1. This is an application by one N. B. Namazi under Article 226(1) of the Constitution to issue a writ of 'certiorari' to call for the records of the proceedings on the file of the Assistant Custodian of Evacuee Property, Madras in Nos. 224 & 224 A of 1949 & to quash the orders passed on the two matters respectively on the same day, 10-4-1950. The order in A. C. No. 224 A of 1949 declared one M.E. Namazi an evacuee under Section 2(d)(i) of the Administration of Evacuee Property Ordinance (XXVII (27) of 1949) & his one-fourth share in Messrs. Gani & Sons as evacuee property under Section 2 (f) of the same Ordinance. By the order in A. C. 224 of 1949 three persons, namely, Gani Namazi, M.B. Namazi the applicant herein & M.I. Namazi were declared to be intending evacuees under Section 19 of the same Ordinance.
2. The undisputed facts are as follows: There was a firm known as Gani & Sons doing business for several years in the City of Madras. From 1943 the firm consisted of four partners, M. A. Gani (the father) & his three sons, M.I. Namazi, M.E. Namazi & M.B. Namazi. From 1946 the share of each partner was fixed at one fourth. In September 1948 one of the partners M.E. Namazi left for Karachi where he was married & he has since been residing at Karachi. Sometime in 1949, the business of a company in Karachi known as Keale & Co. was purchased by M.A. Gani, the father. All these facts are admitted. The applicant further states that though it is true that M.E. Namazi has settled in Karachi i.e., in Pakistan, he has an intention of returning to India after the lifetime of his mother-in-law at whose instance he stayed away in Karachi. It is further stated that there was a dissolution of the partnership from 1-4-1949 when M.E. Namazi ceased to be a partner & took away the moneys representing his share in the partnership & it was with these moneys & for his sole benefit that the business of Keale & Co. was purchased. It is also his case that from 1-4-1949 a new partnership was formed with three partners, M.B. Namazi, M.I. Namazi & Fatma Begum, wife of M. A. Gani.
3. Proceedings were taken under the provisions of the Ordinance abovementioned (XXVII of 1949) & the partners of Gani & Sons were called upon to show cause why they should not be treated as 'intending evacuees under Section 19 of the Ordinance'. 'Intending evacuee' according to the definition in Clause 2 (e) of the Ordinance means,
'any person who after 14-8-1947 (1) has transferred to Pakistan his assets or any part thereof situated in any part of the territories to which this ordinance extends: Provided that the transfer to Pakistan of any reasonable sum of money, for the purpose of financing any transaction in the ordinary course of his trade or for the maintenance of any member of the family of such person shall not be deemed to be a transfer of assets within the meaning of this Sub-clause, or (ii) has acquired, if the acquisition has been made in person, in any mode other than the modes specified in Sub-clause (iii) of Clause (d) of Section 2 or if the acquisition has been made by or through a member of his family, any right to, interest in or benefit from any property which is treated as evacuee or abandoned property under any law for the time being in force in Pakistan, or (iii) has, by the execution of any document of transfer in writing, whether registered or not, or by means of any other document in writing, sought to effect an exchange of the whole or any part of his property situated in any part of the territories to which this ordinance extends, with any property situated in Pakistan.'
Evidently there were two charges against the partners of Gani & Sons (1) that they had transferred to Pakistan a part of their assets, (2) that they had acquired a right to & interest in evacuee property in Pakistan (Keale & Co).
4. M. A. Gani & his two sons the applicant & M.I. Namazi were examined by the Assistant Custodian of Evacuee Property. One Lalvani, a partner of Messrs. Keale & Co. was also examined. The Assistant Custodian came to the conclusion that on the evidence Keale & Co. could not be held to be evacuee property at the time when M.A. Gani bought it But he found that that business was bought with moneys belonging to the partnership of Gani & Sons. He found that the alleged dissolution in April 1949 was sham & was only put forward to circumvent the provisions of the Ordinance, that at the time of purchasing Keale & Co. the firm had not been dissolved & M. E. Namazi continued to be a partner & therefore the assets of the company had been transferred to Pakistan. He therefore declared on this ground that the partners of Gani & Sons namely M.A. Gani, M.B. Namazi & M.I. Namazi were intending evacuees under Section 19 of the Ordinance.
5. In the connected matter (A. C. No. 224 A) the Assistant Custodian declared M.E. Namazi an evacuee under Section 2 (d) (i) of the Ordinance & his share of Messrs. Gani & Sons as evacuee property under Section 2 (f) of the Ordinance. Section 2 (d) (i) is in the following terms:
' 'Evacuee' means any person.........
