1. The petitioner was formerly a police constable who served from 1909 until 1940 when he was dismissed by the District Superintendent of Police at Salem because of his conviction and sentence by the High Court for contempt of Court.
2. The petitioner brought a suit for a declaration that his dismissal was wrongful in that it had been made without any notice to him and without any opportunity of showing cause; and he also asked for arrears of pay amounting in all to Rs. 972. The suit was brought in forma pauperis and without going into the question of pauperism, which was contested by the learned Government Pleader, the learned District Munsiff dismissed the suit under Order 33, Rule 5 (d) of the Code of Civil Procedure.
3. The dismissal of the petitioner by the District Superintendent of Police was under Rule 77 of the Police Standing Orders. The rule is in these words:
(1) No Police Officer, convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment, shall be retained, in the service, without the special order of the Inspector-General.
(2) A Police Officer sentenced to fine only need not be dismissed. The District Superintendent shall decide whether he deserves dismissal 0r any other punishment and act accordingly.
(3) An order of dismissal shall not be passed, until the conviction has been finally upheld on appeal, or the time allowed for appeal has expired.
4. Before the learned District Munsiff the only contention raised on this aspect of the matter was that the conviction by the High Court for contempt of Court is not an offence; but the learned District Munsiff relied on the decision in Rajah v. Witherington : AIR1934Mad423 in which it was held that although it was not an offence within the ambit of the Penal Code it was nevertheless an offence. A further argument was advanced in this Court, namely, that in the case of dismissal or conviction of an offence with a sentence of imprisonment, dismissal could not be made except by the Inspector-General of Police. This point was not raised in the lower Court, but apart from this there seems no room for this contention because the rule provides that such a person cannot be retained in service without the special orders of the Inspector-General. Consequently it is only when there is a proposal to retain him in service, for example, when he has been convicted only of some minor offence involving.no moral turpitude, that the jurisdiction of the Inspector-General is invoked.
5. Mr. K.V. Ramachandra Aiyar's main argument in this Court is that although contempt of Court may be an offence, it is not a 'criminal charge' within the meaning of the proviso in sub-clause (a) of Clause (3) of Section 24O of the Government of India Act. This point does not appear to have been raised in the lower Court but it may readily be disposed of. That the case is governed by Section 240 of the Government of India Act is made clear by the decision of the Federal Court in Suraj Narain Anand v. N.W. Frontier Province (1942) 1 M.L.J. 77 : I.L.R. (1942) Lah.692 : 4 F.L.J. 22 (F.C.). The provisions in Section 240 of the Government of India Act regarding notice and an opportunity of showing cause are mandatory, but according to the proviso they do not apply to a case 'where a person is dismissed or reduced in rank on the ground of conduct which has led to his conviction on a criminal charge.' An offence has been defined in Section 3(37) of the General Clauses Act as ' any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force.' The word ' charge ' has been defined in Section 4 (c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure in this way:
' Charge ' includes any head of charge when the charge contains more heads than one.
7. It must be clear from this definition that the word has been there defined only in its relation to the Code of Criminal Procedure. The way in which the word has been used in Section 240 of the Government of India Act obviously contemplates some accusation and not merely a charge in the technical sense of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This being so, we are left only with the word ' criminal' for discussion; and in discussing the preamble to the Code of Criminal Procedure, Ranganatha Aiyar has dealt with the word in this way in the sixth edition of his commentary:
The word ' criminal' is used in opposition to civil as also to ecclesiastical, political, or military. It comes from the latin crimin (judgment, accusation) and means generally and simply ' of or belonging to an accusation'.... The reason for the trial of a person for a criminal offence is not a contest of private interest in which the rights of parties can be waived at pleasure. The prosecution of criminals and administration of criminal law are matters which concern the State. Every citizen has an interest in seeing that persons are not convicted of crimes and do not forfeit life or liberty except when tried under the safeguards so carefully provided by law.
8. At this point it is useful to examine the nature of the contempt of which the petitioner was convicted by this Court on the motion of the Advocate-General. He was the plaintiff in a suit in the District Munsiff's Court at Salem and in the course of an affidavit filed in support of an application asking for certain documents to be called for he alleged that in a previous suit not only the District Munsiff and the Subordinate Judge but also a Judge of this Court had been bribed. Not content with this he went on to allege that in the suit in which he was then involved the District Munsiff had received a bribe of Rs. 1,000 and the learned Chief Justice then pointed out that ' he has added to his offence in this Court by affirming that his allegations were true.' The only reason which influenced the learned Judges in giving him simple imprisonment was that there was no other alternative. It is difficult to conceive of a more deliberate and a more scandalous contempt. Courts are familiar with other forms of contempt which are dealt with in the Code of Civil Procedure, which contains provisions for dealing with litigants who disobey the orders of Court, who flout injunctions granted against them and so on; but in this latter class of cases it can readily be seen that there is nothing of a criminal character or anything involving moral turpitude. In the case with which we are now concerned the contempt consisted in bringing highly defamatory accusations against the presiding officers in Courts from the lowest to the highest; and having regard to the distinctions elaborated by Ranganatha Aiyar in discussing the meaning of the word ' criminal ' it cannot be doubted that a contempt of this character is criminal. There is no question of any private dispute between the parties to the suit, the contempt being one which attacks the purity of the whole judicial administration. I accordingly hold, agreeing with the learned Government Pleader, that although a contempt of this nature may not be an offence within the narrow limits of the Indian Penal Code, it is nevertheless a matter giving rise to a criminal charge within the meaning of the proviso in Section 240(3)(a) of the Government of India Act. As the petitioner has been convicted on a criminal charge, it necessarily follows in accordnace with this section that the formalities regarding notice and a reasonable opportunity of showing cause were dispensed with. The learned District Munsiff was, therefore, correct in his finding that there was no cause of action disclosed in the plaint. As there was no error of jurisdiction the petition is ordered to be dismissed with costs.