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The Public Prosecutor Vs. Abdul Wahab and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectElectricity
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 432 of 1961
Judge
Reported inAIR1969Mad280; 1969CriLJ918; (1968)1MLJ306
ActsElectricity Act, 1910 - Sections 39 and 50
AppellantThe Public Prosecutor
RespondentAbdul Wahab and ors.
Appellant AdvocateAsstt. Public Prosecutor
Respondent AdvocateV.T. Rangaswami Aiyangar, Adv. for ;K. Hariharan, Adv.
Cases ReferredDhoolchand v. State
Excerpt:
.....energy amounting theft under section 39 - held, appellants guilty of offence under section 39. - - 1, i am satisfied that p. the documents referred to above clearly show that p. on a consideration of the authorities cited before me, i am of the view that when a prosecution is instituted by a responsible officer of the company, the requirement of section 50 of the indian electricity act, 1910 that the institution of the prosecution should be at the instance of the aggrieved person is satisfied. i am satisfied that in the circumstances of the case, the requirement that the institution of the prosecution should be at the instance of the aggrieved person had been satisfied......the indian electricity act, 1910 as the question whether the chief engineer, kumbakonam electric supply corporation was the 'person aggrieved' had not been determined by this court.2. six persons were tried by the sub-magistrate of papanasam for an offence under section 379, i. p. c. read with section 39 of the indian electricity act, 1910 and section 44(c) and (d) of the said act. all the accused were acquitted by the sub-magistrate and the state filed an appeal against the order of acquittal. during the hearing of the appeal in this court, it was submitted that the prosecution of an offence alleged to have been committed by the accused under section 39 of the indian electricity act could not be instituted except at the instance of an 'aggrieved person'. the question whether dishonest.....
Judgment:

Kailasam, J.

1. This appeal is remanded by the Supreme Court for determination of the question whether the appellant is guilty of an offence under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910 as the question whether the Chief Engineer, Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation was the 'person aggrieved' had not been determined by this Court.

2. Six persons were tried by the Sub-Magistrate of Papanasam for an offence under Section 379, I. P. C. read with Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910 and Section 44(c) and (d) of the said Act. All the accused were acquitted by the Sub-Magistrate and the State filed an appeal against the order of acquittal. During the hearing of the appeal in this Court, it was submitted that the prosecution of an offence alleged to have been committed by the accused under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act could not be instituted except at the instance of an 'aggrieved person'. The question whether dishonest abstraction, consumption or use of electrical energy which was deemed to be theft by virtue of Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, will amount to an offence against that Act, or one under Section 379, I. P. C., was referred to a Full Bench. The Full Bench answered the reference as follows--

'The offence of dishonest abstraction, consumption or use of electricity will not be one coming within the mischief of Section 50 Indian Electricity Act, but one under Section 379. I. P. C., read with Section 39 of that Act'.

After the expression of this opinion by the Full Bench, viz. the offence was one under the Indian Penal Code and hence Section 50 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, had no application, the preliminary objection that 'the person aggrieved' had not launched the prosecution did not arise. On the facts, this court allowed the appeal against the first accused alone hold-Ing him guilty under Section 379, I. P. C., read with Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910. On appeal, the Supreme Court, in view of its decision in Avtar Singh v. State of Punjab, : 1965CriLJ605 holding that dishonest abstraction of electricity mentioned in Section 39 of the Act cannot he an oflence under the Indian Penal Code1 set aside the conviction of the appellant under Section 379, I. P. C. But as the petitioner was also charged under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, and as the questions whether the accused was guilty or not under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910 and whether the Chief Engineer, on the facts of the case, may be regarded as the 'person aggrieved' to enable him to institute the proceedings, were not considered by this Court, the Supreme Court remanded the case with a direction that the question whether the appellant was guilty of an offence under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act 1910 may be determined. In pursuance of this remand, the matter comes up before this Court for disposal.

3. The learned Public Prosecutor at the time of the hearing of the appeal, requested that he may be permitted to adduce additional evidence and mark certain documents. That petition was ordered, as it was felt that in the circumstances of the case, the material documents should be permitted to be marked in evidence and that the Chief Engineer, Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation should be examined. The Chief Engineer was accordingly examined by this Court and Exs. P. 16 and P. 17 were filed.