(i) who, on account of the setting up of the Dominions of India & Pakistan or on account of civil disturbances or the fear of such disturbances, leaves or has, on or after 1-3-1947, left, any place in a Province for any place outside the territories now forming part of India.'
6. In this application we must accept the findings of fact arrived at by the Assistant Custodian. We are unable to find any error of law in his two main conclusions. There were certainly circumstances which justified the Assistant Custodian in coming to the conclusion that M.E. Namazi was an evacuee & that M. A. Gani, M. B. Namazi & M. I. Namazi are intending evacuees within the meaning of the ordinance.
7. M.E. Namazi has not chosen himself to get rid of the order against him. He is the person really aggrieved by the order in A. C. No. 224 A. The applicant, however, seeks to attack the validity of the order relating to M.E. Namazi because of a peculiar complication, namely, that M.E. Namazi happens to be a partner in Messrs. Gani & Sons. If the Assistant Custodian had, in spite of finding M.E. Namazi was an evacuee, held that there was a partition from 1-4-1949 & that M.E. Namazi had taken away with him his share in the partnership, then surely the applicant would have had no grievance at all against the order in A. C. No. 224-A of 1949. What really hurts him is the finding that there was no real dissolution & that M.E. Namazi did not take away his share of the partnership. The Assistant Custodian has found the story of the dissolution to be suspicious & deliberately invented to escape from the consequences which would inevitably follow on an application ofthe provisions of the Ordinance. On the facts he was entitled to draw that conclusion.
8. It is equally clear that the Assistant Custodian was right on the facts in holding that the partners of Gani and Sons had transferred a portion of their assets to Pakistan for the purchase of the business of Keale & Co. in Karachi. The only way they could get out of this obvious result was to set up a separation of M.E. Namazi from the partnership before the purchase so that it could be said that Keale & Co. was purchased not with the moneys belonging to the partnership but with the moneys belonging to M.E. Namazi individually. The case thus set up by them has failed. It follows that the applicant & his father & M.I. Namazi were rightly declared to be intending evacuees according to the definition in the ordinance.
9. The question is whether the two orders or any of them can be impugned on any other ground.
10. It may be convenient to dispose of at the outset certain technical--one can say almost formal--objections raised by learned counsel for the applicant in regard to the orders. It was represented that the order on A. C. No. 224 of 1949 though passed on 10-4-1950, had not been published in the Gazette. Under Section 19 (2) of the Ordinance, any declaration made under Sub-section (1) of that section shall be published in the Official Gazette. Assuming that it had not been published before the application was filed before us, we do not see what follows. The important thing was the declaration by the custodian & this application was directed against that order. The learned Advocate General on instructions said that the notification was not published as in the meanwhile this Court admitted the application for a writ & called for the papers & directed 'interim' stay. Whatever be the reason, the point is whether the applicant does or does not feel aggrieved by the order of the 10-4-1950 which he seeks to have quashed. If he is, it does not matter if it had not been published.
11. Something was sought to be made out of the fact that on 17-4-1950, Act XXXI (31) of 1950 came into force & this Act repealed Ordinance No. XXVII (27) of 1949. The declaration regarding M.E. Namazi was published in the Gazette of 25-4-1950. It was contended that the date of publication was the important date and by that date the ordinance itself had ceased to be in force. A complete answer to this argument is furnished by Section 58 of Act XXXI (31) of 1950. It runs thus:
'(1) The Administration of Evacuee Property Ordinance, 1949 (XXVII (27) of 1949) is hereby repealed.
2. The repeal by this Act of the Administration of Evacuee Property Ordinance, 1949 (XXVII of 1949) shall not affect the previous operation thereof & subject thereto, anything done or any action taken in the exercise of any power conferred by or under that ordinance shall be deemed to have been done or taken in the exercise of the powers conferred by or under this Act, as if this Act were in force on the day on which such thing was done or action was taken'. (This section has since been replaced by another section practically on similar lines by Act (LXXI (71) of 1950).
The main part of the argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner was devoted to an attack on the validity of the ordinance itself. It was contended that the ordinance was void as being inconsistent with & in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, in particular, Articles 14, 15, 19, & 31. The ordinance deals with the administration of the properties of evacuees & with restrictions on the rights of intending evacuees. It will be convenient to consider the two sets of provisions of the Ordinance dealing with evacuees & intending evacuees separately to find out if all or any of such provisions are void under Article 13 of the Constitution. We wish, however, to refrain from entering upon a mere academic discussion of every provision of the Ordinance & shall confine ourselves as far as possible to provisions which have a direct bearing on the case before us.
