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ScIndia Potteries Private Ltd. and Vs. Purolator India Ltd., Union of India - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetter Patent Appeal No. 69 of 1979
Judge
Reported inAIR1980Delhi157; 17(1980)DLT358; 1980RLR271
ActsTelegraph Act, 1885 - Sections 4
AppellantScIndia Potteries Private Ltd. and ;A.S. Goraya
RespondentPurolator India Ltd., Union of India
Advocates: S.N. Kaickar,; P.P. Malhotra,; I.D. Garg and;
Cases ReferredUnion of India v. Ram Chandra
Excerpt:
civil - telephone connections - sections 17 and 19 a of telegraph act, 1885 - whether disconnection of telephone wires and teleprinter justified - appellants had no power or right to carry out disconnection themselves - under section 25 such act is offence - act mala fide on account of disconnection made before giving notice to respondent (uoi) - section 19a not applicable - held, disconnection unjustified. - - , the same were disconnected by the appellants and have not been restored despite the best efforts of m/s purolator india ltd. to have its telephone connections restored and teleprinter line re-energised cannot be defeated on the alleged ground of misuse of the premises in their occupation......ltd. are tenants in some of these buildings. in april, 1973 the telegraph authority under the indian telegraph act, 1885 (hereinafter called the act) placed telegraph lines and poles in and over the scindia potteries area. telephone connections were given to m/s scindia potteries private ltd. and m/s purolator india ltd. two telephone connections were given to m/s purolator india ltd. in february, 1974 and three were given later some time after may, 1978. a teleprinter line was also connected to the premises in the occupation of m/s purolator india ltd. it seems there were some disputes between m/s scindia potteries private ltd. and m/s purolator india ltd. which has led to litigation between the two parties. it is alleged that premises had been rented to m/s purolator india ltd......
Judgment:

Prakash Narain, J.

(1) This appeal conies to us under Clause X of the Letters Patent, as applicable to this court, from a judgment dated March 19, 1979 given by a learned Single Judge of this Court.

(2) This is a case which illustrates how in a private dispute between the parties Government can get unnecessarily involved. The appellants before us are M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. and its Managing Director. Shri A.S. Goraya while the respondents are the Union of India, The General Manager, Delhi Telephones and M/s Purolator India Ltd. M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd, owns about 30 acres of land in the area commonly known as Sarojini Nagar, New Delhi. This property of M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. is known as the 'Scindia Potteries Area'. It is enclosed by a boundary wall. There are a number of sheds and buildings in the area. M/s Purolator India Ltd. are tenants in some of these buildings. In April, 1973 the Telegraph Authority under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 (hereinafter called the Act) placed telegraph lines and poles in and over the Scindia Potteries Area. Telephone connections were given to M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. and M/s Purolator India Ltd. Two telephone connections were given to M/s Purolator India Ltd. in February, 1974 and three were given later some time after May, 1978. A teleprinter line was also connected to the premises in the occupation of M/s Purolator India Ltd. It seems there were some disputes between M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. and M/s Purolator India Ltd. which has led to litigation between the two parties. It is alleged that premises had been rented to M/s Purolator India Ltd. for godowns but in violation of the terms of the lease and permitted land use in the Master Plan, M/s Purolator India Ltd. have shifted offices to the tenanted premises. It is also alleged that in consequence the Delhi Development Authority has given notice to M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. to show cause why action should not be taken against it under Section 14 read with Section 29(2) of the Delhi Development Act. 1957 for permitting user of its buildings in contravention of the provisions of the Master Plan. On April 30, 1978 M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. is said to have issued a notice to the Director-General, Posts and Telegraphs, New Delhi, the Secretary, Ministry of Telecommunication, New Delhi, the General Manager, Delhi Telephones and Divisional Engineer (Funds), Hauz Khas Exchange, New Delhi that M/s Purolator India Ltd. are getting telephone connections to perpetuate misuse by them of the premises in their possession, that such misuse is contrary to and in violation of the rights of M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. and that the telephone connections should be removed forthwith failing which M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. would have no option but to remove the same at the Government's cost, risk and responsibility. Another notice to the same effect is purported to have been issued by M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. on August 31, 1978. On October 9, 1978 the appellants are said to have themselves disconnected or caused to be disconnected the telephone lines going to the premises of M/s Purolator India Ltd. The request of M/s purolator India Ltd. for restoration of these lines not having been acceeded to, they filed a petition in this court for issue of a writ of mandamus directing the relevant governmental authorities to restore the telephone connections of the five telephones and the teleprinter line. It was alleged that restoration was not being granted at the instance of the virtual owner and proprietor of M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. who had personal influence over the former Central Minister of Communication. The name of the virtual owner and proprietor mentioned is Smt. Vijaya Raje Scincia while that of the Minister is mentioned as Shri Brij Lal Verma. It is also said that the Additional General Manager, Delhi Telephones told Mr.K.Sairam of M/s Purolator India Ltd. that they were helpless in the matter as they had directions not to restore the telephone connections and the teleprinter line.

