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State of Gujarat Vs. Batukbhai Hargovind Vora and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 548 of 1965
Judge
Reported inAIR1969Guj66; 1969CriLJ406; (1968)GLR309
ActsBombay Police Act, 1951 - Sections 37, 37(1) and 135; Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 324 and 326; ;Interpretation of Statutes and General Clauses Acts
AppellantState of Gujarat
RespondentBatukbhai Hargovind Vora and ors.
Appellant Advocate G.T. Nanavaty, Asstt. Govt. Pleader
Respondent Advocate S.T. Mehta (appointed), Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredTolaram Relumal v. State of Bombay
Excerpt:
.....and general clauses acts - whether carrying of any lighted torches would come within meaning of words corrosive substance or of explosives - fact that carrying of any lighted torches such as those found with some of accused were capable of setting fire or destroying something would not come within meaning of term used under section 37 (1) (b) - penal statutes lay down that if two possible construction can be put together upon penal provision court must lean towards that construction which exempts subject from penalty rather than one which imposes penalty - use of words in gujarati notification used in excess of powers and authority conferred on district magistrate under section 37 - part of notification bad in law - breach of such clause in notification cannot make accused liable..........such as 'inflammable or combustible substance' would have been in section 37 of the act.9. now the term 'corrosive substance' is not denned either in the bombay police act or even in the indian penal code where we find such a term used in certain sections such as sections 324 and 326 of the indian penal code. we would, therefore, turn for its meaning to some standard english dictionaries. in shorter oxford english dictionary, the term 'corrosive' is shown to arise out of the word 'corrode' and the meaning thereof is given as (1) to eat into; to eat or gnaw away; (2) to wear away or destroy gradually, as if by eating or gnawing away the texture. then the meaning of the term 'corrosive' is given as under:--a. adj. 1. having the quality of eating away, consuming, or destroying. 2. fig. a.....
Judgment:

N.G. Shelat, J.

* * * * *

7. The material point, however, to be considered is as to whether the carryingof any such lighted torches would come within the meaning and ambit of the words 'corrosive substance or of explosives' used in Section 37(1)(b) of the Act Be it said here, that this Act is in English. The notification produced at Ex. 4 was undisputedly issued in Gujarati -- it being the local language of the State. Clause (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section 37 of the Act referred to in the Gujarati notification as already set out hehereabove viz. 'Bali nakhe teva agar salagi uthe teva padartho laene nikalavani' can well be normally understood in English as meaning 'carrying inflammatory or combustible substance'. The notification has been issued in exercise of the powers under Section 37(1)(b) of the Act by the District Magistrate of Bhavnagar and the question then is as to whether his power or authority to prohibit 'carrying of inflammable or combustible substances' would be within the meaning of 'corrosive substance or of explosive' used in Clause (b) of Section 37(1) of the Act. If it does, there would not arise any difficulty in the sense that carrying of lighted torches would be covered, inasmuch as carrying any such burning substance in the form of even a torch already described hereabove, for the reason that it can set fire it applied to any other thing capable of catching fire. The notification would therefore be valid if it meant and could be understood by the public as meaning the same thing as per the words used in Clause (b) of Section 37(1) of the Act. If in issuing the notification therefore, he has acted in excess of his authority or power given to him under Section 37(1)(b) of the Act, that Clause (2) in the Gujarati notification would be bad in law, with the consequence that for any breach thereof no penal liability of persons carrying such torches that night would arise under Section 135 of the Act.

8. Now it is clear and over which there is no dispute that the lighted torches such as found from the hands of accused Nos. 1 to 4 cannot come within the term 'explosive'. The only point made out by Mr. Nanavaty, the learned Assistant Govt. Pleader for the State, was that the carrying of burning torches would be covered by the words 'carrying of any corrosive substance' used in Section 37 of the Act, as the meaning thereof would be as good as 'Bali nakhe teva agar salagi uthe teva padartho laene nikalavani' used in Clause (2) of the Gujarati notification Ex. 4 in the case. The accused Nos. 1 to 4 could therefore, be said to be the persons having committed a breach of notification inasmuch as they were found carrying burning torches on the night of 5-8-64 and they are, therefore, liable for the offence punishable under Section 135of the Act He referred to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary where, according to him, corrosive is said to mean, 'consuming, or destroying, and even refers to 'fires'. On the other hand, it was said to mean 'gnawing, eating away, or destroying gradually' and in no case as meaning in ordinary parlance as carrying 'fire substance'. If any such meaning was intended, the use of words such as 'Inflammable or combustible substance' would have been in Section 37 of the Act.

