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Ranbir Singh Sehgal Vs. State of Punjab - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Writ No. 2 of 1961
Reported inAIR1961P& H524; 1961CriLJ687
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 14, 20 and 226
AppellantRanbir Singh Sehgal
RespondentState of Punjab
Respondent Advocate H.S. Dobia, Addl. Adv.-General
DispositionPetition dismissed
.....on the grounds of a decree or order. thus the contention that against an order passed by a single judge in an appeal filed under section 104 c.p.c., a further appeal lies to a division bench cannot be accepted. the newly incorporated section 100a in clear and specific terms prohibits further appeal against the decree and judgment or order of a single judge to a division bench notwithstanding anything contained in the letters patent. the letters patent which provides for further appeal to a division bench remains intact, but the right to prefer a further appeal is taken away even in respect of the matters arising under the special enactments or other instruments having the force of law be it against original/appellate decree or order heard and decided by a single judge. it has to be kept..........independently and disposed of on the merits as early as possible, and(3) that para 575 of the jail manual be declared ultra vires the constitution, being repugnant to articles 14 and 21 of the constitution. it is further pleaded in this connection that para 575 also conflicts with para 510 of the same manual. it is further stated in this connection that the petitioner is being virtually subjected to solitary confinement, which is outside the jurisdiction of the jail authorities, and which can only be the subject-matter of a sentence by a court and is controlled by section 73, indian penal code. in this context, he has also made a grievance that he is not being allowed to mix with his co-accused, who has also been sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment, and that he and his.....

I.D. Dua, J.

1. This petition has been filed by Ranbir Singh Sehgal at present confined in Central Jail, Patiala. He has made the following prayers in his petition:

(1) That proceedings in case F. I. R. no. 84, dated the 14th September, 1958, Police Station, Chandi Mandir, under Section 19 of the Indian Arms Act, pending in the Court of Shri B.D. Thapar, Magistrate First Class, Ambala, be quashed or alternatively it may be ordered to be tried by the Sessions Judge and disposed of within a reasonable time, which this Honourable Court may be pleased to fix,

(2) That his appeal against his conviction and sentence to five years under Section 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, pending in this Court (Criminal Appeal No. 639 of 1960), may be considered independently and disposed of on the merits as early as possible, and

(3) That para 575 of the Jail Manual be declared ultra vires the Constitution, being repugnant to Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. It is further pleaded in this connection that para 575 also conflicts with para 510 of the same Manual. It is further stated in this connection that the petitioner is being virtually subjected to solitary confinement, which is outside the jurisdiction of the jail authorities, and which can only be the subject-matter of a sentence by a Court and is controlled by Section 73, Indian Penal Code. In this context, he has also made a grievance that he is not being allowed to mix with his co-accused, who has also been sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment, and that he and his co-accused are not being afforded facilities even for the purposes of filing joint appeal and other allied matters. He has prayed that suitable relief in this connection be granted by this Court.

2. The petitioner has pleaded that he was arrested in the two cases already mentioned on 14th September, 1958, on the basis of alleged recovery of certain arms and explosives from a house in village Kajheri, district Ambala, and that thereafter he has remained in police custody for about eight months in violation of the provisions of Section 167(2), Criminal Procedure Code, his remand having been procured on insufficient or frivolous pleas. He admits that he was sent to judicial custody on 7th May, 1959.

Again, he has made a grievance that no challan was put into the Court for nearly 14 months and that it was on 2nd November. 1959, that two separate challans, one under the Arms Act and another under the Explosive Substances Act were put into Court; the petitioner has in this connection suggested that these two cases should have been tried jointly and not separately. After giving some more facts, it is stated that on 13th of June, 1960, the petitioner was sentenced to an aggregate term of seven years plus Rs. 4,000/- fine in both the cases. He filed two separate appeals against his conviction and sentence, one in the Court of the Sessions Judge, Ambala, and the other in this Court.

The appeal in the Court of the Sessions Judge was according to the petitioner, not heard for some time and the insinuation is that the Public Prosecutor managed to obtain adjournments on one ground or the other, with the result that the adjudication of the appeal was delayed. In the meantime, the appeal in this Court came up for hearing on the 5th of October, 1960, but R.P. Khosla, J. ordered that the same may be set down for hearing after the disposal of the appeal in the Court of the Sessions Judge.

I have not been able to find any such formal order, but in the written statement filed on behalf of Hari Ram, this assertion is admitted to be correct. On 10th October. 1960, the appeal in the Court of the Sessions Judge was heard by Shri H.D. Loomba, Additional Sessions Judge, who set aside the conviction and sentence of two years rigorous imprisonment and remanded the accused back to the Court of the Additional District Magistrate, Ambala, for cross-examination of four witnesses for the prosecution.

