1. On a difference of opinion between the two learned Judges of the Division Bench, who heard this Habeas Corpus writ petition, the following question has been referred for the opinion of a third Judge. This is how this case has come up before me.
2. The question, referred is:
Do the grounds of detenion of the petitioner relate to 'public order or to law and order'?
3. The petitioner is detained under an order of the District Magistrate, Kanpur (Dehat) dated 31-12-1981 passed under Section 3(2) National Security Act, 1980 (briefly the Act), with a view 'o preventing him from acting in a manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
4. The detention of the petitioner is based on the following three grounds No. 1, On 25th December 1981 at about 6-30p.rn, the petitioner and his associate Onkar Singh held up Chandra Sekhar and Pati Ram residents of Mooda Khera, police station Sikandra District Kanpur Dehat, at pistol point on the public way known as Mughal Road near village Preetarnpura, while they were returning home after selling paddy in the market at Aurraiya, and forcibly relieved Chandra Sekhar of his cycle, gold ring, wrist watch and Rs. 700/- cash and Pat) Ram of his cycle and Rs. 525/- cash and fired shots in order to overawe them. When, on hearing the reports of gun shots, the witnesses came running and challenged, the petitioner and his companion ran away firing shots. On the basis of the report lodged by Chandra Sekhar at police station Sikandra, case No. 221 under Section 394 I.P.C., was registered on 25-12-81 to 9-10 p.m. which is pending investigation.
No. 2 On 26th December 1981 at 6 p.m. the petitioner and his companion Onkar Singh approached Dulare and Phundi Lai, eye witnesses of the occurrence of robbery mentioned in ground No. 1, while they were looking after their fields in the jungle of village Alampur, police station Sikandara, and by show of pistols threatened to kill them if they dared to give evidence against them in the robbery case. The petitioner and his companion also told these persons to give affidavits in court in four days saying that they had not seen any occurrence and they were not present at the scene and in case they failed to do so they would be killed. A non-cognizable case under Section 506 I.P.C., was registered at: police station Sikandara on 26-12-81 at 8-15 p.m. on the report of Phundi Lai. No. 3: On 27-12-1981 at about 5 p.m. the officer- in-charge police station Sikandara received information through an informer that some dacoits belonging to the gang of Lala Ram and Shri Ram would assemble at the house of the petitioner for committing dacoity and Onkar Singh would bring the gang. On receiving this information the Station Officer reached near village Anwa with police force and surrounded the house. At about 8 p.m. the informer gave information that the dacoits had come and were hiding in the house of the petitioner. The Station Officer challenged the dacoits and asked them to lay down arms and surrender. At this 5 or 6 dacoits began to fire shots indiscriminately and ran towards the south. The police force also returned the fire, but the dacoits managed to escape taking advantage of darkness. The police force searched the house of the petitioner in his presence, and found only the petitioner and Onkar Singh present there. No member of the gang or illicit arm was available. The petitioner gave out that the dacoits had made a plan to commit dacoity at the houses of Nathe Ram and Chandra Sekhar Katyar in village Jamalpur and had assembled at his house in pursuance of that plan. He also admitted that the members of the gang of Lala Ram and Shri Ram often came to his house to take shelter and he helped them in every way and as a consideration for the same the dacoits paid him Rs. 200/- or Rs. 400/-now and then. The petitioner and Onkar Singh were arrested and on the basis of the oral report of the Station Officer of police station Sikandara case No. 225 under Section 216-A, I.P.C. was registered on 28-12-1981 at 1.45 a.m. against the petitioner.
5. The meaning of the expressions 'public order' and 'law and order' and the distinction between them, was brought out by the Supreme Court in Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia v. State of Bihar : 1966CriLJ608 , Arun Ghosh v. State of West Bengal : 1970CriLJ1136 , Wasiuddin Ahmad v. District Magistrate Aiigarh : 1981CriLJ1825 and a number of other decisions. The principles laid down by the Supreme Court may be put thus. Any contravention of law always affects order, but before it could be said to affect 'public order' it must affect the community or public at large. Public order is the even tempo of the life of the community taking the country as a whole or even a specified locality. Acts which affect individuals only and do not disturb the community to the extent of causing general disturbance of the public tranquility, relate to the problem of 'law and order' only and not to 'public order'. The true distinction between the areas of 'law and order' and 'public order' lies upon the degree and extent of reach of an act upon the community or specified locality. The acts causing disturbance of public order need not necessarily differ in nature and quality from acts raising problems of 'law and order'. The acts similar in nature but committed in different contexts and circumstances might cause different reactions. In one case it might affect specified individuals and, therefore, touches the problem of law and order only, while in a different setting it might affect public order. The question whether an act affects 'public order' or 'law and order', only has to be determined in each case, on a consideration of its own facts and circumstances.
