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C. Unni Vs. State of Kerala - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1983CriLJ583
AppellantC. Unni
RespondentState of Kerala
Cases ReferredNorth v. Tamplin
Excerpt:
.....articles. under these circumstances, the argument based on section 6c(2) must fail. where any essential commodity is seized in pursuance of an order made under section 3 in relation thereto, a report of such seizure shall, without unreasonable delay, be made to the collector of the district or the presidency-town in which such essential commodity is seized and whether or not a prosecution is instituted for the contravention of such order, the collector may, if he thinks it expedient so to do, direct the essential commodity so seized to be produced for inspection before him, and if he is satisfied that there has been a contravention of the order, may order, confiscation of (a) the essential commodity so seized; - (1) any person aggrieved by an order of confiscation under section 6a..........district judge observed that it was open to the petitioner to produce that judgment before the district collector and to file a petition before that authority for release of the vehicle. the court however made it clear that it was not expressing any opinion as to whether the judgment of acquittal would automatically enable the owner to claim the vehicle and it must not be understood as implying that the petitioner has a right for the vehicle once the criminal case has ended in acquittal. the district court was only giving the petitioner liberty to move the district collector who would have to pass appropriate orders in accordance with law.3. in consequence of the district judge's observation, the petitioner moved the district collector for the return of the vehicle which was rejected.....
Judgment:
ORDER

T. Chandrasekhara Menon, J.

1. A motor vehicle K. L. T, 8988 was seized on 10-1-1975 at Cheruvarakonam in Trivandrurn District in accordance with the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act as it was conveying 4 bags of wheat through the zonal area without any permit. Proceedings were initiated in pursuance of such seizure in accordance with that Act (hereinafter called the Act) and the Inter-Zonal Wheat and Wheat Products Order, 1973. Complying with the required formalities, the Collector held that violation of the Order has been established and consequently directed the confiscation of the vehicle under Section 6A of the Act. From the proceedings of the Collector, an appeal was filed to the District Court, Trivandrurn, as provided under Section 6C(1) of the Act by the petitioner, the owner of the vehicle. The appeal was dismissed. In the meanwhile prosecution had been initiated for the contravention of the order in respect of which the order of confiscation had been made against the driver of the vehicle and another person. The case ended in acquittal.

2. The fact of the acquittal in the criminal case had been brought to the notice of the District Court when appeal under Section 6C was pending before it, but it appears the copy of the judgment of the criminal court was not produced before the District Judge. While dismissing the appeal, the learned District Judge observed that it was open to the petitioner to produce that judgment before the District Collector and to file a petition before that authority for release of the vehicle. The court however made it clear that it was not expressing any opinion as to whether the judgment of acquittal would automatically enable the owner to claim the vehicle and it must not be understood as implying that the petitioner has a right for the vehicle once the criminal case has ended in acquittal. The District Court was only giving the petitioner liberty to move the District Collector who would have to pass appropriate orders in accordance with law.

3. In consequence of the District Judge's observation, the petitioner moved the District Collector for the return of the vehicle which was rejected by that authority. An appeal was moved before the District Judge against such rejection.

4. As the present criminal revision is against this order in appeal by the District Judge, it will be useful to quote rather in extenso the relevant portion of the judgment of the District Judge giving his reasons for dismissing the appeal.