The teamed Additional Sessions Judge, according to the petition, ordered expeditious disposal of the case fixing 24th of October, 1960, for appearance in the Court of the Additional District Magistrate. In spite of this order, the case has not so far been disposed of and that at the time o the Sing of this petition in this Court, it was pending in the Court of Shri B.D. Thapar, Magistrate First Class, Ambala.

The petitioner has stated that he is fully convinced that the learned Magistrate has been acting in collusion with the prosecuting agency in delaying the disposal of the case and it is with this apprehension in his mind that he intimated to the learned Magistrate that an application for transfer was going to be moved in the High Court. As a result of this intimation, the learned Magistrate adjourned the case to 16th February, 1961, and discharged the witnesses. It is in these circumstances that the petitioner has made the prayers in this Court as mentioned earlier.

3. In so far as the criminal case remanded by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Ambala, and pending in the Court of Shri B.D. Thapar is concerned, the learned Additional Advocate-General has given an undertaking that the case would be disposed of with expedition and promptitude and he expects the case to be set down for hearing next week. In view of this undertaking, I Jo not think it is necessary to pass any order as prayed by the petitioner. No sufficient ground has been made out for its transfer to this Court or to the Court of the learned Sessions Judge,

I may, however, emphasise that in this Republic, Courts of justice are expected never to behave in a manner which would give rise to a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the accused person that the Court is unduly favouring the prosecution. Justice, as has very often been repeated, must not only be done, but it must also seem to have been done. In the present case, in spite of the order of the learned Additional Sessions Judge that the case should be disposed of expeditiously the learned Magistrate does not seem to have paid the attention, which the case demanded.

Every accused person is entitled to have an | expeditious trial of the charges against him and this is so, irrespective of the seriousness of the allegations. Unless the law itself draws a distinction, every accused person is entitled to be treated without any undue discrimination, however distasteful his activities may be to the executive.

4. In so far as the appeal pending in this Court is concerned, I think it would be desirable to place that appeal before R. P. Khosla, J., who is admitted to have passed an order on 5th of October, 1960, that the said appeal would be decided after the disposal of the Sessions appeal,

5. This brings me to vires of para 575 of the Jail Manual. The petitioner has contended that this para comes into conflict with Section 71, Indian Penal Code, and also para 510 of the Jail Manual itself. Section 71 of the Penal Code has, however, nothing to do with the subject-matter of para 575 of the Jail Manual. Para 510 however, lays down;

'(1) The amount of solitary confinement that can be ordered by a Court, is a time not exceeding:

(a) one month, if the term of imprisonment does not exceed six months;

(b) two months, if the term of imprisonment exceeds six months, but does not exceed one year; and

(c) three months, if the term exceeds one year,


In the explanation added to this para, it is stated that:

'Solitary confinement means such confinement with or without labour as entirely secludes the prisoner both from sight of, and communication with, other prisoners.'

This provision is really identical with that contained in Section 73 of the Indian Penal Code. As I understand, the grievance of the petitioner is that the jail authorities are keeping him in solitary confinement without there being any order to that effect by a Court of competent jurisdiction. He has in this . connection submitted that even when the Court is empowered to pass an order of solitary confinement, this power is circumscribed by the limitations laid down by the Legislature in Section 73, Indian Penal Code. But the jail authorities have transgressed all those limitations and have continuously been keeping the petitioner in solitary confinement in actual practice.

6. This allegation has been denied by the respondents and it has been stated in sworn affidavit that the petitioner has been provided by amenities to which he was entitled as 'B' class prisoner and that he himself refused to accept the cot provided to him. The petitioner being a dangerous criminal and there being a danger of his attempting to escape, he was kept in a cell in accordance with the provisions of paras 571 to 575 of the Jail Manual. It has been denied that the petitioner was locked up in a solitary cell and it has also been denied that he was ordered to be kept in a cell for 24 hours.

It is stated that he was given one hour in the morning and one in the evening for exercise etc. and was allowed to have his bath etc. outside in the courtyard. It has, however, been admitted that the petitioner was kept throughout segregated, though he was allowed to attend to his cases in Courts and to go out of his cell. The respondents have further averred that para 575 is intra vires and that the restrictions imposed thereby are reasonable in the interests of jail discipline.

7. The petitioner, in expressing his grievances against his treatment by the jail authorities also made a passing reference to Articles 14, 19 and 20 of the Constitution. He also complained that he Was not being permitted to mix with his co-accused for the purpose of chalking out a common defence and for putting in a joint appeal against their convictions.

