1. These 18 petitions involve an, important point of law. The petitioners in these 18 cases are manufacturers of aerated water in Amritsar. They have been prosecuted under Section 13(1)(d) of the Punjab Pure Food Act, 1929, which enacts that no person shall sell any food containing any substance the addition of which is prohibited by rules made under this Act, or containing a greater proportion of any substance than is permitted by such rules. It seems that a rule was published which allowed the use of 66 grains of saccharin in 10 gallons of aerated water and the use of citric acid in the water. It is stated that because of the difficulty in obtaining sugar, representations were made to Government and Government allowed the use of 300 grains of saccharin instead of 66 grains of saccharin in 10 gallons of aerated water. Government also allowed the manufacturers of aerated water to use tartaric acid in place of citric acid. It appears that later the concession givenv which allowed the use of as much as 300 grains of saccharin, was withdrawn its also the use of tartaric acid. Normally it is citric acid which is used in the preparation of aerated water.
2. It is submitted that the rule which the Government had made allowing only 66 grains of saccharin in 10 gallons of aerated water had not been properly made as required by law and that as there was no properly named rule no prosecution can be launched for an infringement of an illegal rule.
3. Rules are made under Section 22 of the Punjab Pure Food Act, 1929. Clause (5) of that section says:
'(5). Before making any rules under the provisions of this section, the Provincial Government shall, in addition to observing the procedure laid down in section 21 of the Punjab General Clauses Act, 1898, publish by notification a draft of the proposed rules for the information of persons likely to be affected thereby at least thirty days before a meeting of East Punjab Legislative Assembly. The Provincial Government shall defer consideration of such rules until - after the meeting of East Punjab Legislative Assembly next following the publication of the draft jn order to give any member of the Assembly an, opportunity to introduce a motion for discussing the draft.'
It is submitted that in the present cases draft of the rules was published in the East Punjab Gazette of the 23rd of September 1949. the draft Notification being No. 6022-M-49/59734 dated the 19th of September 1949. The rules were made on the 15th of November 1949 by Notification No. 7927-M-49/71450 published inthe East Punjab Gazette of the 18th of November, 1949. It is submitted in an affidavit dated the 18th of November 1951 that a meeting of the East Punjab Legislative Assembly commenced on the 10th of October 1949, the session of the Assembly lasting till the 25th of October 1949. The argument is that the thirty days contemplated by Section 22 of the Punjab Pure Food Act 1929, should be before the commencement of the session which commenced on the 10th of October 1949 and that it was a matter of pure chance that the session lasted till the 25th of October 1949. It is submitted that it is not provided anywhere in the Constitution that at the time a Legislature is summoned how long the session is going to last and that it is clearly intended by the provision of Clause (5) of section 22 that thirty days should elapse before the Legislature meets in order that a member may have an opportunity to introduce a motion for discussing the draft. It is contended that the meaning to be given to the word 'meeting' in the expression 'thirty days before a meeting of East Punjab Legislative Assembly' is the moaning given to the word in its cumulative or collective sense as meaning a session and not in its individual sensa as meaning a meeting of a particular day. The draft, as I said before, was published in the Gazette bearing the date 23rd of September 1949. and the contention is that it was not published thirty days before the 10th of October 1949 when the legislature met. If the Legislature after meeting on the 10th of October 1949 had not continued its session, and had been prorogued before the 23rd of October 1949 then the draft could not, in any case, have been taken into consideration, because whether the meaning given to the word 'meeting' be used in its cumulative or collective sense of a session or in its individual sense of a meeting of a particular day, the thirty days would not have expired. On behalf of the State, it was submitted that if the Legislature happens to continue its proceedings for a period longer than thirty days from the date of the publication of the draft in the Gazette then the draft can be yalidly taken into consideration and a rule validly framed if no member of the Assembly has introduced a motion for discussing the draft. The argument of the counsel for the petitioner is that we must look to the intention behind the provisions of Clause (5). The intention is that an opportunity should be given to a member to introduce a motion for discussing the draft and that ordinarily under the rules a motion cannot be brought before the Assembly for discussion unless seven days' notice is given. Having regard to the procedure of the Assembly and the way the public business is conducted, it was the intention of the framers of Clause (5) of Section 22 to give thirty clear days before the session starts, so that members may know what to do with regard to drafts which have been published before they meet. There is in my opinion much to be said for this view. Learned counsel for the State urges that the word used by the legislature should be taken to express the meaning of the Legislature that the word 'meeting' only means a meeting for a particular day and is not used in cumulative or collective sense as a conglomeration of meetings held in a particular session and therefore to mean a session. Learned counsel insists that we cannot go behind themeaning of the word as ordinarily used and that therefore as this particular session of the Legislature lasted as long as the 25-10-1949 the publication of the draft on the 23rd of September 1949 gave clearly more than thirty days as contemplated by Clause (5) and accordingly the rules which were framed and published on the 15th of November 1949 should be deemed to have been properly made.