The Collector in his previous order has held that this particular vehicle has been used to convey wheat in contravention of the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act and the concerned Order and this finding has been confirmed by this Court. Simultaneously there was the prosecution of the driver and another person for the offence involved. It appears that the driver has been absconding and in a trial held the other accused has been acquitted. It is Section 6A which deals with confiscation of the contraband articles, as well as the vehicle used in carrying the contraband articles. The power in this behalf is vested in the District Collector. Such a power could be exercised only after issuing a show cause notice under Section 6B and giving a hearing to concerned party. Appeal is provided for the Judicial Authority under Section 6A of the Act. The appellate authority has the discretion to confirm, modify or annul the order passed by the District Collector. Penalties are prescribed in Section 7 of the Act, Under Section 7 the Criminal Court has the power to forfeit any property or vehicle to the Government. It is in this background that we must look at Section 6C(2) extracted above. Section 6C(2) of the Act refer to two contingencies, namely, where a confiscation order passed by the District Collector under Section 6A is modified or annulled by the appellate authority under Section 6(1) and the second contingency is where a prosecution instituted against a person concerned ends in an acquittal. In these two contingencies if it is not possible to return the essential commodity seized, then the person concerned is entitled to be paid the price thereof. The order of confiscation originally passed by the District Collector has not been modified or annulled by the appellate Authority, on the other hand it. has been confirmed by this Court in Criminal Appeal. The prosecution against the driver and another person has ended in acquittal, but it cannot be said 'the person concerned' namely, the appellant was acquitted. Therefore, Section 6C(2) will not apply. Further Section 6C(2) by itself does not give any right to the appellant to claim back his vehicle. A right to claim back a vehicle must necessarily follow either from the modification or annulment of the order of confiscation by the appellate Authority or must follow the acquittal of the person concerned in the prosecution. It is significant to note not passed an order of confiscation. So, the acquittal cannot lead to the return of the vehicle to the appellant. The order of compensation has not been modified or annulled. In that view, also, the appellant has no right to claim back the vehicle. Further. I am of opinion that Section 6C(2) cannot be the foundation for a right to claim return of the vehicle for two reasons. Firstly, this provision is incorporated only to meet a contingency, where the person has otherwise the right to claim back the property, but the property is not in existence. In such a case the provision lays down that the price has to be paid to him. Secondly this provision does not deal with the vehicle at all. It only deals with the essential commodity. Under these circumstances, the argument based on Section 6C(2) must fail. The learned Counsel for the appellant has not contended before me that for any other reason his client is entitled to get back the vehicle.

It is also necessary to quote the statutory provisions in Sees. 6-A and 6-C of the Act:

6-A.;- (1) Confiscation of foodgrains, edible oilseeds and edible oils. Where any essential commodity is seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 in relation thereto, a report of such seizure shall, without unreasonable delay, be made to the Collector of the district or the Presidency-town in which such essential commodity is seized and whether or not a prosecution is instituted for the contravention of such order, the Collector may, if he thinks it expedient so to do, direct the essential commodity so seized to be produced for inspection before him, and if he is satisfied that there has been a contravention of the order, may order, confiscation of

(a) the essential commodity so seized;

(b) any package, covering or receptacle in which such essential commodity is found; and

(c) any animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance used in carrying such essential commodity.

Provided that without prejudice to any action which may be taken under any other provision of this Act. no foodgrains or edible oilseeds seized in pursuance of an order made under Section 3 in relation .thereto from a producer shall, if the seized foodgrains or edible oilseeds have been produced by him, be confiscated under this section. Provided further that in the case of any animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance used for the carriage of goods or passengers for hire, the owner of such animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance shall be given an option to pay, in lieu of its confiscation a fine not exceeding the market price at the date of seizure of the essential commodity sought to be carried by such animal, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance.

(2) Where the Collector, on receiving a report of seizure or on inspection of any essential commodity under Sub-section (1), is of opinion that the essential commodity is subject to speedy and natural decay or it is otherwise expedient in the public interest so to do, he may

(i) order the same to be sold at the controlled price, if any. fixed for such essential commodity under this Act or under any other law for the time being in force; or

(ii) where no such price is fixed, order the same to be sold by public auction:

Provided that in case of foodgrains, the Collector may. for its equitable distribution and availability at fair prices, order the same to be sold through fair price shops at the price fixed by the Central Government or by the State Government, as the case may be. for the retail sale of such foodgrains to the public.(3) Where any essential commodity is sold, as aforesaid, the sale proceeds thereof, after deduction of the expenses of any such sale or auction or other incidental expenses relating thereto, shall

(a) Where no order of confiscation is ultimately passed by the Collector,

(b) Where an order passed on appeal under Sub-section (2) of Section 66 so requires, or

(c) Where in a prosecution instituted for the contravention of the order in respect of which an order of confiscation has been made under this section, the person concerned is acquitted, be paid to the owner thereof or the person from whom it is seized.

