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Kanwar Lal Gupta Vs. Amar Nath Chawla and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberElection Petition No. 2 of 1971
Judge
Reported inILR1972Delhi291
ActsEvidence Act, 1872 - Sections 123
AppellantKanwar Lal Gupta
RespondentAmar Nath Chawla and ors.
Advocates: S.N. Marwah,; K.C. Dua,; D.D. Chawla and;
Cases ReferredShri Rambhotla Ramanna v. Government of Andhra Pradesh
Excerpt:
.....123--reports relating to the affairs of state--claim of privilege in respect of mental notes and reports of c.i.d. officials upheld.; where privilege was claimed in respect of mental notes and reports of the c.i.d. officials who had been deputed to cover the election meeting :; (upholding the claim of privilege) that the disclosure of these reports is likely to disclose the secret workings of the c.i.c. (special branch) and the manner of such working in the context of public peace and secirity which undoubtedly is an affair of state. the conclusion is, thereforee, inescapable that these reports would relate to affairs of state. the object of a secret organisation like the c.i.d (special branch) is to be on guard and their activities are for the purpose of maintaining public peace and..........reporters of the c.i.d. who had been deputed to take notes of the speeches delivered during the public meetings of the congress in support of the congress candidate in the delhi sadar parliarnsntary constituency between the period 5-1-1971 to 15-3-1971. these witnesses were required to bring with them,- 'original reports taken by them and the copies if any of the said reports sent to the various authorities or the precise of the said speeches or the points noted i.e. the entire record including the the names and particulars of the speakers who were invited to attend, who spoke, the literature including land bills posters pamphlets etc. distributed or exhibited or referred to in the speeches or otherwise including the estimate of the number of persons attending such public or other.....
Judgment:

S.N. Andley, J.

(1) The petitioner had summoned Police Reporters of the C.I.D. who had been deputed to take notes of the speeches delivered during the public meetings of the Congress in support of the Congress candidate in the Delhi Sadar Parliarnsntary constituency between the period 5-1-1971 to 15-3-1971. These witnesses were required to bring with them,-

'ORIGINAL reports taken by them and the copies if any of the said reports sent to the various authorities or the precise of the said speeches or the points noted i.e. the entire record including the the names and particulars of the speakers who were invited to attend, who spoke, the literature including land bills posters pamphlets etc. distributed or exhibited or referred to in the speeches or otherwise including the estimate of the number of persons attending such public or other meetings and the slogans uttered from the stage and from the public during such meetings and such other records relevant for the purpose of proving this fact recorded by the witnesses including possible the names and addresses and particulars of other Police Officers who attended those meetings as a security measure or otherwise and also if possible the extent of loudspeakers and the electric arrangements, the shamianas, dories and other furniture used in the said meeting and other relevant factors to show how much would have been spent on a particular meeting'.

(2) In pursuance, of the summons, Mahinderpal Singh (Public Witness .20) an Inspector in the C.I.D. (Special Brachch) appeared on January 3, 1972. He deposed that the persons from the C.I.D. who were sent to cover meetings used to take the purport of the speeches either shorthand if shorthand writers were available or from memory and that these reports used to be submitted to the Deputy Superintendent of Police, C.I.D. He was then asked to state from the record the public election meetings held in the Sadar Parliamentary constituency which were covered by the C.I.D. staff and on that he produced an affidavit of L.S. Bisht, Inspector General of Police, Delhi, staling that many officers had been deputed to cover the meetings held between 5-1-1971 to 15-3-1971. He further stated that he had examined the contents of the documents which were required to be produced and had come to the conclusion that they 'are unpublished official records relating to the affairs of the State and its disclosure will cause injury to public interest and it contains privileged communications made in official confidence and public interest will suffer by its disclosure.' He, thereforee, withheld permission under section 123 of the Evidence Act to produce the said documents which 'are unpublished official records' or to give evidence derived there from. This affidavit was merely signed by L.S. Bisht and was not even attested.

(3) On the production of this affidavit I was of the view, as stated by me in the order of that date that the affidavit merely repeated the language of section 123 of the Evidence Act without telling the Court as to how the unpublished official records relate to any affair of State. I also stated that according to the testimony of Public Witness . 20, the job of the officers detailed by him was to note down what was said in these public speeches by various speakers and I could not appreciate hew notes and speeches made at these public meetings relating to an election could be said to relate to any affair of State. I also referred to the case reported in : AIR1969Mad378 on which reliance was placed by the petitioner. However, I gave an opportunity to the Inspector General of Police to file a further affidavit disclosing how the unpublished official records relate to any affair of State.