4. In my opinion the point that has been raised in these petitions is of considerable public importance. I therefore direct that the papers be laid before the Hon'ble Chief Justice for sending this case to a Division Bench.
5. Eighteen persons who are manufacturers of aerated waters have been prosecuted for having contravened the provisions of a rule made under the Punjab Pure Food Act, 1929, which provides that no person shall use more than 66 grains of saccharine in 10 gallons of aerated waters. They have challenged the validity of the rule on the ground that it was not made in accordance with the procedure prescribed by Sub-section (5) of section 22 of the Act of 1929. This sub-section is in the following terms:
'(5) Before making any rules under the provisions of this sub-section, the Provincial Government shall, in addition to observing the procedure laid down in section 21 of the Punjab General Clauses Act, 1898, publish by notification a draft of the proposed rules for the information of persons likely to be affected thereby at least thirty days before a meeting of the East Punjab Legislative Assembly. The Provincial Government shall defer consideration of such rules until, after the meeting of the East Punjab Legislative Assembly next following the publication of the draft in order to give any member of the Assembly an opportunity to introduce a motion for discussing the same.'
It appears that a draft of certain rules, including the rule for the contravention of which the petitioners have been prosecuted, was published in the local official, gazette of the 23rd Sept. 1949. The session of the East Punjab Legislative Assembly commenced on the 10th October 1949 and ended on the 25th October 1949. No motion having been introduced in the Assembly for discussing the draft rules published on the 23rd September, the Provincial Government promulgated the rules as duly framed in the official gazette dated the 18th November 1949.
6. The learned counsel for the petitioners contends that the expression 'meeting' appearing in Sub-section (5) means a 'session' of the Assembly, and it is accordingly argued that as the draft rules were published on the 23rd September 1949 and as the session of the Legislative Assembly commenced on the 10th October 1949, the thirty days' notice required by section 22 was not given, and consequently that the rules which were promulgated cannot be deemed to have been validly made. The learned counsel for the State, on the other hand, submits that the expression 'meeting' means a 'sitting' of the Assembly during the course of a session and that as the last sitting of this Assembly was held on the 25th October and as thirty days had expired by this date the provisions of law were complied with in the letter and the spirit. The question which arises and which is by no means free from difficulty is whether the expression 'meeting' 'means a'session' of the Punjab Legislative Assembly or a 'sitting' of the said Assembly during the course of a session.
7. The elaborate rules which have been formulated by the Judges for the interpretation of statutes have been framed with one and one object only, namely to ascertain the intention of the legislature as embodied in the statute and to give effect to that intention. The intention must primarily be ascertained from the language used in the statute. If the language is clear and unambiguous and admits of no more than one meaning no question of interpretation arises. If, however, the language is not quite clear and a word used in the enactment refers to several objects and the manner of its use does not disclose the particular object to which it refers, it becomes necessary for the Court to intervene and to perform the function of a microscope. A word of common usage should be given its ordinary and natural meaning unless the meaning would defeat the object of the law or be contrary to a reasonable operation of the statute or the proposed construction is harsh or absurd.
8. Now, what is the ordinary meaning of the expression 'meeting' which appears twice in Sub-section (5) of section 22? According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary the expression 'meeting' means an assembly of a number of people for entertainment, discussion or the like. According to the same dictionary the expression 'session' means the sitting together of a number of persons (especially of a Court, a legislative, administrative, or deliberative body) for conference or the transaction of business; a continuous series of sittings or meetings of a Court, a legislative, administrative, or deliberative body, held daily or at short intervals; the period or term during which the sittings continue to be held as opposed to recess or vacation; the period between the opening of Parliament and its prorogation. The expression 'sitting' means the fact of being engaged in the exercise of judicial, legislative, or deliberative functions; and instance or occasion of this; a meeting of a legislative or other body; the period of time occupied by it. It will be seen from the above that the expression 'meeting' in its individual sense means a 'sitting on a particular day' and in its cumulative or collective sense means a conglomeration of meetings held in a particular session and therefore a session. The question is whether this expression has teen used in Sub-section (5) in a restricted sense as meaning a meeting on a particular day or in its broader sense as meaning a session.