6B. xx xx xx xx xx

6C Appeal.- (1) any person aggrieved by an order of confiscation under Section 6A may, within one month from the date of the communication to him of such order, appeal to any judicial authority appointed by the State Government concerned and the judicial authority shall, after giving an opportunity to the appellant to be heard pass such order as it may think fit, confirming, modifying or annulling the order appealed against,

(2) Where an order under Section 6A is modified or annulled by such judicial authority, or where in a prosecution instituted for the contravention of the order in respect of which an order of confiscation has been made under Section 6A, the person concerned is acquitted, and in either case it is not possible for any reason to return the essential commodity seized, such person shall, except as provided by Sub-section (3) of Section 6A, be paid the price therefor as if the essential commodity had been sold to the Government with reasonable interest calculated from the day of the seizure of the essential commodity and such price shall be determined

(i) in the case of foodgrains, edible oilseeds or edible oils, in accordance with the provisions of Sub-section (3-B) of Section 3:

(ii) in the case of sugar, in accordance with the provisions of Sub-section (3-C) of Section 3 : and

(iii) in the case of any other essential commodity, in accordance with the provisions Of Sub-section (3) of Section 3.' I am not here referring to Section 6B which deals with the procedure, the essential formalities to be complied with like issuance of show cause notice to the concerned parties etc. before confiscation under Section 6A.

5. The Scheme of the Act appears to be that though proceedings for confiscation by the Collector and criminal prosecution for contravention of the order in respect of which an order of confiscation has been made under Section 6A are independent and parallel proceedings, acquittal in the prosecution will amount to annulling the confiscation order. Before I deal with this aspect of the matter. I would like to point out that there cannot be any doubt that the two proceedings are essentially independent and parallel and in the ordinary course but for specific statutory provisions the acquittal in the criminal prosecution could have no legal effect on the confiscation order. As Justice Chennakesava Reddy said in V. Anantha Rao v. State of A.P. 1974 Mad LJ (Cri) 129 : 1974 Cri LJ 387 at p. 390:. the jurisdiction of the Collector is concurrent jurisdiction or simultaneous jurisdiction along with the Criminal Court Both are authorised to deal with the matter. The complainant has the choice.

'Concurrent jurisdiction' is defined in Warton's Law Lexicon to mean 'the jurisdiction of several different tribunals, both authorised to deal with the same subject-matter at the choice of the suitor.

6. I am also in agreement with the observation in that decision which differing from the decision of the Mysore High Court in State v. Abdul Rasheed 1967 Mad LJ (Cri) 515 : AIR 1967 Mys 231 : 1967 Cri LJ 1661 had pointed out that looking at the language of Section 6A of the Act it is clear that the intention of the Legislature is not to exclude or limit the genera] jurisdiction of the criminal court. The Mysore High Court had taken the view in Abdul Rasheed's Case that the provisions of Section 6A of the Act impliedly limited the powers of the criminal court in the matter of disposal of essential commodities seized for contravention of an order made under Section 3 of the Act. Rightly as Justice Reddy has said in the aforesaid Andhra case, any such limitation or exclusion of the powers of the criminal court cannot be inferred either from the scheme of the Act or from the express language employed in Section 6A itself. On the other hand, the final decision in the criminal court may upset the order of confiscation as is implicit from Section 6A(3) and Section 6C(2) of the Act

7. The District Judge is certainly correct in his observation that Section 6C(2) does not deal with the vehicle at all nor do Section 6A(3), The learned Judge is also correct in his observation that as there was no prosecution against the petitioner, he cannot take advantage of Section 6C (But taking due note of Section 6A(3) and the scheme of the Act in general in regard to the disposal of property as is clear from Section 6A(3) and Section 6C(2), it is clear that the Legislature would have certainly intended that where there is an order of acquittal, the owner of the vehicle who was not even directly connected with the alleged contravention of any order under the Act should get back his vehicle. Under Section 6A(3) of the Act where an essential commodity is sold, the sale proceeds thereof after deduction of the expenses of any such sale or auction or other incidental expenses relating thereto shall be paid to the owner thereof or the person from whom it was seized, where in a prosecution instituted for the contravention of the order in respect of which an order of confiscation had been made under the Section, the person concerned is acquitted. This makes it implicit that the essential commodity if not already sold shall be given back to the owner or to the person from whom it was so seized on the acquittal of the person concerned in the criminal case. It is therefore apparent from the statutory provision that the vehicle in which such essential commodity was carried should be given back to the owner in such circumstances in spite of an order of confiscation earlier made. Otherwise it will look rather absurd. Any other interpretation of the statutory provision would be illogical and unjust.

