(1) The brief facts, giving rise to this application under Section 99-B, of the Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter referred to as the Code) by Mohamad Khalid petitioner, are as under:-
On 27th November 1959, the Chief Commissioner of Delhi issued the following ntoification under Section 99-A of the Code.
'No. F, 110/59-C. Whereas the Chief Commissioner, Delhi, is satisfied that the book entitled 'Khilafat-I-Moawia wa Yazid' in Urdu by Mohmood Ahmed Abbasi and published by Ruhani Kutab Khan Pul Bangash, Delhi, contains mater which is deliberately and maliciously intended to promtoe feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens of India and the publication of which is punishable under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code (Act 45 of 1860).
Now, thereforee, on the above-stated grounds and in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 99-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Act V of 1898), the Chief Commissioner Delhi, hereby declares to be forfeited to Government every copy of the said book and all toher documents containing copies, reprints and translations or extracts from said book.
Chief Secretary, Delhi Administration'
(2) The petitioner, who claimed to be the printer of the book 'Khilafat-I-Moawia wa Yazid' mentioned in the order, filed the present application for quashing the above order of the Chief Commissioner. A number of grounds were mentioned by the petitioner, but we are nto concerned with all of them. One of the grounds on which the petitioner challenged the order, was that it was vague inasmuch as it did nto specify the parts of the book which were claimed to be objectionable.
(3) The application was resisted by the Chief Commissioner, Delhi, and the affidavit of Shri Anand Pal, Under Secretary of the Delhi Administration was filed. It was nto admitted the petitioner had locus standi to file the application. Plea was taken that the book in dispute contained matters which deliberately and maliciously promtoed feelings of enmity and hatred between Shias and Sunnis, and were highly provocative to Shias, and were intended to injure their religious susceptibilities The application came up for hearing before a Special Bench of the Punjab High Court on 10th December 1962 and the learned Judges held that the petitioner had an interest in the book in question and as such had locus standi to file the application.
(4) Before dealing with the respective contentions of the parties, it would be appropriate to reproduce the different provisions of law having bearing on the point of controversy. Section 99-A of the Code gives power to the State Government to declare certain publications forfeited and to issue search warrants for the same, and reads as under-
(a) any newspaper, or book as defined in the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 (25 of 1867), or
(b) any document,
Wherever printed, appears to the State Government to contain any seditious matter or any which promtoes or is intended to promtoe feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India or which is deliberately and maliciously intended to outrage the religious feelings of any such class by insulting the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, that is to say, any matter the publication of which is punishable under Section 124A or Section 153A or Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), the State Government, by ntoification in the official Gazettee, stating the grounds of its opinion, declare every copy of the issue of the newspaper containing such matter, and every copy of such book or toher document to be forfeited to Government, and thereupon any police officer may seize the same, wherever found in India, and any Magistrate may by warrant authorise any police officer nto below the rank of sub-inspector to enter upon the search for the same in any premises where any; copy of such issue or any such book or toher document may be or may be reasonably suspected to be.
(2) In sub-section (1) 'document' includes also any painting, drawing, or phtoograph, or toher visible representation'
Section 99-B, provides for application to the High Court to set aside the order of forfeiture and is as under:
'Any person having any interest in any newspaper, book of toher document, in respect of which an order of forfeiture has been made under Section 99-A, may within two months from the date of such order, apply to the High Court to set aside such order on the ground that the issue of the newspaper, or the book or toher document, in respect of which the order was made, did nto contain any seditious or toher matters of such a nature as is referred to in sub-section (1) of Section 99-A'.
According to section 99-C every such application made to the High Court shall be heard and determined by a Special Bench of the High Court comopsed of three judges. Section 99-D, provides that on receipt of the application, the Special Bench shall, if it is nto satisfied that the issue of the newspaper, or the book or toher document, in respect of which the application has been made, contained seditious or toher matter of such a nature as is referred to in sub-section (1) of Section 99-A, aside the order of forfeiture'.
(5) Mr. Bishambar Dayal, on behalf of the Chief Commissioner, has raised an objection that the order of the Special Bench of the Punjab High Court, made on 10th December 1962 by which the petitioner was held to possess an interest in the book in question and as such locus standi to file the application, is nto binding on this Court. It is urged that this question should be determined afresh. There is, in our opinion, no merit in this contention. At the time the above order was mad the Special Bench of the Punjab High Court was seized of the matter and had admittedly jurisdiction to decide the question of petitioner's interest and locus standi to file the application. The learned judges, on consideration of the material placed before them, came to the conclusion that the petitioner possessed an interest in the book in question and had a locus standi to file the application. A decision having been given with respect to a part of the matter in controversy between the parties by a Court of competent jurisdiction, it would be binding in the subsequent stage of the same proceedings and cannto how be reopened.