(4) The envelope containing the unpublished official records was not opened but on my orders, my Reader signed the closed envelope. On 7-1-1972, a further affidavit of the said Inspector General of Police was filed. In this affidavit it was stated that the envelope contained ' the mental notes and reports of officials which are made by the public officers in the course of discharge of their official duties' in the course of covering political meetings for the benefit of the C.I.D. (Special Branch) and the information so collected was passed on to only specified secret agencies. It was further stated that the aforesaid mental notes or reports were not verbatim copies of the speeches of the speakers and the practice of keeping such class of documents which are meant only for the consumption of the C.I.D. (Special Branch) was necessary for its proper functioning: that disclosure of these documents would lead to injury to public interest and prejudice the working of the C.I.D. (Special Branch); that these mental notes and reports are communications made in official confidence and public interest would suffer by its disclosure as it will disclose the secret working of the C.I.D. (Special Branch) and that the reports were not word to word reproduction of the various speeches made by the speakers. Claim for privilege in this further affidavit was, thereforee, not confined to section 123 of the Evidence Act and section 124 of the Evidence Act was also invoked.

(5) The scope of sections 123 and 124 of the Evidence Act has been authoritatively laid down by the Supreme Court in Sodhi Sukhdev Singh's case reported in Air 1961 Supreme Court 483.

(6) Dealing with section 123 of the Evidence Act, the majority of the learned Judges observed that in the latter half of the nineteenth century affairs of State had a comparatively narrow content and having regard to the notion about governmental functions and duties which then obtained, affairs of State would have meant matters of political or administrative character relating, for instance, to national defense, public peace and security and good neighborly relations. They further observed that if the documents were such that their disclosure would affect any of these matters, they could claim the character of a document relating to affairs of State. The area of documents which could be said to relate to affairs of State was enlarged. The Supreme Court observed that the inevitable consequence of the change in the concept of the functions of the State is that the State in pursuit of its welfare activities undertakes to an increasing extent activities which were formerly treated as purely commercial, and documents in relation to such commercial activities undertaken by the State in the pursuit of public policies of social welfare are also apt to claim the privilege of documents relating to affairs of State.

(7) It is not necessary to see whether the documents the production of which has been withheld pertain to this enlarged area of the activities of the State because in my view these unpublished reports relate to public peace and security. The object of a secret organisation like the C.I,D. (Special Branch) is to be on guard and their activities are for the purpose of maintaining public peace and security. The acts and actions of the C.I.D. (Special Branch) to attain this object must in their very nature be secret and their disclosure is likely to affect the attainment of this object. Any document which contains a record of any such acts or activities would be a document relating to an affair of State and if it is an unpublished official record, the Head of the Department concerned can withhold permission to give evidence derived from such records:

(8) The counsel for the petitioner has argued that according to his instructions these reports are mere word to word transcripts of the speeches made at such meetings but in view of the affidavit of L.S. Bisht this contention cannot be accepted as he has clearly deposed that these reports are not verbatim copies of the speeches of speakers. While making a report about what has happened at any meeting or election meeting, the persons deputed for the purpose has to make a report from the point of view of the maintenance of public peace and security and these reports must necessarily contain his overall impressions of what is said or done at any such meeting in the context of the maintenance of public peace and security.

(9) The petitioner has relied upon the cases reported in Air 1940 Lah 217 in re: Mohan Singh Bath and Others v. Emperor and A.I.R 1945 Lah 293 in re: Teja Singh v. Emperor (2) which related to the diary of a foot constable in the first case and the record of a police station about the activities of a suspect in the second case. These cannot attain the character of unpublished official records which have been made from the point of view of the maintenance of public peace and security as distinguished from the investigation of an offence. Reliance is next placed on the case reported in : AIR1971AP196 in re: Shri Rambhotla Ramanna v. Government of Andhra Pradesh where also it has been observed in paragraph 44 that if the documents relate to affairs pertaining, inter alia, to Secret service or Intelligence Service, the Head of the Department can file an affidavit staling the nature of the affairs of State and expressing his opinion that it will not be in the interest of the State or in public interest or in the interest of the Services, without possible injury, to produce such documents and that if this is done then the Court will not make an order for its production except in cases where a false affidavit is sworn to or interest other than the interests of the public or the State masquerade in the garb of public interest. I have no reason to doubt the genuineness of the reasons given in the affidavit.

(10) The case reported in : AIR1969Mad378 in re :R. Ramasrinivasan v.P. Shanmugham where the claim of privilege was disallowed was a case where police officers had been deputed to transcribe in shorthand the speeches of persons at public meetings. It was held that such transcripts could not be covered under claim of privilege. The present is not a case where the report comprises only of the transcript of the speeches made. According to the affidavit these reports are not verbatim copies of the speeches of the speakers but are the mental notes and reports of the C.I.D. officials who had been deputed to cover the election meetings and which will disclose the secret workings of the C.I.D. (Special Branch). These officers must have made their reports from the point of view of maintenance of public peace and security. The disclosure of these reports is likely to disclose the secret working of the C.I.D. (Special Branch) and the manner of such working in the context of public peace and security which undoubtedly is an affair of State. The conclusion is, thereforee, inescapable that these reports would relate to affairs of State.

(11) The claim of privilege is, thereforee, upheld under section 123 of the Evidence Act.

(12) The petitioner will, however, be permitted to examine in Court the various officers of the C.I.D. who were deputed to these meetings and whose names and particulars have been furnished by the Department concerned to depose about what they saw or heard at such meetings. Names of these witnesses were not given in the list of witnesses by the petitioner but they have been permitted to be produced because of my upholding the claim of privilege.


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