnesses were produced on behalf of the complainant. These witnesses, included the owners and residents of neighbouring houses. The Executive Officer, Municipal Board also: appeared as a witness and made his statement. The evidence of these witnesses supported the prosecution case. After taking the entire evidence in the case, the Magistrate wrote a well reasoned order on 31-12-1952. The operative portion of this order runs thus:

'I therefore, hereby order Mst. Mithan and Jaddan accused under Section 247 (i) U. P. Municipalities Act that they must forthwith stop the use of their houses in mohalla Chowkhandi for habitual prostitution which has been practised by allowing outsider prostitutes to live in these houses and disorderly persons to collect there to the annoyance of the residents of that locality. In case of this order not being complied with within a period of one month from today, the accused shall be liable to the penalty provided by law in Section 247 (2) of the Municipalities Act'.

2. The appellants challenged this order by filing a revision petition before the Sessions Judge. The revision having been dismissed, the matter was brought to this Court under Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The judgment of that case is reported in Mst. Mithan v. Municipal Board of Orai and State of U. P., AIR 1950 All 351CA). This case was heard by a bench of this Court. In that case the question that directly arose for decision was whether a Magistrate acting under Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act was an inferior criminal court within the meaning of Section, 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure so as to enable the High Court to exercise its revisional powers in respect of an order passed by it. The Bench in that case took the view that a Magistrate acting under the aforesaid provision was not an inferior court as contemplated by Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It accordingly rejected the revision petition. Thereafter, Smt. Mithan and Smt. Jaddan filed this writ petition which has come up for hearing before us.

3. Learned counsel for the applicants urged a number of points before us. His attack on the order of the Magistrate was a double barrelled one. Firstly he argued that the order in question contravenes the provisions of Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act. Secondly, he argued that Section 247 of the Municipalities Act itself is ultra vires of the Constitution. To appreciate his argument it would be helpful to set out Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act. Section 247 of the said Act runs as follows:

'247. Brothels, etc. (1) When a Magistrate of the first class receives information -- (a) that a house in the vicinity of a place of worship or an educational institution or a boarding house, hostel or mess used or occupied by students is used as a brothel or for the purpose of habitual prostitution or by disorderly persons of any description, or

(b) that any house is used as aforesaid to the annoyance of respectable inhabitants in the vicinity, or

(c) that a house in the immediate neighbourhood of a cantonment is used as a brothel or for the purpose: of habitual prostitution, he may summon the owner, tenant, manager or occupier of the house to appear before him either in person or by agent and if satisfied that the house is used as described in Clause (a), Clause (b), or Clause (c), may, by a written order, direct such owner, tenant, manager or occupier, within a period to be stated in such order, not less than five days from the date thereof, to discontinue such use;

Provided that action under this sub-section shall be taken only:

(i) With the sanction, or by order of the District Magistrate, or

(ii) on the complaint of three or more persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the house to which the complaint refers, or

(iii) on the complaint of the board.

(2) If a person against whom an order has been passed by a Magistrate under Sub-section (1) fails to comply with such order within the period stated therein, the Magistrate may impose on him a fine which may extend to twenty five rupees for every day after the expiration of that period during which the house is so used'.

4. Learned counsel for the petitioners argued that the complaint in the present case purported to make out a case under Sub-clause (i) (b) of Section 247 cited above. According to him, therefore it was necessary for the Magistrate to give a finding in the operative portion of the judgment to the effect that the inhabitants to whom the annoyance was caused by the activities in question were respectable inhabitants. No such finding having been given in the operative portion of the judgment the order itself was bad in law.

We find ourselves unable to accept this contention. The proceedings in these cases are not governed strictly by the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. It is nowhere laid down that in such cases the Magistrate is bound to specify all the ingredients of the wrong in the operative portion of his judgment. It is quite enough if a perusal of the entire order shows that in his opinion the persons who made a grievance on that score were respectable persons. In the: present case we find that in the body of the order the Magistrate has relied on certain witnesses who were neighbours and Whom he considered to be respectable. In this connection it would be relevant to quote the following extract from the order of the Magistrate:

'Even if we leave aside the statements of these two witnesses it is not possible to ignore the statements of such responsible persons as the executive officer (P. W. 1) or such respectable residents as Ram Dayal (P. W. 7) or Debidin (P. W. 6). Even Suraj (P. W. 3) although not of the same status as P. Ws. 6 and 7 is an apparently independent witness and being so close neighbour is expected to possess direct knowledge of the activities almost publicly going on next door'.