(3) In reply to the allegations of M/s Purolator India Ltd. an affidavit was filed by Major General A.S. Goraya, Managing Director of M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. It was contended that M/s Purolator India Ltd. had unauthorisedly trespassed into Scindia Potteries Area but dispute between them was not denied. It was denied that Smt. Vijaya Raje Scindia had anything to do with the matter. It was pleaded that inasmuch as the telephone lines and poles adversely affected the interest of the appellant, the same were rightly disconnected and the remedy of M/s Purolator India Ltd. under the Act was to approach the District Magistrate instead of filing a writ petition. It was further pleaded that the telephone lines and poles were put up by the Telegraph Authority without the permission and consent of the appellant and so, could be asked to remove. Notice of removal was given but since it was not complied with, telephone lines were removed by the appellant. As far as the Government is concerned, its stand has been that it will abide by any directions of this court. The fact of the matter is that five telephone connections and one teleprinter line was working in the premises of M/s Purolator India Ltd., the same were disconnected by the appellants and have not been restored despite the best efforts of M/s Purolator India Ltd.

(4) The learned Single Ju('ge came to the conclusion that installation of telephone is too remote to the user or misuse of the disputed premises It did not give a valid ground to the appellants to disconnect the telephone connections or lines of M/s Purolator India Ltd. In the circumstances of the case he was of the view that non-connection or non-energisation of telephone connectsons and teleprinter line was unjustified. A direction was accordingly, issued on March 19, 1979 to the Telegraph Authority to restore the five telephones and teleprinter line within one week. Aggrieved M/s Scindia Potteries Private Ltd. have filed the present appeal.

(5) It has been contended that the Telegraph Authority had without the permission and consent of and in spite of verbal protest by the employees of the appellants installed telephone poles and lines on land and premises belonging to the appellants. This the said authorities could not do except after complying with the provisions of Section 16(1) of the Act It has further been contended that the learned Single Judge has not correctly appreciated the scope and effect of the various provisions of the Act and that once the telephone connections have been disconnected even by the appellants the same could not be restored except by seeking recourse to action 16 of the Act. The disconnection by the appellants,it was contended, was justified in view of the provisions of Sections 17 and 19A of the Act In conuence, it has been submitted that the direction issued by the learned Single Judge should be recalled and the writ petition dismissed.

(6) Learned counsel appearing for the appellants has further urged that inasmuch as M/s Purolator India Ltd. are misusing the premises in contevention of both the terms of the tenancy and the provisions of the Delhi Development Act. no equitable or discretionary relief should be granted to them as ordering reconnection of the telephones and energising of the teleprinter line would enable them to carry on their illegal activity. It is common case of the parties that the appellant have commenced proceedings seeking eviction from the tenanted premises.

(7) We may first dispose of the objection with regard to the alleged misuse of the premises by M/s Purolator India Ltd. The question is sub-judice in competent proceedings and we are in entire agreement with the learned Single Judge that the claim of M/s Purolator India Ltd. to have its telephone connections restored and teleprinter line re-energised cannot be defeated on the alleged ground of misuse of the premises in their occupation. That is a question which must be agitated in some other proceedings. Indeed, if the stand taken by the appellant is not tenable, plea of misuse of the premises put forward by the appellant cannot be allowed to be used as an instrument of pressuring M/s Purolator India Ltd. to vacate the premises in their occupation. Indeed, this aspect was not even stressed very much. Learned counsel for the appellants primarily relied upon the provisions of the Act and submitted that reconnection or re-energisation can only be in accordance with the provisions therein.

