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In Re: Palanikumara Chinnayya Gounder - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1922Mad337; 66Ind.Cas.566; (1921)41MLJ577
AppellantIn Re: Palanikumara Chinnayya Gounder
Cases ReferredParaniaswamy Aiyangar v. Alamelu Natchiar Ammal I.L.R.
Excerpt:
.....over such courts. this was simply endorsed by the collector under date 20-3-21 as..........divisional officer taking action under section 7 of the act. it must be in the discretion of a village officer's superiors to proceed either by way of prosecution or by way of departmental action under the section.5. the nature of the proceedings being thus determined, has this court any power to interfere in revision? the petition is filed under section 115 of the civil procedure code and section 107 of the government of india act. the former is obviously inapplicable.each of the high courts has superintendence over all courts for the time being subject to its appellate jurisdiction.6. now, can an officer acting under section 7 of act iii of 1895 be styled a court subject to this court's appellate jurisdiction?7. i think not. appellate jurisdiction no doubt includes the power to.....
Judgment:

William Ayling, Offg. C.J.

1. Petitioner in this case is the Village Munsif of Sivagiri in Erode Taluk and moves us to interfere in revision and quash certain charges framed against him by the Revenue Divisional Officer of Erode and all proceedings before that Officer connected with the charges. The charges run as follows:

(1) That you being a Government servant, actively associated yourself in the movement of non-co-operation against Government by going with Mr. E.V. Ramaswami Nayaker of Erode to the Sivagiri shandy on 26th November 1920 and telling people there hot to vote at the elections of the 30th idem.

(2) That you dissuaded and prevented people from recording their votes by making false representations both in the shandy on 26th November ,190 and at the polling station on 30th November 1920 and that the result of voting would involve the increase of taxes and the relinquishment of the voters' properties to those in favour of whom the votes were recorded etc.

2. Mr. Adam the Public Prosecutor who appears on behalf of Government takes the preliminary objection that the proceedings in question are taken under Act. III of 1895, Section 7 and that this Court has no jurisdiction to interfere.

3. The first point for determination is clearly the nature of the proceedings. Mr. Seshachari who argued the case most exhaustively for the petitioner contends in the first place that they are criminal: and his main ground for revision is that the facts charged amount to a Criminal offence under Section 171C of the Indian Penal Code and can only be enquired into on sanction accorded under Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This view seems tome to be clearly wrong.

4. The charges have been framed by the officer holding the enquiry as' Revenue Divisional Officer' and in that capacity he is undoubtedly entitled under Section 7 of Act III of 1895 after enquiry to fine, suspend, dismiss or remove the holders of certain Village Munsifs for misconduct, neglect of duty, incapacity non-residence or other sufficient cause. Under rules framed under Section 20 of the same: Act, he is bound to record charges and examine witnesses for and against them. All his procedure in this case appears to have been such as he would have adopted if he were acting under Section 7 of Act III of 1895: and I have no doubt whatever that this is the provision of law under which he purported to act. Even supposing that the facts alleged against petitioner constituted a criminal offence, which seems to me extremely doubtful, it is difficult to see this would be incompatible with the Revenue Divisional Officer taking action under Section 7 of the Act. It must be in the discretion of a Village Officer's superiors to proceed either by way of prosecution or by way of departmental action under the section.

5. The nature of the proceedings being thus determined, has this Court any power to interfere in revision? The petition is filed under Section 115 of the Civil Procedure Code and Section 107 of the Government of India Act. The former is obviously inapplicable.

Each of the High Courts has superintendence over all Courts for the time being subject to its appellate jurisdiction.

6. Now, can an officer acting under Section 7 of Act III of 1895 be styled a court subject to this Court's appellate jurisdiction?

7. I think not. Appellate Jurisdiction no doubt includes the power to interfere in revision and is not confined to cases in which the law allows a regular appeal. As stated by Subramania Ayyer, J. in Chappan v. Moidin Kutti I.L.R. (1897) Mad. 68 the two things required to constitute appellate jurisdiction are the existence of the relation of superior and inferior court and the power on the part of the former to review decisions of the latter. I accept this definition but 1 eaiun6t see here either the relation or the power. It cannot be assumed that every officer exercising statutory powers in this Presidency stands to this Court in the relation of an inferior court to a superior, or that we have the power to review his decisions. Madras Act III of 1895 is a self contained Act which, as set out in its preamble, purports to provide' for the succession to certain hereditary village-offices in the Presidency of Madras ; for the hearing and disposal of claims to such offices or the emoluments annexed thereto ; for the appointment of persons to hold such offices and the control of the holders thereof ; and for certain other purposes.'