9. In legal parlance the expression 'meeting' in its application to the sittings of a House! of a Legislature has come to mean 'a session' of the House. Article 174 of the Constitution of India which relates, to a session of the State Legislature empowers the Government to summon each House to 'meet' at such time and place as he thinks fit. Again, section 15(2) of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, 1946, provides that Parliament shall be summoned to 'meet' once at least in every year. Rule 2 of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly Procedure Rules, 1950, says 'whenever it appears to the Governor that the Assembly should be summoned,
(a) he shall cause a notification to be published in the Calcutta Gazette appointing the day,hour and place for a meeting of the Assembly; and (b) the Secretary shall send to each membera summons to attend the meeting.' Within a session there are a number of daily 'sittings' separated by adjournments. A 'meeting' is not equivalent to a 'sitting' but to all tne sittings in a session. In - 'Subra-mania Aiyar v,' The United India Life Insurance Company Ltd.', (55 Mad. L. J. 385) it was held that it is a common law right in every meeting to adjourn itself and that an adjourned meeting is the. same meeting but a continuation of it. I would accordingly hold that the expression 'meeting' as it appears in Sub-section (5) is wide enough to embrace not only one sitting but all the sittings within a particular session. In other words, the expression is synonymous with the expression 'session'.
10. There is another aspect of the matter which needs to be considered. The British Parliament often wishes to exercise control over delegated legislation with the object of securing that the interests of the public should not be jeopardized by the making of rules which are harsh or oppressive or otherwise unjust or unreasonable. This control may be exercised in different ways. A statute may, for example, provide that the rules made under it shall be laid before the House or laid 'as soon as may be'. Another statute may declare that the rules shall be laid before the House but shall not come into force until the expiration of a certain period during which they may lie annulled if the House records its disapproval thereof. A third statute may require that the rules shall come into force at once but that they shall lie before Parliament for a specified period during which they are subject to a resolution that they be annulled. A fourth statute may enact that the rules shall have no effect, or no continuing effect, unless the Parliament expressly approves of them within a specified period. The method by which the prescribed period, which is usually forty days, is to be calculated must obviously vary with the varying terms of the statute. In May's Parliamentary Practice (page 807) the learned author observes as follows:
'.....the usual modern formula stipulates that no account shall be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days. If the period be interrupted by a prorogation the document must be laid afresh for the full period in the new Parliament, It has been ordered in the (House of ?) Lords that documents required to be laid for a prescribed number of days must be laid in full. It has been ruled in the Commons that until the full text of the document is laid the days do not begin to run.'
11. The practice followed by the British Parliament makes it quite clear that the provisions concerning the period for which the rules should be laid on the table of the House are rigidly enforced, and it is the constant endeavour of both the Houses of Parliament to secure that the rules should be scrutinized with care and that they should not be passed as a mere formality.
12. I have no doubt in my mind that the framers of the Act of 1929 were as anxious to exercise supervision over delegated legislation as members of the British Parliament are. They appear to have contemplated that the draft of the proposed rules should be published at least 30 days before the commencement of the session, so that persons likely to be affected by the proposed rules should have ample time at their disposal for studying the draft and for approaching a member of the Legislative Assembly and that the members of the Legislative Assembly should have sufficient time for studying the draft and for introducing a motion for discussing the same. A motion cannot be brought before the Assembly for discussion unless seven days' notice is given, and if a motion' of the nature contemplated by subsection (5) of section 22 is not introduced in the course of the session, it is open to the Provincial Government to promulgate the rules as having been duly framed. I am accordingly of the opinion that the expression 'meeting' appearing in Sub-section (5) has been used in its collective sense as meaning a 'session'. Any-other construction would be contrary to the intention of the Legislature and a reasonable operation of the statute and would be harsh and absurd. The Legislature cannot be presumed to have intended that if the draft rules were published on the 23rd September and the last sitting of the session was on the 25th October, the Provincial Government should be at liberty to confirm the rules even though the members have had no reasonable opportunity of introducing a motion for discussing the same. The Legislature cannot be presumed to do 3 futile thing. It must be assumed to be a reasonable legislature which is anxious to achieve effective results.
13. For these reasons, I would accept the petitions, set aside the order of the trial Court overruling the objection raised by the petitioners and direct that, as the rule which is sought to have been contravened was not made in accordance with the provisions of law, the proceedings must be quashed. I would order accordingly.
14. I agree.