9. Now the term 'corrosive substance' is not denned either in the Bombay Police Act or even in the Indian Penal Code where we find such a term used in certain sections such as Sections 324 and 326 of the Indian Penal Code. We would, therefore, turn for its meaning to some standard English Dictionaries. In Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the term 'corrosive' is shown to arise out of the word 'corrode' and the meaning thereof is given as (1) to eat into; to eat or gnaw away; (2) to wear away or destroy gradually, as if by eating or gnawing away the texture. Then the meaning of the term 'corrosive' is given as under:--

A. adj. 1. Having the quality of eating away, consuming, or destroying. 2. fig. a Destructive, b. Fretting, wearing.

1. The corrosive aire of London Evelyn. C. fires.

2. b. A pensive and c. desire that we had done otherwise Hooker.

B. sb. A substance that corrodes, an acid, drug, remedy, etc.fig. In things past cure, care is a corasiue Greene.

C. sublimate: Mercuric Chloride or bichloride of mercury (HgC12), a white crystalline substance which acts as an acrid poison.

From this Mr. Nanavaty laid stress on its meaning as consuming or destroying and further he referred to 'C. fires' and thereby contended that the substance that they carried with them on that night was such which was capable of setting fire to or destroy or consume some such thing. It is from that point of view that he said that the words 'salgi uthe teva' used in the Gujarati notification in Clause (2) should be understood and given effect to.

10. Turning next to Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Second Edition, the term 'corrode' from which 'corrosive' arises has been given its meaning as 'to enaw to pieces; to eat away by degrees; to wear away or diminish gradually, as if by gnawing; rust, consume; destroy; said of the action of chemicals, and often used figuratively; as, nitric acid corrodes copper. Then corrosive has been given its meaning as a corroding or causing corrosion; oftenused figuratively: as, corrosive care, a corrosive ulcer. n. something causing corrosion. While it does refer to the meaning as consume or destroy, it does not refer to 'fires' as we find in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. It is not possible to appreciate in what sense 'fires' is used therein. The common and normal understandable meaning from the two English Dictionaries can be taken as meaning a substance which would eat away by degrees or wear away or diminish gradually as if by gnawing: rust: consume; destroy: said of the action of chemicals. Even the meaning 'consume or destroy' can hardly be taken to be in relation to any substance which can set fire to as in our view, if that was intended, simple understandable words for the same would be inflammable or combustible or by means of fire and surely not 'corrosive substance' for the same. More usefully we can turn to the Universal Modern Dictionary, into English & Gujarati, where the term 'corrosive' has been given its meaning both in English and Gujarati as 'adj. eating away' having the power of consuming or impairinc; 'Khai nakhanaru sado kare vevu'. That wearing away gradually. 'Dhime dhime Khavai jati nashak vastu'. The term 'corrode' has been given its meaning in Gujarati as 'Dhime dhime Khai Javu, Khavai Javu, & sadi Javu (Lakadu).' From this it was urged that the rendering of the words 'corrosive substance' in Gujarati would not by any stretch of imagination be taken as meaning Bali nakhe teva and all that it means is to eat away by degrees etc., meaning in Gujarati 'khai nakhanaru sado kare evu.' I am not shown any other Dictionary giving a Gujarati meaning to the English word such as 'corrosive' used in Section 37(1)(b) of the Act which tends to suggest giving a meaning as Bali nakhe teva made out by Mr. Nanavaty justifying the Gujarati notification issued by the District Magistrate.

11. We can as well turn to the commentaries of well known authors of the Law of Crimes as to how the term 'corrosive substance' is understood as it has been so used in Sections 324 and 326 of the Indian Penal Code. At page 485 below Section 324 of the Indian Penal Code, Dr. Hari Singh Gour has explained the term 'a corrosive substance' used in Section 324 thus:--

'A corrosive substance is a substance which irritates the system, such as corrosive sublimate, which is a compound of chlorine and mercury, forming a white crystalline solid, an acrid poison of great virulence. Such are the acids which corrode the system if taken internally and in an undiluted state.'

