1. Petitioner, Kondidasu Appalaswami was arrested on 2-8-1951, i.e., rather more than three weeks ago and detained for action prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community under Section 3 (1), (a), (iii) of the Preventive Detention Act of 1950, The grounds of detention were served on him on 4-8-1951. We are precluded from going into the truth or the adequacy of the grounds. It is sufficient to say that they constitute a grave indictment of the petitioner, who is said to have organized black-marketing activities in rice to an alarming extent in the course of which he is estimated to have made illegal profits amounting to about five lakhs of a subterranean nature not brought into his regular accounts and registers, on which no income-tax has of course been paid.
2. The petition is supported by ah affidavit by petitioner's brother's son Surya Rao according to which he and his uncle are the proprietors of the Sri Ganeswara Rice and Oil Mills at Payakaraopeta in Vishakapatnam District. It is on the bank of the Tandava river which, it would appear, is strategically situated for black-marketing activities in rice near Tuni Town in the delta and rice producing District of East Godavari. His 'modus operandi' as described in the grounds of detention is the smuggling of rice into his mill from the East Godavari District by employing hundreds of persons for this purpose, who bring paddy to his mill in diverse ways across the river by head-loads, boat, bullock-cart and also by train, all paid for in spot cash. This rice is said to have been transported in lorries and carts at the rate of a thousand bags a day to feed the black-market in various towns in Yishakapatnam District. At an inspection of his mill on 6-6-1951, large variations in the stock book and In the actual stock in the mill are said to have been discovered, and according to slips found in the mill unauthorised purchases of paddy to the extent of 280 bags for over Rs. 17,000/- that day alone detected. The grounds contain further specific instances of alleged unauthorised transport of paddy by petitioner by lorry in June 1951 and also refer to several specific persons, who carried the paddy from East Godavari to his mill.
3. According to the affidavit supporting the petition, the petitioner is a license-holder under the Madras Food-Grains Control Order and also under the Madras Rice Mills Licensing Order 1941 entitled to purchase any quantity of paddy and store rice in the mill premises after milling, and to sell it to 'appropriate persons' in Vizagapatnam, which is a derationed district. The affidavit urges that the petitioner was one of 'the leading citizens' of the locality, that the order of detention is an abuse of power by the authorities and that he has done nothing Illegal.
4. Mr. Jayarama Ayyar, who appeared for the petitioner, has urged that the activities set out in the grounds cannot be said to be prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies 'and' services essential to the community. His argument, as we understand it, is that though smuggling of rice may be prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies, it cannot be said to be prejudicial to 'services essential to the community.' (His Lordship referred to two decisions, 'Bhaktawar Singh v. The State' A.I.R. 1951 Simla 157 and 'Misrilal v. The State', A.I.R. 1951 Pat 134 and held them not useful for the purpose of the case before the Court).
5. Reverting to the present petition, there can in our opinion be no doubt at all that the grounds come within the scope of Section 3 (1), (a) (iii). The Pood Department and a vast system of food control have tome into existence for the specific purpose of providing food for the community on an equitable and rationed basis with a view to seeing that so far as humanly possible, no deficit areas perish from starvation. Mr. Jayarama Ayyar seeks to confine essential services to services such as the Railways, electricity undertaking and so on. But it appears to us that the services of a specially created department and of Executive Officers under it and the Revenue Department directly charged with the responsibility of carrying out orders having the force of law for the satisfaction of that most vital of all human essentials, viz., food, far from being non-essential, transcend in fact in importance all other forms of 'essential services.' We can see no substance in the point of law raised.
6. Mr. Jayarama Ayyar has urged that the correct course for the Government is to prosecute the petitioner directly under the Criminal Law for the many alleged offences he has committed. We are in complete agreement and presume there will and consider that there should be such a prosecution, mere preventive detention being quite inadequate punishment for so shocking an indictment of black-marketing activity as that disclosed in the grounds. We are of the opinion that not only in fairness to the petitioner but in wider public interests, the petitioner should be prosecuted criminally and as expeditiously as possible on the grave charges in this comprehensive indictment, within the ambit of Criminal law. It is true that detention under the Preventive Detention Act is essentially preventive and not punitive. But we have no reason to infer that the object of this detention is not essentially preventive, viz., to put a summary stop to black-marketing activities such as those disclosed in the grounds. We can see no legal impediment to a person being detained under the preventive Detention Act, and while under such detention, answering serious criminal offences, he is alleged to have committed in a Criminal Court of law. We would rather strongly deprecate any line of least resistance being taken in such cases and the Preventive Detention Act used, if not abused, merely to detain persons on grounds such as those alleged against the petitioner and not to prosecute them through the ordinary Courts, so that they may be acquitted if innocent and drastically punished if guilty, for black-marketing offences such as those disclosed in the indictment.
7. In the affidavit it is alleged that the petitioner is a leading citizen. Our Courts are today cluttered as never before in their history with masses of cases against comparatively 'small persons for violating food control laws and regulations, prohibition laws and other special laws. It is our opinion that if a leading citizen, such as the petitioner claims to be, is, in fact guilty of black-marketing activities and offences on the scale alleged in the indictment, his moral turpitude only becomes the grosser by reason of his prominent position in society, and the sterner and the more rigorous should in consequence be his punishment, if convicted in a criminal Court.
8. According to the grounds, the black-marketing activities of the petitioner have gone on for some considerable time. With an expression of our pained astonishment that he has been allowed to continue them for so long without being stoppedby punitive proceedings, we dismiss this petitionsummarily.