(8) Section 4 of the Act confers exclusive privilege on the Central Government of establishing, maintaining and working telegraphs. Section 10 gives power to the Telegraph Authority to place and maintain telegraph lines under, over, along or across and posts in or upon, any immovable property. In doing so the Telegraph Authority is enjoined, inter alia, not to do so except for the purposes of a telegraph established or maintained by the Central Government or to be so established or maintained. In placing, maintaining posts or lines the Central Government does not by the mere fact of doing so acquire any right other than of user in the property under, over, along, across, in or upon which telegraph lines or posts have been installed. The Telegraph Authority is further enjoined to do as little damage as possible in exercising the power conferred by Section 10. Section 11 gives power to the Telegraph Authority at any time for the purposes of examining, repairing, altering or removing any telegraph line or post to enter on the property under, over, along, across, in or upon which the line or post has been placed. As far as private property is concerned, as opposed to property vested in or under the management of the local authority, it it provided by Section 16(1) of the Act that if the exercise of the powers mentioned in Section 10 in respect of property referred to in Clause (d) of that Section is resisted or obstructed, the District Magistrate may, in his discretion, order that the Telegraph Authority shall be permitted to exercise those powers. If there is resistance even after the orders of the District Magistrate have been passed, the resistance is made a penal offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. This is what Sub-section (2) of Section 16 provides. If a dispute arises concerning the sufficiency of the compensation to be paid to the owner of a private property, such dispute is to be referred to the adjudication of the District Judge within whose jurisdiction the property is situate. This is so because Clause (d) of Section 10 provides that the Telegraph Authority shall do as little damage as possible while exercising its powers under Section 10 and shall pay full compensation to all persons interested for any damage sustained by them by reason of the exercise of those powers. Section 17 of the Act lays down that if any person in whose property or under, over, along and across whose property a telegraph line or post has been placed desires that the position of the post or the telegraph line be altered, he may call upon the telegraph authority to do so. He may, however, do so if in making such requisition he refunds compensation, if any, received by him earlier and tenders to the telegraph authority the amount requisite to defray the expenses of removal or alteration of half the amount of compensation received by him, whichever is less. If the telegraph authority omits to comply with the requisition, the person making the requisition may apply to the District Magistrate within whose jurisdiction the property is situate to order the removal or alteration. The District Magistrate on receiving such an appli- cation has discretion, either to reject the requisition or make an order directing the Telegraph Authority to carry out the removal or alteration. Section 19A enjoins upon eveiy person who wants to use his property in such a way that it may damage or interfere with existing telegraph line or post to give not less than one month's notice in writing of his intention to exercise his property rights to the appropriate telegraph authority.

(9) The first contention of the appellant is that the telephone posts and telegraph lines were initially installed by the telegraph authority in violation of the provisions of Section 16(1) of the Act. thereforee, it was not a valid exercise of the power conferred by Section 10. In our opinion, the argument has no force. The exercise of power under Section 10 is not conditional on compliance with the provisions of Section 16(1) of the Act. The power given under Section 10 is absolute. It is only when there is a resistance or obstruction in the exercise of that power that the occasion to approach the District Magistrate arises. If there is no resistance or obstruction, there is no occasion for the telegraph authority to approach the District Magistrate. The alleged oral protest relied upon by the appellant appears to us to be a made up story. Two telegraph poles were affixed on the appellants' property in February, 1974. The telephone lines and connections were thereafter given from time to time. Till the landlord-tenant dispute arose between the appellant and M/s Purolator India Ltd., no objection was raised by the appellant. No doubt in April, 1978 the appellant gave notice to the telegraph authority under Sections 17 and 19A of the Act and may be that the telephone connections in May, 1978 can be treated as the ones objected to but then Sections 17 and 19A have a different purport. The resistance and obstruction envisaged by Section 16(1) of the Act is different. This will be clear on a reading of Sub-section ( 1 ) of Section 16 of the Act. It is for the purpose of Section 188 I.P.G. that an application is to be given under Section 16(1) of the Act to the District Magistrate. Section 188 I.P.G. makes the disobedience of an order duly promulgated by a public servant an offence. Section 16 is really in aid of the discharge of statutory duty and exercise of statutory power postulated by Section 10. It cannot be regarded as a condition precedent to the exercise of that power. The appellant cannot rely on Sections 17 and 19A of the Act to either justify their unilateral disconnection of the telephones and teleprinter line of M/s Purolator India Ltd. or to say that once notice under Sections 17 and 19A has been given, M/s Purolator India Ltd. or the Telegraph Authority should have approached the District Magistrate before reconnection could be made. As a reading of Sections 17 and 19A would show, if the Telegraph Authority does not act after receipt of a notice under Section 17 the party giving that notice has to approach the District Magistrate. The party cannot take the law in its own hand and disconnect existing telephone lines or uproot existing telegraph posts. The contention on behalf of the appellants that they had to do it in view of the notice of Delhi Development Authority given to it on February 12, 1978 to stop the misuse or cause the misuse to be stopped cannot be accepted. As the learned Single Judge has observed the proceedings under the Delhi Development Act have nothing to do with the exercise of the power by the Central Government or the Telegraph Authority under the Act. Further, as we have observed earlier, we are convinced that the disconnection by the appellant was more to force M/s Purolator India Ltd. to vacate the premises than in any bona fide exercise of property or other right. We also agree with the learned Single Judge that as far as the notice of the Delhi Development Authority, it was a matter which could, perhaps) be compounded. Further, the appellants having taken the matter to a competent Court cannot be allowed to act in a high-handed manner and trouble a tenant in this manner. The next contention on behalf of the appellants was that Section 11 does not authorise re-energising a telephone. Here again, in our view, the interpretation placed by the appellants on this Section is incorrect. Sections 10 and 11 are complementary to each other and have to be read together. Section 10 authorises exercise of the power from time to time. In exercise of that power it is but requisite that authority should be given to enter the property where the lines or posts are situate to ensure that the power coupled with the obligation postulated by Section 10 is not made illusory. To maintain a telegraph line) as enjoined by Section 10, it would be necessary to examine, repair, alter or remove it from time to time. Substituting wiring or poles not only with the purpose of maintaining an efficient telegraph line but also to keep pace with improved technology is something which is inherent in the exercise of power under Sections 10 and 11. As we have said, Section 10 not only gives a power but imposes a duty on the Central Government/ Telegraph Authority. If that be so, re-energising or reconnecting disconnected telephones or teleprinter line would be a valid exercise of power both under Section 10 and Section 11 of the Act. By no stretch of imagination can it be said that once the power pustulated by Section 10 has been exercised, it could never be exercised again in, upon or over the same property. It would not make sense. It is correct that every time a new line is put up or a new connection is energised, the power under Section 10 is exercised. This power may be exercised unless there is resistance or obstruction. Writing a letter of the kind written by the appellant cannot be regarded as resistance or obstruction as no law and order situation as contemplated by Section 188 Indian Penal Code arises in such a case. We cannot, thereforee, agree with the appellant's contention that once the notice dated April 13, 1978 had been given under Section 17 and 19A of the Act by the appellants the only course open to the Telegraph Authority was to approach the District Magistrate under Section 16. Factually we find, the notices relied upon by the appellants, purported to have been given under Sections 17 and 19A of the Act On April 30, 1978 and August 31, 1978 were received after installation of poles and telegraph lines. At the time when the work was being carried out by the employees of the Telegraph Authority, no one had objected. The appellants have, no doubt, said that there were verbal protests by the employees at the time when the poles were being; erected and the lines were being installed. It is surprising, however, that if that be true, neither the affidavits of the employees who protested have been filed nor was any follow up action taken by the appellants.