4. Section 50 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910 provides as follows--

'No prosecution shall be instituted against any person for any offence against this Act or any rule, licence or order thereunder, except at the instance of the Government or an Electrical Inspector, or of a person aggrieved by the same'.

In this case, the licensee is the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation and the question is whether the prosecution is instituted by 'a person aggrieved'.

5. The accused applied for a temporary connection by Ex. P.2 to the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation for the purpose of illuminating a marriage pandal. Under Ex. P. 3, dated 1-9-1960 the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation permitted a temporary connection to the accused's house. In this communication, P. W. I, the Chief Engineer, had signed 'for the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation'. In the complaint, Ex. P. 4, P. W. 1, did not state that he was signing on behalf of the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation, though he has signed the complaint. Ex. P. 4, however, states that the complainant is the Chief Engineer of the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation.

6. The argument (agreement?) for the temporary service connection was signed by the first accused and P. W. 1, K. S. Seshadri, Chief Engineer, for Kumbanam Electric Supply Corporation. The Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation Ltd., is marked as Ex. P. 16. Provision is made for the appointment of Managing Agents by Articles 83 to 88. Article 84 provides that the India Company (Pte.) Ltd., the first Managing Agents of the company and who have been reappointed Managing Agents of the company for a further period of ten years on and from 1-1-1950 shall continue and be the Managing Agents of the company. Under Article 85, the Managing Agents have been given full power and authority to appoint all or any attorneys and managers, engineers, officers, fitters, servants, or agents for the services of, and on behalf of, the company. Under Ex. P. 1, P. W. 1 was appointed as the general power of attorney agent On 25-4-1960, Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. and the India Co. (Pte.) Ltd., entered into an agreement by which India Co. (Pte.) Ltd., was appointed as managing agents. It is recited that notwithstanding the appointment of India Co. (Pte.) Ltd., as the managing agents till 14-4-1961 the said appointment became terminated by virtue of Section 330 of the Companies Act, 1956 on the 15-8-1960. Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation and India Co., (P.) Ltd., mutually agreed that India Co., (P.) Ltd., be appointed as managing agents from 15-8-1960 to 15-8-1965. It was during this period that the offence was committed and the complaint was given by P. W. 1.

7. It will be seen that under the Articles of Association, the Managing Agents have the power and authority to appoint attorneys and managers, engineers, officers, etc., for the services of and on behalf of the company. When an attorney, manager or officer is appointed by the Managing Agents, his services are for and on behalf of the company. By the appointment under Ex, P. 1, P. W. 1 is entitled to act as an attorney or agent for and on behalf of the company,

8. The contention of the learned Counsel for the accused is that by Ex. P. 1, the managing agents appointed P. W. 1 as the power of attorney of India Co. Ltd., and not on behalf of Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation. In support of this contention, the learned Counsel referred to certain passages in Ex. P, 1 and submitted that the appointment could not be on behalf of Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation. He also submitted that as the power of attorney was executed in the year 1955 and as the Managing agents were reappoint-ed in 1960, the power of attorney executed in the year 1955 would not be valid, It was contended on behalf of the accused that the person aggrieved is the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation and a complaint should have been filed by the company itself by passing a special resolution authorising any person to do so, and in the absence of a specific authorisation, P. W. 1, the Chief Engineer, cannot 'be said to be acting at the instance of the Company.

The learned counsel referred to the general power of attorney, Ex. P. 1, and submitted that the appointment of P. W. 1 was as the attorney for the managing agents. He relied on the phrase 'to be our attorney in our name and on our behalf'. The mention of the word 'company' in the document, it was submitted, would refer to India Company (P) Ltd., and not the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation. On a careful examination of the general power of attorney I am unable to accept this contention. It may be seen that under Article 85 of the Articles of Association, the Managing Agents have been empowered to appoint attorneys and managers, engineers, or officers to act for and on behalf of the company. The articles of association and the agreement between the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation and the India Co. (P) Ltd., referred Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation, as the Company and India Co. (P) Ltd., as the Managing Agents.