8. It contains provisions dealing with all these matters ; and places the decisions in all cases in the hands of the Revenue officers under the control of the Board of Revenue. The jurisdiction of Civil Courts to decide claims to offices and emoluments is specifically barred, except in one particular case, by Section 21: and as regards order under Section 7, with which we are concerned, Section 23 provides for appeals to the District Collector or Board of Revenue whose decision, it says, 'shall be final.' I find it impossible to hold on a perusal of the Act that the Legislature intended that thee decisions should be subject to review by the High Court, I fail to see how we have any power of interference.

9. It has been suggested that if this be so, Act III of 1895 purported to take away powers which the High Court possessed prior to' its enactment and to that extent is ultra vires ; but I can discover no basis for this. Prior to its enactment the position of. hereditary village officers was governed by Regulation VI of 1831 ; and this Regulation is if possible, even more explicit than the Act now in force in placing such village officers as the petitioner under the exclusive control of the Revenue authorities. Section 7 of the Regulation provides that ' all other persons who hold or may thereafter hold hereditary villages or other offices in the revenue and police departments to which emoluments have been annexed by the State, shall be under the immediate authority and control of the Collectors of the Districts in which such offices are established, and shall be liable to suspension or removal from office for inapacity, neglect of duty, or other just cause, by the orders of the Collectors, subject in every instance to the approval of the Board of Revenue, and to the sanction of the Governor in Council in all cases in which he may see fit to interfere.' It seems to me impossible to contend that the Collector's power of control over village officers under this Regulation was subject to the superintendence of the High Court ; and I am not aware of any single case, out of the innumerable cases of dismissal, etc., which must have occurred under the Regulation or under the present Act, in which this Court's interference has been invoked.

10. Clause 16 of the Letters Patent to which Mr. Seshachari has referred us seems to me to advance the case no further than Section 107 of the Government of India Act.

11. The same learned vakil has cited two cases, Nilmani Singh Deo v. Taranalh, Mukherjee I.L.R. 9 Cal. 205 and Chaitan Patgose Mahapatra v. Kunju Behari Patnaik I.L.R. 38 Cal. 832 arising out of the Bengal Rent Recovery Act (No. X of 1859). This Act. on much the same lines as our own Madras Act, VIII of 1865, is of a very different nature to the one we are now considering. The rent Courts constituted under it practically perform the functions of Civil Courts in certain matters: arid it is sufficient for the present purpose to quote the words of Norman, J. in Bhyrub Chandur v. Shama Soonderee Debea 6 W.R. 68. 'It is clear that the Collectors Court is a Court over which at the time of the passing of the Charter Act, the. Suddef court possessed appellate jurisdiction and therefore it is clear that the 15th section of the Charter Act gives us a superintendence over such courts.'

12. Neither of the other cases relied on The Collector of Thana v. Bhaskar Mahadev Sheth I.L.R. 8 Bom. 264 Balakrishna Udayar v. Vasudeva 33 M.L.J. 69 and Parantaswamy Aiyangar v. Alamelu Natchiar Aminal 35 M.L.J. 632 appear to me to contain anything helpfull to petitioner.

13. I must therefore hold that the Revenue Divisional Officer proceeding under Section 7 of Act III of 1895 is not a Court subject to the superintendence of this Court and that the revision petition should be dismissed.

14. The subject matter of Civil Miscellaneous Petition No. 1697 of 1921 is dealt with in the judgment of my learned brother and it seems unnecessary for me to add anything to what he has said.

Odgers, J.

15. This is a petition to revise the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer, Erode, dated 8-1-21 wherein certain' charges ' were framed against the village munsif of Sivagiri. It is first contended that this is a criminal matter and falls within the 'corrupt practices' sections added to the Indian Penal Code by Act XXXIX of 1920 and that the Revenue Divisional Officer's order was ultra vires as no sanction for the proceedings had been obtained under Section 196, Criminal Procedure Code. The sections of the Indian Penal Code relied on are 171(c) and 171(f). Secondly, it is contended that even if it is not a criminal matter we onght to interfere under either Section 115, Civil Procedure Code, Section 107 of the Government of India Act or Clause 16 of the Letters Patent. The first consideration, therefore, is, is this a criminal matter? As the Judge who admitted the petition when this was the only ground presented, I must confess that at first I thought it might prove to be so. The charges are set forth in detail and the Revenue Divisional Officer is also a 1st Class Magistrate. There is ground forsaying that the matter was presented in such a form as to have the apparance of a criminal matter and the learned vakil who appeared naturally did nothing in argument to detract from this. The contention on the other side is that this is a purely departmental enquiry into the conduct of this village Munsif. The so-called ' charges ' are as follows:

(1) That you being a Government servant, actively associated yourself in the movement of non-co-operation against Goverment by going with Mr. E.V. Ramaswami Naicker of Erode to the Sivagiri Shandy on 26-11-1920 and telling people there not to vote at the elections of the,30th idem.