(10) In any case, we find here that the action of the appellant was not only illegal but mala fide. The appellants had no power or right to carry out the disconnection themselves. Indeed, Section 25 of the Act makes such a disconnection a penal offence. It is mala fide because the notices issued by the appellants to the Telegraph Authority are, admittedly, subsequent to the disputes arising between the appellant and M/s. Purolator India Ltd. It is worth noticing that the appellant's reliance on oral protests has not been mentioned in the notices given by it to the Telegraph Authority. It is also not mentioned that the installations were in February or March while the notice was sent in April, 1978. Energising after installation in May, 1978 cannot be called installing. Furthermore, nothing has been shown how Section 19A of the Act is attracted. What damage was being caused to the appellant or appellant's property is not understood. The contention that the Delhi Development Authority had directed alleged misuse of the property to be stopped cannot be regarded as a damage within the meaning of Section 19A of the Act. In any case, damage, if any, could be claimed by way of compensation under Section 10(d) of the Act.

(11) In view of our findings given above, we need not comment at length on the allegations that Smt. Vijaya Raje Scindia and the former Central Minister Sri Brij Lal Verma were responsible to see that the telephones and teleprinter lines were not restored. We might, however, observe that a perusal of the relevant departmental files does support some undue interference.

(12) Reference has been made to a Full Bench decision of the Kerala High Court in Bharat Plywood and Timber Products Private Ltd. v. Kerala State Electricity Board, Trivandrum and others, : AIR1972Ker47 . This was a case under the Electricity Act where the provisions are somewhat similar. We take the same view as the learned Single Judge has taken with regard to this judgment.

(13) Learned counsel for the appellant has also invited our attention to Union of India v. Ram Chandra, : AIR1975All221 . This decision, we feel, is no authority for the proposition that compliance with Section 16(1) is condition precedent to the exercise of power under Section 10 of the Act. With respect, we cannot agree with the observations of the learned Single Judge who delivered the judgment that the procedure envisaged by Section 16(1) must precede the exercise of the power under Section 10. The result is that we dismiss the appeal with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 550.00 .


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