In Ex P. 1, the power of attorney, the words 'a company registered under the Indian Companies Act 1913, and having its registered office at Oriental Buildings, Armenian Street, Madras' would refer to the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation. This is made clear by the recital 'to be our attorney in our name and on our behalf to do all or any of the following acts or things to the intent that tha powers conferred shall extend to all matters in which the company is now or may, hereafter become interested'. The phrase 'to be our attorney in our name and on our behalf would certainly refer to India Co. (P) Ltd. But the phrase 'the powers conferred shall extend to all matters in which the company is now or may hereafter become interested' would refer to the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation. Under Clause (1) of the power of attorney, P. W. 1 is authorised to give a discharge in respect of any property to which the company may be entitled to and to effect a compromise or release of any claim in respect of all property, money, securities and rights.

A distinction between a claim of the company and a claim against 'us' (The India Co. (P) Ltd.,) is discernible. Clause (5) of the powers of attorney makes the position clear, for it empowers P. W. 1 to present for registration on behalf of the company any document executed by Sri C. R. Ramaswami signing on behalf of India Co. (P) Ltd., as Managing Agents of the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation and to admit execution thereof, etc. A distinction is, therefore, maintained between the company and the Managing Agents, and P. W. 1 is authorised to present for registration any instrument or deed on behalf of the company executed by Sri C. R. Ramaswami signing on behalf of the India Company (P) Ltd.

9. It is clear that the power of attorney was executed by the Managing Agents empowering P. W. 1 to act on behalf of Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporatioa The power of attorney is in accordance with the powers conferred on the Managing Agents under Article 85 of the Articles of Association. No doubt, after the execution of the power of attorney on 25-4-1960 the Managing Agency agreement was renewed, as the agency was terminated by virtue of Section 330, Companies Act of 1956. This re-appointment will not, in any way affect the validity of the power of attorney. In view of the fact that there has been no break In the Managing Agency of the company and that the power of attorney executed by the Managing Agency in 1955 would continue to be in operation till it is revoked, it will have to be held that the appointment of P. W. 1 as the power of attorney agent of the Managing Agents would empower him to act on behalf of the company also. On a reading of Exs. P. 16 and P. 17 and also Ex. P. 1, I am satisfied that P. W. 1 was acting as the power of attorney agent of the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation and the prosecution is at the instance of the aggrieved person.

10. It is admitted that the company did not file any complaint or pass any resolution authorising any person to file a complaint. But in the circumstances stated above, I find that the absence of such complaint or resolution will not invalidate the proceedings.

11. The learned Counsel for the accused submitted that P. W. 1 in his cross-examination in the trial Court admitted that he gave the complaint as the Chief Engineer and not as the power of attorney agent. This admission is relied on for submitting that the complaint was not given as the power of attorney agent. When his attention was drawn to this statement in his cross-examination in this Court, P. W. 1 replied that the power of attorney was already there and it could speak for itself. He wanted to impress by saying that be signed the complaint as Chief Engineer because he was responsible for any loss to the company. What P. W. 1 had stated in the evidence would not in any way affect the legal position. The mere fact that P. W. 1 stated that he gave the complaint as the Chief Engineer and not as the power of attorney agent would not alter the position. If the power of attorney was in force, as it had been found to be, he would be acting on behalf of the company and would be a person competent to institute the complaint.

12. Even assuming, that P. W, 1 was not a power of attorney agent, in the circumstances of the case, it can be found that P. W. 1 was acting at the instance of Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation. That P. W. 1 was acting on behalf of the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation is clear from Ex. P. 3, the temporary permit granted to the accused. Though Ex. P. 4 was signed by P. W. 1 without specifically stating that it was on behalf of the company, it was given by P, W. 1. as the Chief Engineer of the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation. Ex, P. 12, the agreement between the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation and the accused, is signed by P. W. 1 for the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation as its Chief Electrical Engineer. The documents referred to above clearly show that P. W. 1, as Chief Engineer of the Corporation, was acting on its behalf.

13. The meaning of the phrase 'at the instance of' is given in the Chambers Dictionary as 'at the motion or solicitation of.' In B. Ramanatha Aiyar's Law Lexicon, the same meaning is given. In Viswanath v. Emperor, : AIR1936All742 , a Bench of the Court stated that the phrase 'at the instance of' means merely 'at the solicitation of or at the request of', that it had been introduced so as to make the provision a general one and that if it had been the intention of the Legislature that no case should be instituted in Court except by the Electrical Co., itself or other persons mentioned in Section 50 of the Act, the legislature would have used the ordinary phrase 'on the complaint of' and the section, would have been on the lines that no magistrate should take cognizance of any offence referred to in Section 50 of the Act except upon the complaint of certain persons. The Court further held that the prosecution should not be instituted by some independent busy-body who had nothing to do with the matter. The officers of the company discovered the theft and reported it to the police to make an investigation. In the circumstances, the Court held that the officers intended that prosecution should follow according to the result of the investigation and concluded that the prosecution was at the instance of the Electric Co. This decision would support the view that the phrase 'at the instance of' should be given a, wider meaning and it was intended for the purpose of excluding independent persons who had nothing to do with the company from giving a complaint. A complaint by reasonable (responsible?) officers of the company, even though there is no specific authorisation, would be 'at the instance of' the company.