8. In my opinion, para 575 of the Jail Manual has not been shown to me to- be unconstitutional. It merely lays down:

'A convict who would ordinarily come under the operation of any of the preceding rules relating to the separation of prisoners, but cannot be confined in a cell by day, by reason that he is required for some jail service, shall be confined in a cell by night'

Separation of prisoners, mentioned in this para, has a reference to paras 571 to 574. Para 571 says:

'All convicts shall, so far as their requirements of labour and the cell accommodation of the jail will allow, be kept separate both by day and by night.'

Para 572 deals with the occupation of vacant cells, and para 573 says that;

'Convicts of the habitual class shall be subjected to the system of separation prescribed in the preceding rules, in rotation,'

Para 574 provides that:

'If, at any time, there are more cells in any jail than suffice for the separation of all convicts of the habitual class, prisoners of the casual class shall be confined in cells, both by day and night, in rotation.'

These paragraphs, according to note 1 added to para 575, provide for the separation, which is distinct from 'cellular' confinement and 'separate' confinement inflicted as a punishment under Section 46 of the Prisons Act and is restricted merely to the separation of individual prisoners either by day or night for purposes of jail management. It is also provided in this note that such a separation is not to have irksome conditions attached to it.

According to note 2, it is further clarified that if in the opinion of the Superintendent the presence of any convict in association with others is detrimental to good order and discipline, or is likely to encourage or lead to the commission of any offence, such convict should be kept separate, in preference to others of his class. In this note, it is also mentioned that paragraphs 571 to 575 are of general application. In para 576, the separation of various classes of prisoners is to be carried out both by day and by night to the fullest extent the means available admit.

9. It is true that these paragraphs may be abused in a given case, but that by itself does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that they are liable to be struck down as unconstitutional. After all it mast not be forgotten that these paragraphs are meant for dealing with all kinds of convicts, some of whom may be truly dangerous to the society and, perhaps, may even have, for their objective the overthrow of the existing system of Government established by our Constitution.

Therefore, to some extent, discretion must need be vested in the persons entrusted with the management of the State jails. I must at this stage state in clearest possible terms that merely because a person is charged with or even convicted of a most serious offence against the security of this Republic, is by itself no valid ground for depriving him of the safeguards, which our Constitution guarantees; and, indeed, the facilities provided to the petitioner for approaching this Court and arguing his case is proof positive of the legal position according to the Indian Republican jurisprudence.

Now, Article 14 of the Constitution to which the petitioner appealed in support of his prayer merely provides for equality before the law. In other words, according to this Article, there is to be no discrimination, between one person and another, if, as regards the subject-matter of the Legislation, their position is the same. In the present case, no cogent material has been brought to my notice inducing me to hold that there has been an arbitrary discrimination by any law against the present petitioner.

Para 575 of the Jail Manual certainly does not place any one under any disadvantage arbitrarily or in circumstances which do not admit of a reasonable justification for a different treatment. This para rests on differences, which are pertinent to the subject in respect of which the classification has been made in it. Prima facie, this certainly appears to be reasonable and also necessary. Article 20(2), to which also reference was made, merely lays down that no person shall be prosecuted and. punished for the same offence more than once.

I am wholly unable to find any violation of this provision of the Constitution in the case before me. I must, however, observe that the petitioner has been greatly handicapped by arguing the case himself, because, being a layman, though possessing a fair amount of intelligence, it has not been possible for him to grasp the basic principles underlying the Constitution. This disadvantage , on the part of the petitioner has also meant absence of real assistance to this Court in the determination of this constitutional question. However, from what I have been able to find from the present record, I do not think it is possible for me, as at present advised, to strike down the validity of para 575 of the Jail Manual, as violative of any provision of our Constitution.

10. In passing, I may also notice another grievance raised by the petitioner and that is that this Court should order that he should be permitted to mix with his co-accused. I am afraid this relief is wholly outside the scope of Article 226 of the Constitution and if the petitioner's detention is valid it is not for this Court to direct the jail authorities to permit him to meet with any other accused person. That is a matter for the internal administration of the jail authorities and this Court will be disinclined to interfere with those matters.

Of course, if any undue and illegal hindrance is placed in the way of the petitioner in properly defending himself, this Court would too readily intervene and safeguard the petitioner's rights, but failure to meet other persons, who have also been convicted, along with him, for the purposes of filing a joint appeal, is, in my opinion, not such a grievance. There appears to be no such general legal right in the petitioner which calls for protection, preservation and enforcement under Article 226 of the Constitution.

11. In view of the above discussion, this petition fails and is hereby dismissed.

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