6. The question whether the grounds in the instant case relate to disturbance of public order or merely raise problems of 'law and order' should be decided in the light of the principles laid down in the Supreme Court decisions as indicated above.
7. Shri Mulla, the learned Counsel for the petitioner, has referred to the decisions Jatindra Nath Biswas v. State of West Bengal : AIR1975SC1215 , Dhena Hembram v. District Magistrate, West Dinajpur : 1975CriLJ1549 , Milan Banik v. State of West Bengal : 1974CriLJ917 and Sushanta Goswami v. State of West Bengal AIR 1969 SC 1004 and urged that a perusal of these decisions indicated that only in those cases where offences of robbery or dacoity were committed in busy localities within the view of a large number of the members of the public and the public at large became terror stricken, it was held that the acts relaed to public order; in all other cases, the offences were held to relate only to 'law and order', Sri Mulla has also sought to distinguish the decisions, Mohammad D. A. Khan v. State of West Bengal; : 1976CriLJ622 and Narayan Deb Nath v. State of West Bengal : 1976CriLJ632 which related to robberies in running trains, on the same premise. He has further urged that in the instant case the alleged offence of robbery was committed on Mughal Road which was a lonely road in the countryside, at a time when not too many persons were passing on the road. Two persons were the victims of the robbery, while two or three other persons who were attracted by the reports of the gun-fire, were scared by the shots said to have been fired by the petitioner and his companion to keep the witnesses at bay. Thus, the act of robbery affected only four or five persons and not the community at large or the residents of any particular locality and, therefore, this act of robbery could not be taken to relate to public order. It was an offence which affected only some individuals and squarely came within the ambit of 'law and order'.
8. Sri D.S. Misra, Advocate, who is counsel for petitioners in some habeas corpus writ petitions pending before a Division Bench of this Court, has also made submissions before me with my permission. The learned Counsel for the petitioner or the learned Addl. Government Advocate has not raised any objection to Shri Misra making his submissions in this case. Sri D.S. Misra has referred to some more Supreme Court decisions namely, Sudhir Kumar Saha v. Police Commr., Calcutta : 1970CriLJ843 Arun Ghosh v. State of West Bengal : 1970CriLJ1136 , Manu Bhushan v. State of West Bengal : 1974CriLJ401 , Kishore Mohan v. State of West Bengal : AIR1972SC1749 and Dipak Bose v. State of West Bengal : AIR1972SC2686 and has urged that in none of the cases the Supreme Court had held a case of robbery like the one mentioned in ground 1 of the instant petition, to relate to 'public order'. Hence, the offence mentioned in ground 1 should not be taken as germane to public order. He has further urged that grounds 1 and 2 should not be read 'ogether as requested by the learned Addl. Government Advocate, but should be taken as distinct and separate grounds and the relevancy of each ground to 'public order' should be determined on its own merits.
9. I have carefully perused the decisions referred to by Shri Mulla and Sri Misra and have considered the grounds of deention and the reasons given for not taking certain grounds as germane to public order. A detailed discussion of each decision is, in my opinion, not necessary. It would suffice to say that in most of these cases, the acts involved were of such a nature, that they could easily be placed in one category or the other i.e. either relating to 'public order' or only to 'law and order'. There is nothing in any of these decisions to indicafe that an act like the one mentioned in grounds 1 and 2 of the instanl petition, could not be taken to relate to 'public order', On the other hand, the grounds in the case of Milan Banik 1974 Cri LJ 917 (SC) (supra) come very near the grounder of the instant case. In that case the petitioner and his associates had robbed occupants of a Rickshaw coming from railway station Bardwan on danger point on 8-5-72 at 4 a. m. and relieved the victims of cash and valuables. The same group had robbed a bus conductor on B. C. Road, Bardwan on 15-5-73 at 4-30 a.m. These two incidents of robbery had created a sense of terroi and panic in the minds of the people of the locality and they were afraid to come out of doors as usual. The Supreme Court held that these activities had direct nexus with maintenance of 'public order'. The order of detention of the detenu was upheld. Here I may reiterate that the true test for finding out as to which act or offence would amount to a disturbance of a public order and which would on the other hand, amount to a disturbance of law and order only, is not in dispute. The question whether in a given case the act should be taken to relate to 'public order' or to law and order' only, is a question of fact lo be decided on a consideration of facts, circumstances and the setting of that particular case.