5. It would therefore appear that the Magistrate regarded at least two of the persons produced in the case on behalf of the prosecution namely Ram Dayal and Debidin as respectable. Under the circumstances it cannot be said that this aspect of the matter was ignored by the Magistrate or that he did not apply his mind to it at all.

6. The next argument of the learned counsel for the petitioners is that the order shows that the Magistrate had stopped the use of these houses for habitual prostitution only by not allowing the outsider prostitutes to live in them and not in any other manner. In this connection the learned counsel for the petitioners argued before us that the order does not stop the applicants altogether from carrying on habitual prostitution in the said houses. This may no doubt be the effect of the order, but we find ourselves unable to hold that the order is vitiated on this ground. The order itself was passed, as the learned counsel for the applicants submits under Section 247 (i) Sub-clause (b).

Under the aforesaid sub-clause the order is directed not only against the carrying on of undesirable activities by particular persons but also against the use of the accommodation for a particular purpose or in a particular manner by that person. In the present case the Magistrate has prohibited the use of the houses for habitual prostitution by the petitioners in a particular manner viz. by allowing outsider prostitutes to live in these houses because the case of the complainant was that the undesirable activities became annoying to the respectable residents of the locality only after outsider prostitutes were allowed by the petitioners to reside in the houses.

The evidence further indicated that only since the importation of outsider prostitutes in the locality, 3 large number of disorderly persons had started collecting and behaving in an objectionable manner thereby creating scenes which were highly annoying to the neighbouring residents. Before an order can be passed under Section 247 (1) (b) the activities should be such as to reach the leval of annoyance. In the present case the evidence indicated that prior to the importation of the outsiders in the locality the activities carried on by the petitioners were not very desirable, but these activities were not carried on in such an undesirable manner as to reach that level which would cause annoyance to the neighbours.

They crossed the limits of toleration only after outsider prostitutes were invited to live in the houses. These outsider prostitutes used to bring or attract crowds of disorderly persons whose collection on the spot became an eye sore to respectable neighbours. In any case, the petitioners are not prejudiced by the limitation imposed in the order. The restriction imposed by the order is really to their advantage. It is, therefore, difficult to see as to how they of all the persons can make any grievance of it. The fact that the activities of the petitioners were not completely banned by the order only indicates that the order itself is a most restrained and a reasonable one.

7. In the alternative, learned counsel for the petitioners argued that Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act was itself ultra vires of Article 14 of the Constitution. In this connection learned counsel for the petitioner invited our attention to Mst. Imaman v. Emperor, AIR 1920 All 176 (B) and Basanti v. Emperor : AIR1925All245 . Learned counsel argued that in these cases it was laid down by this Court that in proceedings under Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act, the evidence of the party concerned should be recorded. Thereafter a Bench of this Court in : AIR1956All351 laid down a proposition which is to the contrary. According to his contention the observations in this case indicate that the Magistrate acting under Section 247 is invested with absolutely arbitrary powers to pass any order that he likes.

The exercise of this power is left to the naked unregulated and unrestrained whim or caprice of the authority concerned. Having heard the learned counsel at length on this point we find ourselves unable to uphold his contention. The Magistrate under this section, is not invested with an absolutely arbitrary power. The law has placed limits on his powers. The Magistrate cannot take notice of any case that he likes on his own initiative. The case can only come before him after passing a number of hurdles. As mentioned in the Section itself the complaint cannot be taken cognizance of by him except with the sanction or by the order of the District Magistrate or on a petition having been received by him by three or more persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the house or on the complaint of the Board.

Even after the matter is brought to his notice through the channel prescribed, he cannot pass any order that he likes, without hearing the party concerned. This Section lays down that he may summon the owner, tenant, manager or occupier of the house to appear before him either in person or by agent. In view of the fact that the proceedings under Sub-clause (1) might result in a penal order against such a person we have no doubt that the word 'may' in Sub-clause (1) should be interpreted as having the force of the word 'shall'. We are of opinion that it is incumbent on the Magistrate to give an opportunity to the party concerned to appear before him. The fact that this is mandatory on him is further borne out by the requirement in Sub-clause (1) that the Magistrate's order should be a written one.

No doubt this Section says that the Magistrate should be satisfied, but the points in respect of which he should be satisfied are specified in Sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Section 247 Sub-clause (1). Therefore while laying down that the Magistrate should be satisfied, the law has specified the ingredients or principles which should guide him in recording his satisfaction. In these circumstances, it appears to us that the intention of the law was that the Magistrate should give an opportunity to the party concerned to present its case and should conduct the proceedings in a reasonable manner and in accordance with the principles of natural justice. Where the proceedings are not so conducted, we have no doubt that the courts of law will have power to interfere with the order of the Magistrate. It may, however, be mentioned that in that present case there can be absolutely no grievance of any prejudice whatsoever on this score.