(2) That you dissuaded and prevented people from recording their votes by making false representations both in the shandy on 26-11-20 and at the polling station on 30-11-1920 that the result of voting would involve the increase of taxes and the relinquishment of the voters' properties to those in favour of whom the votes were recorded etc.

16. Are these within Sections 171(c) and 171(f), Indian Penal Code? The first charge is simply telling people not to vote; the second is false representations as to increase of taxation and confisaction of property. I gravely doubt if either of these would constitute voluntary interference with free exerise of electoral rights so, as to constitue the offence of undue influence at an election for which punishment is prescribed in Section 171(f). Under the English Statute (on which presumably the new sections of the Indian Penal Code are modelled) 46 and 47 vict. Ch. 51 Section 2 the following persons are guilty of undue infulence.

(1) Every person who directly or indirectly by himself or by any other person on his behalf makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restraint, or inflicts threatens to inflict by himself or by any other person any temporal or spiritual injury, damages harm, or loss upon or against any person in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting at any election; and

(2) Every person who by abduction, duress, or any fraudulent device or contrivance succeeds in impeding or preventing the free exercise of the franchise of any elector or thereby succeeds in compelling inducing or prevailing upon any elector either to give or refrain from giving his votes at any election.

17. I think, therefore, upon further consideration that neither of these so-called charges would fall within the mischief of Section 171(c). There is, however, an almost clearer ground for distinction. The petitioner is a village Munsif and is as such amenable to the Hereditary Village Officers Act (Madras Act III of 1895). Section 7 Of that Act provides that the Collector may after enquiry fine, suspend, dismiss or remove the holder of any the offices forming class (i) in Section 3 (of which the village munsif is one) for misconduct, neglect of duty or incapacity or non-residence or for any ether sufficient clause. Section 20 of the Act provides, that the Board of Revenue may make rules for inter alia, the holding of enquiries under Section 7 and the hearing of appeals tinder Section 23. This last section provides for an appeal from the order pf a Collector under Section 7 to the District Collector and if the latter passed the order appeal from to Board of Revenue. 'The decision, on apeal of the District Collector or the Borad of Revenue, as the case may be, shall be final.' The Board of Revenue made rules under Section 7. and they are published in the Fort St. George Gazette of 26-8-98. The rules prehaps rather unnecessarily incorporate certain legal terms familiar to us in criminal proceedings including the use of the word, ' charges.'

18. On the whole, I have come to the conclusion having regard to the above and to the fact that the officer purported to act as Revenue Divisional Officer, that this was a departmental enquiry under Madras Act III of 1895, and was, therefore, not a criminal proceeding. This being then a civil matter have we any jurisdiction to interfere? We clearly have none under Section 115 Civil Procedure Code and this was not seriously pressed by Mr. V.C. Seshachari for the petitioner. His contention was that we could interfere under Section 107 of the Government of India Act and Clause 16 of the Letters Patent. The former gives each High Court 'superintendence overall courts for the time being subject to its appellate jurisdiction,. and the question arises as to whether a Revenue Officer acting under Section 7 of Act III of 1895 is subject to our appellate jurisdiction. As laid down by Subramania Ayyar, J. in Chappan v. Moidin Kutti I.L.R. 22 Mad. 68 appellate jurisdiction' means 'the power of a superior court to review the decision of an inferior court'. Here the two things which are required to constitute appellate jurisdiction are the existence of the relation of superior and inferior court and the power on the part of the farmer to review decisions of the latter. Is there such a relation here? It is clear that a Collector dealing with matters under the Rent Recovery Act is not in such relation in Madras. Velliperiamira v. Moidin Padsha I.L.R. 9 Mad. 332 and Appaindai v. Srihari Joshi I.L.R. 16 Mad. 451 and Venkatanarasiniha Naidu v. Suranna I.L.R. 17 Mad. 298. In Nilmoni Singh Deo v. Taranath Mukerjee I.L.R. 9 C. 295 the Privy Council clearly states that the process under consideration was not the trial of any question regarding rent, but that the Act in question (X of 1859) went beyond the trial of such questions and provided for the execution of decrees ; and it is also clear that the Collector's court is a court over which at the time of the passing of the Charter Act the Sudder Court possessed appellate jurisdiction and that Section 15 of the Charter Act gave the Calcutta High Court superintendence over such Courts. See Norman, J. in Bhyrub Chunder Chunder v. Skatna Soonderee Debea (1866) 6 W.R. 68 . The Act dealt with by the Privy Council in this case was of a very different nature to the one under consideration here and as already stated it has been held here that the proposition does not apply to the Rent Recovery Act in Madras.