8. It might be said that in making such an inference you are reading into the statute, something which is not there. Lord Simonds said in Magor and St. Mellons R. D. C. v. New Port Coron. (1951) 2 All ER 839 at p. 841 that a general proposition that it is the duty of the Court to find out the intention of Parliament cannot by any means be supported. Fifty years earlier Lord Watson had said in Salomon v. Saloman & Co. Ltd. 1897 AC 22:

Intention of the legislature is a common but very slippery phrase, which popularly understood, may signify anything from intention embodied in positive enactment to speculative opinion as to what the legislature probably would have meant, although there has been an omission to enact it. In a court of law or equity, what the legislature intended to be done or not to be done can only be legitimately ascertained from what it has chosen to enact, either in express words or by reasonable and necessary implication.

It is also a rule that a statute may not be extended to meet a case for which provision has clearly and undoubtedly not been made. Chief Justice Lord Goddard said in R. v. Wimbledon Justices, ex P. Derwont 1953) 1 QB 380:

Although in construing an Act of Parliament the court must always try to give effect to the intention of the Act and must look not only at the remedy provided but also at the mischief aimed at. it cannot add words to a statute or read words into it which are not there, and, if the statute has created a specific offence, it is not for the court to find other offences which do not appear in the statute.

However as the same learned Judge said in Barnes v. Jarvis (1953) 1 WLR 649, a certain amount of common sense must be applied in construing statutes, and the object of the Act has to be considered. While the Judges may not wrest the language of the legislature even to avoid an obvious mischief, the principle that there is no ground for reading in words or changing words according to what may be supposed intention of parliament comes in only where the literal wording of the statute produced an intelligible result. And moreover as Lord Justice Lindley said in the 'Duke of Buccleuch' (1889) 15 PD 86 at 96:

You are not so to construe the Act of Parliament as to reduce it to rank absurdity. You are not to attribute to general language used by the legislature in this case, any more than in any other case, a meaning which would not carry out its object, but produce consequences which, to the ordinary intelligence, are absurd. Yon must give it such a meaning as will carry out its objects.

9. In State of M. P. v. Azad Bharat Finance Co. : 1967CriLJ285 the Supreme Court said that it is well recognised that if a statute leads to absurdity, hardship or injustice, presumably not intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words, and even the structure of the sentence. I would conclude on this aspect of interpretation of statutes by quoting from Justice Willes in Christopherson v. Lotinga (1864) 33 LJ CP 121 and Jessel MR in North v. Tamplin (1881) 8 QBD 247 at 253.

The general rule is stated by Lord Wensleydale in these terms - viz., 'to adhere to the ordinary meaning of the words, used, and to the grammatical construction, unless that is at variance with the intention of the legislature, to be collected from the statute itself, or leads to any manifest absurdity or repugnance, in which case the language may be varied or modified so as t0 avoid such inconvenience, but no further.' I certainly subscribe to every word of the rule, except the word 'absurdity,' unless that be considered as used there in the same sense as 'repugnance;' that is to say, something which would be so absurd with reference to the other words of the statute as to amount to a repugnance.

Any one who contends that a section of an Act of Parliament is not to be read literally must be able to show one of two things either that there is some other section which cuts down its meaning, Or else that the section itself (if read literally) is repugnant to the general purview of the Act.

In the light of the above discussion, I would set aside the decision of the District Judge in Criminal Miscellaneous Appeal 2 of 1979, set aside the order dated 19-5-1979 of the Deputy Collector and the vehicle is directed to be returned to the petitioner. Criminal Revision Petition is allowed as above.


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