1. Mangat Rai was granted a licence for a pistol in 1958. According to him, in 1966, he incurred the displeasure of the Station House Officer, Police Station. Beas, because he refused to help the latter in a number of activities which were not approved by Mangat Rai. This led to an open hostility between the two and the Station House Officer manhandled not only Mangat Rai but his brother Prem Sagar as well. Mangat Rai actually filed a complaint against the Station House Officer under Sections 323 and 506. Indian Penal Code in the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate Amritsar. Prem Sagar also lodged a complaint against the station House Officer and the Assistant Sub-Inspector Police Station. Beas, under Section 343/323 Indian Penal Code, in the same Court. Subsequently on the report of this very Station House Officer, the District Magistrate, Amritsar, on 26th November, 1966 cancelled the licence of Mangat Rai under Section 17(3) of the Arms Act, 1959. In the said order, he stated:
' * * *
And whereas the cause shown by the licensee has been considered and it has been found out that though Shri Mangat Rai is a rich man, but he does not bear a good character. He is reported to be leader of desperados and is facing trial in case F. I. R. No. 162 dated 28-7-1966 under Section 506/148/149 Indian Penal Code. Police Station Jandiaria along with his gang. He is not a fit person to hold an arms licence.'
2. Against this order, Mangat Rai went in appeal before the Appellant Authority and the same was dismissed on 2nd May, 1967. The Appellate Authority observed that it was not correct that Mangat Rai was involved in any criminal case as mentioned by the District Magistrate. It was Prem Sagar, his brother, and two others, who had in fact been challenged but subsequently acquitted. The Appellate Authority then went on to say--'I have gone through the District Magistrate's file and find that the other allegations levelled against the appellant in the order under appeal have been found to be correct.' The said authority then referred to the complaints made by Mangat Rai and his brother Prem Sagar against the Station House Officer and on their basis stated that the conduct of Mangat Rai was not very desirable. According to it, if Mangat Rai and his brother felt aggrieved against the local police officials the proper remedy for them was to approach their senior officials and they should have had prosecuted them, if they had failed to secure relief from their superior officers. The Appellate Authority was of the opinion that the circumstances of the case indicated that it would be necessary for the security of the public peace to revoke the licence of Mangat Rai, because he was likely to abuse and misuse it, even though otherwise he was a very rich man.
3. Thereafter, Mangat Rai approached this Court by means of a writ petition challenging the legality of the orders passed by the District Magistrate and the Appellate Authority. This petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution came up for hearing before a learned Single Judge of this Court. He held that the District Magistrate had not given any finding that the licence was being cancelled, as it was necessary to do so for the security of the public peace or for public safety. He further held that the allegation that Mangat Rai was involved in a criminal case was incorrect as found by the Appellate Authority. According to the learned Judge, there was no material on the record to show that actually a case was pending against Mangat Rai and that he was a leader of the desperados and was facing trial along with his gang. The learned Judge also repelled the contention of the counsel for the State to the effect that even though the District Magistrate had not given the requisite finding as required by Section 17(3)(b) of the Arms Act, but the same finding had been recorded by the Appellate Authority by observing that firstly it was the District Magistrate and not the Commissioner, who had to give this finding and secondly the Appellate Authority, namely, the Commissioner, had merely reproduced the language of the section without giving any reasons. It was, according to the learned Single Judge, incumbent on the Appellate Authority to have given some reasons on the basis of which he had arrived at the conclusion that the cancellation of the licence was necessary for the security of the public peace or for public safety. On the basis of these findings, the learned Judge accepted the writ petition and quashed the impugned orders. Against this decision, the present appeal has been filed by the State of Punjab under Clause X of the Letters Patent.
4. Counsel for the appellant submitted that the learned District Magistrate had given three reasons for the cancellation of the licence of the respondents. It was said firstly that he did not bear a good character, secondly he was reported to be leader of desperados; and thirdly he was facing trial on criminal case along with his gang. Even though the third reason was found to be incorrect, the other two reasons which were found to be there by the Appellate Authority as well, were sufficient to sustain the finding given by the Appellate Authority that it was necessary to cancel the licence for the security of the public peace. It was not essential, according to the learned counsel, for the District Magistrate to quote the language of the section while cancelling the licence of the respondent, if it could be inferred from the order itself that the requisites of the section had been satisfied. Counsel submitted that if the respondent was not a man of good character and was leader of desperados, the cancellation of his licence would obviously be necessary for the security of the public peace. Learned Counsel also contended that under the law, in an administrative order of this kind, it was not necessary for the District Magistrate to refer to the material in the impugned order on the basis of which he concluded that the respondent did not bear a good character and he was leader of the desperados.
(5) The relevant part of Section 17(3)(b) of the Arms Act reads:--
' 17. (3) The licensing authority may by order in writing suspend a licence for such period as it thinks fit or revoke the licence-
(a)* * *
(b) if the licensing authority deems it necessary for the security of the public peace or for public safety to suspend or revoke the licence; or
(c)* * *'
6. A bare reading of this section shows that if the licensing authority deems it necessary either for the security of the public peace or for public safety to revoke the licence, he may do so by an order in writing. It is common ground that the District Magistrate had not stated in the impugned order that he thought it necessary either for the security of the public peace or for the public safety to revoke the licence of the respondent. He had, however, mentioned in the said order that the respondent did not bear good character and was reported to be leader of desperados and was facing trial in a criminal case along with his gang. Firm this order, it does appear that the respondent was facing trial in a criminal case along with his gang because he was leader of desperados. If it has been found by the Appellate Authority that no criminal case was pending against him, it can legitimately be inferred that he was not a leader of desperados, because it was on that account that he was facing trial in a criminal case along with his gang.
7. The case set up by the respondent was that he was a respectable citizen and held in esteem by the public and this would be apparent from the fact that he was elected a member of the Gram Panchayat of his village about 5 years ago and was appointed Sarpanch. He had never been prosecuted in any criminal case in any court up till now. This assertion made in his affidavit was not contradicted by the state. It is proved on the record that there was serious hostility between Mangat Rai and the Station House Officer, so much so that he had filed a criminal complaint against the latter in the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Amritsar. It was on the report of this very station House officer that the impugned order has been passed by the District Magistrate. Under these circumstances, in the impugned order, even assuming that it was an administrative one, there should have been a reference to some material on the basis of which the District Magistrate came to an independent conclusion that the respondent was not a man of good character and was a leader of desperados.
8. Admittedly, there is no reference to any such material either on the order of the District Magistrate or in that of the Appellate Authority. In the circumstances of this case, in my opinion, the impugned order should have indicated that the authority cancelling the licence had applied its mind and come to its own independent conclusion. This would have been so, if there was reference to some material on the basis of which the Dist. Magistrate or the Appellate Authority concluded that the respondent was a man of bad character and a leader of desperados. In both the impugned orders, this material is lacking. As already mentioned, the learned Single Judge has found that there was no material on the record to show that a case was actually pending against the respondent or that he was a leader of desperados and that he was facing trial along with his gang. It has, therefore, to be concluded that in this case the finding of the District Magistrate that the respondent did not bear a good character or was reported to be a leader of desperados was based on no evidence whatsoever, and this finding, consequently cannot be sustained. The cancellation of the licence on the basis of this finding was thus invalid in law.
9. In view of what I have said above, the appeal fails and is dismissed, but there will be no order as to costs.
10. I agree.
11. Appeal dismissed.