(1). Garden Singh has approached this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution alleging that in the year 1952-53 under the Peeps Home Guard Scheme to meet the menace of dacoits the Government distributed rifles to the village Panchayat which in turn used to distribute them to other persons of the village. One such rifle was given to the petitioner by the Village Panchayat concerned. In 1954 there was a dacoity in the petitioner's village and several houses were raided including that of the petitioner, and, as a matter of fact, one Sadhu Singh of the village was shot dead by the dacoits. The dacoits also forcibly took away the rifle entrusted to the petitioner. During investigation the police actually recovered the rifle and the same is now in their possession. A demand was made from the petitioner for realising the sum of Rs. 1500/- as price of the rifle; a similar demand was also made from the Village Panchayat on account on the same rifle. In 1956 the petitioner filed a writ petition in Pepsu High Court and the learned Advocate-General appearing on behalf of the State expressly stated that the Government had instructed him not to recover the amount from the petitioner, apparently in view of the fact that the rifle had been recovered during the investigation. A similar writ petition was also preferred by the Panchayat and that also succeeded on the same ground.
(2) On 4th of August 1960 a warrant of arrest has again been issued against the petitioner for the recovery of Rs. 1,500/- on account of price of the same stolen rifle. This warrant is alleged to have been issued by the Tehsildar, Malerkotla, respondent No. 3. In execution of this warrant the petitioner is said to have been actually arrested, brought to Malerkotla Tehsil and later on released on bail on the assurance that the amount will be deposited in the treasury by the 9th August 1960. It is against this warrant of arrest for the recovery of Rs. 1,500/- that the present writ petition has been filed.
(3) This petition which is dated 8th August 1960, was filed in this Court on 19th August 1960, and was heard by the Motion Bench consisting of G. D. Khosla C. J. and D. K. Mahajan, J., when the petition was admitted and recovery was stayed meanwhile. Shri Chetan Dass, appearing today for the respondents, sought adjournment on the ground that he had not yet received the return to be filed in this Court. I, however, regret my inability to acceded to this request. The writ petition having been admitted as far back as the 23rd of August 1960, I do not think there is any respondents for submitting the return. The question relates to the fundamental right of a citizen; he having been arrested in pursuance of a demand which is alleged to be wholly unjust and contrary to law. It is a little distressing to find the Government adopting an attitude of indifference towards this petition. Governed as we are by the rule of law under the Constitution which guarantees certain fundamental rights to the citizens of this Republic, it is incumbent on the State to take prompt steps to submit returns to the writs issued by this Court within a reasonable time and not to sleep over the matters for such a long time as I find the State authorities have done in this case.
(4) There being no return, I must assume the correctness of all the assertions made in the present writ petition, and on this assumption it is impossible to justify the impugned order. The fact that previously on Gurdev Singh's own petition the Advocate-General of Pepsu virtually conceded the petitioner's right and intimated to the Court the decision of the Government not to contest the writ petition, makes the position worse for the respondents. The petition thus must be allowed with costs.
(5) Before parting with the case I cannot help observing that the negligence shown by the officer, who has issued the warrant of arrest, is inexcusable and betrays a complete lack of sense of responsibility on his part. It is, in the circumstances, desirable that the higher officers should go into the matter and see that such inexcusable conduct is not repeated.
(6) As already observed this writ petition succeeds and allowing the same I quash the impugned order and direct that the cost of the rifle in question must not be realised from the petitioner. The petitioner is entitled to his costs against the respondents.
(7) Petition allowed.