The Magistrate gave full opportunity to both the parties to produce their evidence. He examined a large number of witnesses and in his order applied his mind to every possible aspect of the case. He gave full and detailed grounds for coming to the conclusion at which he arrived and wrote an exhausive and a well-reasoned order.

8. In this connection we have examined the Bench decision of this Court reported in : AIR1956All351 . In this decision it is nowhere laid that Section 247 confers an arbitrary power on a Magistrate acting under Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act 1916. The learned counsel however relied on the following passage in this judgment:

'All that he is required to do in exercise of the jurisdiction is to summon the owner tenant etc. of the house and to satisfy himself that the house is used as a brothel. He is not expressly to hold an enquiry; since he has to summon the owner tenant etc., it may be said that he must hear him but thereis nothing to suggest that he must hold an enquiryand record evidence of the parties'. (p. 357)

9. The above passage clearly indicates that in this judgment the Bench laid down that it was incumbent on the Magistrate concerned to hear the owner or the tenant etc. The Bench has no doubt observed that there is nothing to suggest in Section 247 that he must hold an enquiry and record evidence. This observation by the Bench should be interpreted bearing in mind the fact that the question that directly arose before the Bench in that case was whether the proceedings under Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act were judicial proceedings under the Code of Criminal Procedure. The observations of the Bench should, therefore, be construed in the light of the restricted point that was before it. Keeping the context of the matter in view, in our opinion all that the Bench wanted to lay down was that the Magistrate was not required by law to conduct the enquiry and record evidence in strict accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure or as contemplated by it.

10. Learned counsel further relied on the following passage in the judgment:

'He has to satisfy only himself that the house is used as a brothel; how he has to do this is left to his absolute discretion. These facts are consistent more with his acting as an executive authority than with his acting as a judicial authority'.

11. Even the above observation by the Bench of that case does not go so far as to lay down that the Magistrate in such cases acts as a purely executive officer and is invested with an unregulated and arbitrary discretion to act in such cases. All that the Bench appears to have laid down is that certain features of this Section indicate that the Magistrate was acting more as an executive officer than as a judicial officer. There is a third position which is midway between the two and that is that the Magistrate concerned might be acting in a quasi-judicial capacity. The specific point that has arisen before us was neither raised nor argued before the Bench. The Bench therefore, did not think it necessary to examine the question further and to consider whether the proceedings in question could be considered to be quasi-judicial. The observations of the Bench read as a whole do not in our opinion lend support to the contention that is advanced before us. In any case, we have cleared up the position as it appears to us in respect of this specific point, and in the view that we have taken of the matter we are of opinion that Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act is not hit by Article 14 of the Constitution.

12. Learned counsel for the applicants also argued that Section 247 of the U. P. Municipalities Act contravenes Article 19 of the Constitution in so far as it interferes with the free practice of their profession, occupation or business by the petitioners. We see no substance in this point. The provision in question neither seeks to abolish any particular profession, occupation, trade or business nor to prohibit its practice. It merely seeks to regulate its practice by imposing certain restrictions of a most reasonable character in the manner of carrying on of the particular profession, business or occupation. It permits the practice of the particular profession, occupation or business, but directs that it shall not be carried on in such a manner as to be a source of annoyance to the respectable inhabitants in the vicinity. These restrictions are of a salutary nature and are obviously imposed in the general interests of public morality and decency, and cannot in our opinion, be characterised as unreasonable or improper.

13. In this connection the learned counsel for the petitioners further argued that the qualification of respectability is a vague one and the law therefore, is bad on that ground. It appears to us that the said qualification operates really for the benefit of the petitioners as its effect is to limit the number of persons who can raise objections to such activities. We do not, therefore, see how it lies in the mouth of the petitioners to raise objection to the attaching of any such qualification. In any case, the test of respectability does not appear to us to be a vague one. It is well known and well understood in common parlance as well as in law. Instances of similar tests might be cited , from other Acts also. Thus Section 103, Cr. P. C. lays down that a police officer while conducting a search should have 'two or more respectable inhabitant's of the locality as search witnesses'. In the present case also the court had no difficulty in finding that certain witnesses were respectable inhabitants of the vicinity and the finding of the Magistrate was not challenged before us on the ground that particular witnesses found to be respectable were not really respectable. In our opinion this argument of the learned counsel has also no force.

14. No other point was urged before us,

15. This writ petition is accordingly dismissed with posts.


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