Another standard treatise on Law of Crimes we can usefully refer to, is oneby Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, twenty-first edition. At page 874 the term 'corrosive substance' has been explained as meaning any substance which irritates the system, e.g., sulphuric acid, corrosive sublimate, etc. In the circumstances, the explanation or meaning attributed to the term 'corrosive substance' by these authors do show the same meaning as stated above to be the normal meaning of such term ordinarily understood by the general public.

12. Mr. Mehta invited a reference to certain observations in the Book 'The Interpretation of Statutes and General Clauses Acts' by S.N. Bindra, 3rd Edition, 1961, at page 60, and urged that when any meaning has to be given to any terms used in any enactment, it has to be taken as of common understanding of men for that would give the main clue to the meaning given to it by the Legislature. The observations then relied upon by Mr. Mehta run thus:--

'Lord Wensleydale's Golden Rule, according to Bannerjee in his Interpretation of Deeds, Wills and Statutes in British India has been universally accepted as a correct enunciation of the law. He proceeds to say:

In laying down that the ordinary and grammatical sense of the words must be adhered to in the first instance, what is meant is this: Most words have a primary meaning, that is, a meaning in which they are generally used, and a secondary meaning, that is a particular meaning in which they are used in a particular context.'

I shall also refer to 'Craies on Statute Law' sixth Edition where at page 162 it has been observed as under :--

'There are two rules as to the way in which terms and expressions are to be construed when used in an Act of Parliament. The first rule is that general statutes will prima facie be presumed to use words in their popular sense. This rule was stated by Lord Tenterdon in Att.-Gen. v. Winstanlay, ((1831) 2 D. & Clause 302, at p. 310) 'the words of an Act of Parliament which are not applied to any particular science or art' are to be construed 'as they are understood in common language.' Critical refinements and subtle distinctions are to be avoided, and the obvious and popular meaning of the language should, as a general rule, be followed.'

From this it was said that the normal and popular meaning which can be easilly understood in respect of the words used in Section 37(1)(b) of the Act could be taken to have been understood by the Legislature and, at any rate, that could not have been what the Gujarati notification indicates in Clause (2) thereof. The mere fact that carrying of any light-ed torches such as those found with some of the accused were capable of setting fire or destroying something would not come within the ordinary meaning as understood of the words 'any corrosive substance' used in Section 37(1)(b) of Act. Mr. Mehta in this connection also invited a reference to the case of Tolaram Relumal v. State of Bombay, AIR 1954 SC 496, where it has been observed that it is a well settled rule of construction of penal statutes that if two possible and reasonable constructions can be put upon a penal provision, the Court must lean towards that construction which exempts the subject from penalty rather than the one which imposes penalty. It is not competent to the Court to stretch the meaning of an expression used by the Legislature in order to carry out the intention of the Legislature. On that basis it was said that even if for a moment, the word 'corrosive' as explained in Shorter Oxford Dictionary has any such meaning as to set on fire, it cannot be said that that was the only meaning that could be given to it and that the Legislature had intended only that meaning to be given to those words used in Section 37(1)(b) of the Act. Those words obviously have at any rate two different meanings if one were to go by the Oxford Dictionary, But we do not have to go so far. In my opinion, considering the meaning of the term 'corrosive' given in the dictionaries, as also the same term having been explained by the eminent authors on Law of Crimes referred to above, the meaning of the words used in the Gujarati notification issued by the District Magistrate cannot be taken as the correct or the primary or normal meaning that would be given to the wordg 'corrosive substance' used in Section 37(1)(b) of the Act. It is difficult to comprehend as to how the District Magistrate happened to derive and use the words he has chosen to in the Gujarati notification and, at any rate, we are unable to get any clue as to from what dictionary he gave such a meaning to the words 'any corrosive substance' used in Section 37(1)(b) of the Act. In my opinion, the words (original in Gujarati omitted--Ed), used in the Gujarati notification are not equivalent to the words or the expression giving correct or primary or normal meaning of the words corrosive substance used in Section 37(1)(b) of the Act The use of the words (original in Gujarati omitted) used in the Gujarati notification can therefore be said to have been used in excess of his powers and authority conferred on the District Magistrate under Section 37 of the Act and that way that part of the notification was bad in law. Any breach of that Clause in the notification, therefore, cannot make the accused liable under Section 135 of the Act, The learned Magistrate was, therefore, right in ac-quitting the accused in respect of the offence with which they had come to be charged.

13. In the result, the appeal fails andit is dismissed.


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