10. I am unable to accept the submission of Shri S. N. Mulla that only those offences of robbery or dacoity which are committed in congested localities or trains within the view of a large number of people alone can be said to relate to 'public order' and other offences of such a nature should be taken to relate only to the problem of 'law and order'. This submission unjustifiably narrows down the kinds of activities which may have an impact on the maintenance of 'public order'. Some activities though carried out clandestinely or secretly may have great effect and impact on the disturbance of 'public order'. A robbery in a compartment of a running train does not affect 'public order' simply because it is committed at a place where a number of persons are present but because the news of such an incident has the effect of creating insecurity in the minds of peaceful citizens in general and deterring them from travelling in trains, and this disturbs the even tempo of the life of the community. Not only the person who committed an offence which affects public tranquillity is responsible for the disturbance of public order, but even that person who consciously aids him in committing such an offence can be said to be disturbing public order. In the case Mangal Lohar v. Supdt., Dist. Jail, Basti (Habeas Corpus Petn. No. 13065 of 1981, decided on 4-2-1982 by a Division Bench of this Court) a similar view was taken. The petitioner in that case was found manufacturing illicit firearms on two occasions. He was selling those illicit arms to criminals of various districts. The Division Bench held that selling of illicit arms to criminals affects public order inasmuch as such arms are used in committing offences which are likely to affect public order. The activities of that detenu (Mangal Lohar) would not relate to public order if the submission of Sri Mulla were to be accepted as correct. The activities of a person who does not actually commit an offence affecting public order but helps the actual offender to enable him to commit such an offence, are, in my opinion, a cause for disturbance of the public order and such activities of aid and help should not be ignored on the ground that they are not the direct acts leading to the disturbance of public order. The test laid down by the Supreme Court to find out if an act causes disturbance of public order, does not prescribe such narrow limits. Here I may again refer to the case of Milan Banik (supra) which has been discussed in some detail earlier. For all these reasons I repeal this submission of Shri Mulla.
11. The submission of Sri D. S. Misra thaf grounds l and 2 should not be read together and be taken as separate incidents is, in my opinion, not well founded. Ground 2 was clearly a sequel to ground l and both these grounds should be read together. These two grounds taken together indicate the mode of commission of robberies adopted by the petitioner and his companion. In the first place he and his companion committed the offence and thereafter to ensure evading the law and to continue in their criminal activities without risk they took steps to terrorise the eye witnesses of the incident of robbery. Whether in s case two grounds of detention should be read in conjunction, would depend on the facts and circumstances of that particular case. The Supreme Court decisions do not contain any bar on reading two grounds together or Considering two incidents together, if the circumstances so warrant. Nothing turns on the form in which incidents have been set out in the grounds of detention; what is of importance is whether two incidents are so intimately connected with each other as to warrant there being considered together as giving a complete picture of the activities of the detenu.
Now I proceed to consider if the three grounds in the instant case relate to public order or only to 'law and order',
12. The robbery in the instant case was committed on a public highway which was in use of village people living in that area. The petitioner and his companion were armed with firearms and had actually used them to put the two victims under terror. Not only this, the culprits also fired shots to terrorise and scare away the few witnesses who were attracted by the reports of gunshots. The commission of such an offence on a public highway does not only affect the victims of the robbery but causes panic and terror and creates a feeling of insecurity in the minds of the village people at large. The village people of that area would be afraid to travel on the highway on account of this incident. Thus, this incident of robbery had the effect of affecting the residents of that area and disturbed the even tempo of life of the community. Ground 1, therefore, in my view, relates to 'public order'.
13. Ground 2 is not a distinct and separate ground and it should be read as a part of ground 1, because it points to a well planned scheme of commission of robberies and eluding the forces of law. The act of threatening the eyewitnesses of the robbery with murder in case they dared to give evidence against the robbers, was bound to create all the more terror and panic in the minds of the village people in general and thus, distrub the even tempo of the life of the community. Ground 2 viewed in the light of ground 1, clearly relates to 'public order'.
14. In grounds 1 and 2 it was not stated specifically that the incidents had the effect of creating terror and panic in the mind of the general public, but the absence of such an averment is not sufficient to hold that the incidents did not or could not relate to 'public order'. The extent of reach of these incidents on public tranquillity may be gathered from the facts of the incidents themselves, It would not amount to adding something to the grounds.
15. Ground 3 also clearly relates to 'public order'. It can hardly be disputed that dacoities committed by organised gangs of dacoits create terror and panic in the general public. The village people remain under constant fear of being looted, assaulted and killed by dacoits. This disturbs public tranquillity and affects the even tempo of life of the community. A person who gives shelter to gangs of dacoits and provides them help of every kind to enable the members of the gangs to commit dacoities is as much responsible for the distrubance of public peace as the dacoits who actually commit dacoities. But for the help rendered by such a person who remains in the background, the decoits may not be in a position to carry out their plans of commission of dacoities successfully and effectively and may not be able to elude the guardians of law.
16. For the reasons discussed above, I am of the opinion that each of the three grounds relates to 'public order' and not to 'law and order' only. The question is answered accordingly.
17. Let this opinion along with papers be laid before the Division Bench concerned at once for further orders.
18. In view of the opinion of the majority of the judges who have heard this petition that the grounds of detention of the petitioner relate to public order, there is no merit in this petition. It is accordingly dismissed.