K.S. Sidhu, J.
1. This batch of petitions of revision raise two common questions of Jaw and can therefore be conveniently dealt with by a common judgment. The circumstances giving rise to these petitions may be stated as follows.
2. The Provident Fund Inspector, Kota filed a number of complaints against M/s Jaipur Udyog Ltd. Sawai Madhopur (hereinafter called the petitioner) and some of its officer in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate Sawai Madhopur on the allegations that they were guilty of contravention of the requirements of the Employees Provident Fund Scheme, 1952 (hereinafter called the Scheme) by reason of their failure to pay to the Fund certain dues aid that they had thus committed offences against Clause 76 of the Scheme from time to time. During the pendency of these complaints, the State Government in exercise of its powers under Section 3, Rajasthan Relief Undertakings (Special Provisions) Act, 1961 (hereinafter called the Act) declared the petitioner to be a relief undertaking for the purpose of the Act. The petitioner, thereupon, made respective applications in the course of hearing of those complaints claiming temporary immunity from those prosecutions on the basis of Section 4(1)(b) of the Act. By separate but similar orders, dated April 18, 1978, the trial court dismissed all these applications holding that the immunity conferred by Section 4(1)(b) of the Act is not available against a prosecution for contravention of the requirements of the Scheme and that, in any case, it was only the petitioner, and not its officers, who had been declared to be a relief undertaking, and therefore, the officers could not at all claim exemption from such prosecutions.
3. The petitioner is challenging in these petitions the dismissal of its applications, as aforementioned, by the learned Magistrate.
4. After hearing both sides, I am of opinion that the learned Magistrate is in error in dismissing the applications. Section 4(1)(b) of the Act reads:
4(1) Notwithstanding any law, usage, custom, contract, instrument, decree, order, award, submission, settlement, standing order or other provisions whatsoever, the State Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, direct that-
(b) no suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted or commenced, or, if pending, shall be proceeded with, against any industrial undertaking during the period in which it remains a relief undertaking.
Explanation : 'Legal Proceeding' means any proceeding under any law before any court, tribunal, officer, authority or arbitrator, started on a plaint, petition of appeal, application, reference, or otherwise.
It is not denied by Mr. Sharma, learned Counsel for the non-petitioner that the State Government has already issued the requisite declaration under Section 4 of the Act directing inter alia that:
No suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted or commenced or if pending shall he proceeded with against the said industrial undertaking (i.e. the petitioner) during the period in which it remains a relief undertaking.
Section 4(1)(b) of the Act, especially the explanation appended to it, coupled with the aforesaid declaration by the State Government enjoins in no uncertain terms that none of these complaints 'shall be proceeded with' against the petitioner during the period it remains a relief undertaking The expression 'legal proceeding' as it appears in Clause (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section 4 above means, according to explanation, 'any proceeding under any law before any court....' A complaint is obviously a proceeding under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (i.e. under a law) before a Magistrate (i.e. a court); and that being so all the legal proceedings under law before the court, cannot be proceeded with during the period the petitioner remains a relief undertaking.
5. The learned Magistrate arrived at the contrary conclusion because instead of expounding Section (4)(1)(b) according to its plain and natural meaning with the aid of the explanation appended to it, he embarked on a wholly unnecessary excursion into rules of grammar and canons of construction of statutes in trying to discover what he think is the real intention of the legislature. Had the legislature intended what the learned Magistrate think it did, there was nothing to prevent it from saying so in the Act itself. On the other hand, the legislature has taken extreme care to clarify by way of explanation appended by it to Section 4(1)(b) of the Act, that the scope of the temporary immunity provided by that section is of in all embracing nature forbidding all types of legal proceedings against any industrial under taking during the period in which it regains a relief undertaking.
6. So far as the liability of the officers of the petitioner is concerned, they cannot possibly be held guilty without the petitioner being tned and held guilty Section 14A, Employees Provident Funds and Family Pension Fund Act, 1932 which deals with offences by companies and its officers lays down that if the person committing the offence under the Scheme is a company every person who at the time the offence was committed was in charge of and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence It will be seen on a plain reading of this section that in order to fix criminal liability on an officer of a company, one of the essential conditions is that the company must first be found guilty of the commission of that offence. This view finds support from the Supreme Court ruling reported as State of Madras v. C.V. Purekh : 1971CriLJ418 . While dealing with Section 10, Essential Commodities Act, which is pari materia with Section 14A of the Employees Provident Fund, and Family Pension Funds Act, 1952, their Lordships laid down that 'the liability of the person in charge of the company only arises when the contravention is by the company itself.' Relying on this authority, it may be safely held that the prosecutions against the officers of petitioners company must remain suspended so long as such prosecutions against the company itself remain suspended.
7. In the result, these petitions are allowed and consequent it is ordered that all the 14 complaints giving rise to these petitions shall not be proceeded with during the period in which the petitioner remains a relief undertaking.