On the merits of the case Mr. Anand, on behalf of the petitioner, has argued that the impugned ntoification is nto in conformity with law as it is vague and does nto give the grounds on account of which the Chief Commissioner formed the opinion that the book in question contained matter which was deliberately and maliciously intended to promtoe feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens of India. In our opinion, there is force in this contention. Perusal of Sec.99-A, reproduced above, goes to show that the Government while issuing a ntoification under that Section has to state the grounds of its opinion on the basis of which it comes to the conclusion that the newspaper, book or document contains any seditious matter or any matter which promtoes or is intended to promtoe feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens of India or which is deliberately and maliciously intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, that is to say, any matter the publication of which is punishable under S. 124-A, or S.153-A or S.295-A of the Indian Penal Code. The grounds of opinion are a vital and essential part of the ntoification because it is those grounds which would reveal the justification for the issuance of the ntoification. The requirement about stating the grounds of opinion of the State Government, being an imperative and integral part of the Section, it would follow that a ntoification in order to be legal and effective must comply with and fulfill that requirement. Such a compliance is a sine qua non of the validity of the ntoification, and a ntoification which does nto incorporate the grounds of the opinion, would be nto in conformity with law. The law in this respect has to be substantially compiled with and it is nto enough to merely reproduce the language of Sections 124A, 153A or 295A without specifying as to how or in what manner there has been contravention of the provisions of those Sections.
(6) In the present case all that the Chief Commissioner has stated in the impugned ntoification is that in his opinion the book in question is intended to promtoe feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens of India. Neither the passage in the books, on which that opinion was based, has been referred to, nor is there indication of the different classes of citizens between whom the book was alleged to promtoe feelings of enmity or hatred. The ground, on which the opinion is based, is nto given and the whole thing is left in the realm of vagueness. A similar question came up before their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the case of Harnam Das v. State of Uttar Pradesh, : 2SCR487 . In the aforesaid case the validity of an order under Section 99-A of the Code was assailed. The order in that case was as under:-
'In exercise of its powers conferred by Section 99-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure the Government is pleased to declare the books forfeited to Government on the ground that the said books contain matter, the publication of which is punishable under Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code'.
Sankar, J. (as he then was). Who spoke for the majority after referring to Section 99-Aof the Code dealt with the ntoification and observed as under:-
'The toher thing that appears from the section is that the Government has to state the grounds of its opinion. The order mad in this case, no doubt, stated that in the Government's opinion the books contained matters the publication of which was punishable under Ss.153-A and 295-A of the Penal Code. It did nto, however. State, as it should have, the grounds of that opinion. So it is nto known which communities were alienated from each toher or whose religious beliefs had been wounded according to the Government, nor why the Government thought that such alienation or offence to religion had been caused'
The Allahabad High Court in that case had taken the view that its duty under Section 99-D of the Code was only to see whether in fact the document came within the mischief of the offence charged. The High Court had thought that a document would be within the mischief of the offence charged if, in its own opinion, it contained matters the publication under either Ss/124-A, 153-A or 295-A of the Penal Code as mentioned in the order of forfeiture, irrespective of the Government's opinion on the matter. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court did nto accept as correct the above view of the Allahabad High Court and observed:-
'Now Section 99-D is concerned with setting aside an order That order is one made under Section 99-A. An order under that section can be made only when certain things have appeared to the Government and the Government has formed a certain opinion. The section further requires the Government to state the grounds of its opinion. It is this order. That is, the order based on the grounds stated, which the party affected has been given by Section 99-B the right to move the High Court to set aside. It would follow that all that Section 99-B can require the party to do is to show that order was improper. Whether that order was based; whether antoher order to the same effect could have been made on toher grounds is irrelevant, for that would nto show the validity of the order actually mad; that order would be bad if the grounds on which it is made do nto support it'
It was further observed as under:
'What then is to happen when the Government did nto state the grounds of its opinion? In such a case if the High Court upheld the order, it may be that it would have done so for reasons which the Government did nto have in contemplation at all. If the High Court did that, it would really have made an order of forfeiture itself and nto upheld such an order made by the government. This, as already stated, the High Court has no power to do under Section 99-B. It seems clear to us, thereforee, that in such a case the High Court must set aside the order under Section 99-D, for it cannto then be satisfied that the grounds given by the Government justified the order. You cannto be satisfied above a thing which you do nto know'.
The order of forfeiture made by the State Government in that case was accordingly set aside. The dictum laid down in the above case, in our opinion, fully applies to the facts of the present case and it would follow from it that if the ntoification issued by the Chief Commissioner is nto in conformity with law because of his having nto stated the grounds of his opinion, this Court would nto itself go into the matter and find out by referring to the different passages in the book as to whether they contravene Section 153A of the Penal Code.
(7) We may observe that the Under Secretary to the Delhi Administration in the course of his affidavit has stated, as mentioned earlier, that the book in question contained matter which was calculated to promtoe feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of Muslims in India, that is, Shias and Sunnis, and were highly provacating to Shias. These averments are no doubt contained in the affidavit but they find no mention in the ntoification issued by the Chief Commissioner. What is impugned here is the validity of the ntoification issued by the Chief Commissioner, and if the above mentioned ntoification suffered from an infirmity, inasmuch as it did nto contain ground on which the opinion of the Chief Commissioner was based, the same cannto be cured by the filing of the affidavit of the Under Secretary during these proceedings.
(8) It may also be mentioned that the book in question was proscribed and forfeited under Section 99-A of the Code in Pakistan but a Special Bench of West Pakistan High Court set aside the order of the Government in Mahmood Ahmed Abbasi v. Administrator of Karachi, Cri. Misc. Appln. No.483 of 1959, D/-19-12-1960 (West Pak). The main reason which weighed with the learned judges in deciding in favor of the petitioner in that case, was precisely the same which has weighed with us in disposing of this petition.
We, thereforee, accept the petition and set aside the impugned ntoification. The books, which were seized in pursuance of the impugned ntoification, should be returned to the persons from whom they were seized. The petitioner shall be entitled to the costs of these proceedings which we assess at Rs.250/-.
(9) Petition allowed.