19. The 'relation' thus being found not to exist, does the 'power' exist? The answer is, as pointed out by my lord that the Act in question (III of 1895) is Self-contained. There is no appeal beyond the District Collector or the Board of Revenue as stated above, save in one solitary instance, Section 21 and on one solitary ground, viz., on the ground of want of jurisdiction because no emoluments appertain to the village officer in respect of which the suit is brought. It was thus obviously the intention of the Legislature that the civil courts should, save in the case under Section 21, not interfere. The contention raised on this is that the Act is ultra vires of the local Legislature and that it has no power to displace the power of superintendence of the High Court. But if the High Court never had such power on the ground that the relation of superior and inferior court did not in this instance exist, the Act cannot have taken it away. Further the previous Regulation (VI of 1831) relating to village offices declared in its preamble ' whereas--it is necessary to provide that no claim to such offices, or to any of the emoluments annexed thereto, shall be cognizable by the ordinary Courts of Judicature, and to render all such claims adjudicable exclusively by the Officers of Government in the Revenue Department, ' etc., Section 6 provides that the orders of the Board of Revenue shall be final and conclusive. See also Section 7. The provisions of the Regulation will thus be seen to be even more unequivocal than most of the sections in the Act. No case has been brought to our notice where the contention of ultra vires either under the Regulation or the existing Act has been raised or decided, and disposals under both must have been and must still be of very frequent occurrence. With regard to Clause 10 of the Letters Patent I do not think the case for the petitioner can be carried further under that as I have already stated my reasons for holding that the Collector is not subject to the superintendence of the High Court in matters arising out of Act III of 1895.

20. In Balakrishna Udayar v. Vasudeva Ayyar I.L.R. (1917) Mad. 793 it was held that under the provisions of Act XX of 1863; Section 10, the Civil Court (in this case the Collector) exercised its powers as a Court of law not merely as a persona designata. Paraniaswamy Aiyangar v. Alamelu Natchiar Ammal I.L.R. (1918) M. 176 held that where a Revenue Court had dealt with a question of succession under the Madras Estates Land Act, without taking evidence the High Court could revive the order under Section 115, Civil Procedure, ' Code, as that section had been made applicable to proceedings in Revenue Courts under that particular Act by Section 192 of that Act.

21. Neither of these cases decided on the provisions of Acts widely differing from the one under discussion can help the petitioner's case.

22. I am therefore of opinion that this is a matter in which we have no power to revise the proceedings of the Revenue Divisional Officer and I would dismiss the petition.

23. There is further a motion to commit the Revenue Divisional Officer, Erode, for contempt for refusing to forward the records in this case. The revision petition was admitted by' me on 18-2-21 and on 21-2-21 the office called for the records under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code. The Collector to whom the Revenue Divisional Officer forwarded this Court's notice calling for the records, replied on 3-3-21 as follows:- 'There has been no decision to enable Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure to be applied nor does the notice quote the number of the decree Or order to which it purports to refer. I therefore, return it.'

24. On 11-3-21 the office again called for the papers and specified the order referred to. This was simply endorsed by the Collector under date 20-3-21 as follows. - 'Returned. There has been no decision to make Section 115, C.P.C. applicable '. The matter, if any, is a civil contempt and there is authority to show that it makes no difference if the order calling for the records is wrong, i.e., that it has eventually been held by us that Section 115, C.P.C. does not apply. That this was hardly self-evident is witnessed by the long and learned arguments addressed to us and by our detailed judgments in this case. The question of contempt was not seriously argued and I do not propose under the circumstances to go into the question further than to set out the facts as I have done above and to observe that the letter and endorsement of the Collector were neither courteous nor respectful to this Court and that the attention of Government will be drawn to the matter.


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