In Bhagalpur Electric Co. v. Hariprasad, : AIR1938Pat15 , following the decision in : AIR1936All742 , the Court expressed its opinion that when a responsible officer of a company reports an offence to the police and a prosecution is therefore set on foot, that will be considered to be a prosecution instituted 'at the instance of the company. It is no doubt true that in the case cited, the complaint was presented by the residential engineer after obtaining an authorisation from the managing agents, and therefore the observations will be in the nature of an obiter dicta.

In Provincial Govt. C. P. and Berar v. Yogananda, , a Bench of the Court was of the view that the expression 'at the instance of' does not mean 'on the complaint of' or 'with the sanction of' but only means 'at the asking' or 'the suggestion of' and the object of using that phrase was only to prevent indiscriminate prosecutions by persons without any expert knowledge of the working of electricity.

In State v. Maganlal Chunilal, : AIR1956Bom354 , a Bench of the Bombay High Court was of the view that the object of the Legislature was that only persons aggrieved may set the law in motion, and in the case before the Court one Mr. Gore, the officer who acted for and on behalf of the company having set the law in motion, the prosecution must be regarded as having been instituted at the instance of the company. In this case also, sanction was obtained from the head office to lodge a complaint and therefore the observations are in the nature of an obiter dicta. In the four cases cited above, the Courts have taken the view that when the law is set in motion by a responsible officer for and on behalf of the company, the prosecution should be regarded as having been instituted at the instance of the company.

14. The learned Counsel for the accused relied on the decision in Dhoolchand v. State, 1957 Cri 233 (Raj), wherein it was held by the Rajasthan High Court that the Superintendent, Electrical and Mechanical department of the Government does not come within the meaning of the words 'Government' or 'Electric Inspector' as he is only a paid servant of Government and he cannot be said to have been aggrieved at the offence. The case can be distinguished on the facts, in that, the officer did not verify the truth of the complaint and left it to the police to check up and do the needful. Further, there is nothing in the evidence to show that the officer was acting on behalf of the Government. On a consideration of the authorities cited before me, I am of the view that when a prosecution is instituted by a responsible officer of the company, the requirement of Section 50 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910 that the institution of the prosecution should be at the instance of the aggrieved person is satisfied.

15. In this case, P. W. 1, the Chief Engineer has stated that he was in entire charge of the administration of the Corporation including the accounts department. It is also clear that he was acting on behalf of the Corporation by signing agreement forms for giving connections to applicants. I accept the testimony of P. W. 1 and find that he was acting on behalf of the company and as a responsible officer, he instituted the prosecution before the police. The signing of the complaint by P. W. 1 as K. S. Seshadri without mentioning that he did so on behalf of the Corporation would not make any difference, because in the complaint itself he had stated that he was the Chief Engineer of the Corporation. I am satisfied that in the circumstances of the case, the requirement that the institution of the prosecution should be at the instance of the aggrieved person had been satisfied. There can therefore be no impediment in holding that the accused is guilty of an offence under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, and the order of remand is answered accordingly.

16. Mr. V. T. Rangaswami Aiyangar requested the Court to go into the facts and consider the question whether an offence under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, had been made out. This request is beyond the scope of the remand, for, what is directed to be decided is the question whether the Chief Engineer of the Corporation may, on the facts of the case, be regarded as the person aggrieved, as the said question had not been determined by the High Court.

17. On a consideration of the facts before the remand by the Supreme Court, this Court allowed the appeal of the State in so far as the first accused is concerned and held that he was guilty of dishonest consumption of electrical energy. This is an offence under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910. A finding is therefore recorded that the accused is guilty of an offence under Section 39 of the Indian Electricity Act of 1910.


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