12. There are three alternative definitions of 'evacuee' in Section 2 (d). As M.E. Namazi has been declared to be an evacuee within the meaning of Section 2 (d) (i) we are not called upon to consider the other two definitions. This obviates a discussion of a rather difficult question, namely, whether a person who has been declared an evacuee under Sub-section (d) (iii) though he is still residing in India, can be said to have ceased to be a citizen of India. Now in this case the finding is that M.E. Namazi has left India for Pakistan, i.e., he has changed his abode from the Dominion of India to the Dominion of Pakistan. In other words, he has migrated to Pakistan after 1-3-1947. It is true that a person does not lose his domicile merely by migration. The presumption in the case of fugitive from his country on account of disturbances therein is that he has still aot abandoned his intention of returning to it, & therefore still retains his domicile in his native land (see Phillimore's International Law, Edn. 3, Vol. IV, p. 138). But we are not concerned with general rules of International law as we have specific provisions in the Constitution on this subject. Article 5 declares that every person who has his domicile in the territory of India at the commencement of this Constitution who was born or either of whose parents was born in the territory of India, or who has been ordinarily resident in the territory of India for not less than five years immediately preceding such commencement shall be a citizen of India. But Article 7 expressly makes an exception. It says,
'Notwithstanding anything in Articles 5 & 6 a person who has after the first day of March 1947, migrated from the territory of India to the territory now included in Pakistan shall not be deemed to be a citizen of India.'
The proviso Is not material for the present case. On the finding of the Assistant Custodian which we accept, M.E. Namazi has migrated from the territory of India to the territory included in Pakistan after 1-3-1947. He cannot therefore be deemed to be a citizen of India. If he is not a citizen Articles 15 & 19 have no application as these articles confer rights & privileges only on citizens. The question, therefore, is whether Articles 14 & 31 which apply not only to citizens but to all persons in the State are infringed in any way by any of the provisions of the Ordinance relating to evacuees in the position of M.E. Namazi.
13. What is the effect of a notification declaring any property to be evacuee property? Under Section 8 such property vests in the Custodian who can under Section 9 take possession of it.The Custodian may take such measures as he considers necessary or expedient for purposes of securing, administering, preserving & managing any evacuee property which has vested in him & may, for any such purpose, do all acts, & incur all expenses necessary or incidental thereto. He may carry on the business of the evacuee, or appoint a manager for the property of the evacuee or for carrying on any business, recover the debts due to the evacuee, institute, defend or continue any legal proceeding on behalf of the evacuee, transfer the property provided that he shall not sell any property of business except with the previous approval of the Custodian General etc. The Custodian is also given powers to vary or cancel leases or allotments of evacuee property. He is bound to maintain a separate account of property of each evacuee possession of which has been taken by him. Section 16 is important. It enacts that the Custodian may, on application, made to him by an evacuee or any person claiming to be the 'heir of an evacuee, restore, subject to any conditions, property which he had taken possession of, provided the applicant produces a certificate from the Central Govt. or other authority to the effect that the property may be restored. Section 38 retrospectively affects transfer of any right, or interest in any property made after 14-8-1947 by or on behalf of an evacuee. Such transfers have to be confirmed by the Custodian to be effective to confer any rights. It will be seen that the entire scheme of the Ordinance in respect of what is called 'evacuee property' is a provision for the custody & administration of such property & not for confiscation. The evacuee's title as such is never affected. Even the rights of a heir are recognised. Restoration of the property is contemplated. The Custodian acts practically as a statutory agent with large powers, but under a duty to keep accounts. Article 14 of the Constitution runs as follows: 'The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India'. This Article has recently come up so much for discussion that it is unnecessary to repeat what has been said before by this Court & by the Supreme Court. No doubt, this article applies to aliens also. It has been held time & again in the United States that aliens are entitled to the protection of both the due process clause & the equality clause, see Willis Constitutional Law, p. 583; Weaver's Constitutional Law, p. 403. But it has also been held that there can be a certain amount of discrimination so far as aliens are concerned which would be justified under the police power of the state, e.g. 'An autioneer's licence may be refused to an alien. He may be denied a licence to sell intoxicating liquors or to run a pool hall or to operate motor buses'. (Weaver, page 404).
'Terrace v. Thompson', 263 US 197, is an instructive case on the point. It was held by the Supreme Court in this case that though alien inhabitants of a State may invoke the protection of the due process & equal protection clauses of the Constitution, each State has power to deny aliens the right to own land within its borders & no violation of the Constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal protection of the laws is effected by a statute denying aliens who have not declared an intention to become citizens the right to hold land. A further distinction has also been madebetween resident aliens & non-resident aliens. In one case the position of a non-resident alien & his right to invoke in his aid the provisions of the Constitution was forcibly described thus: 'He owes no allegiance to our flag or our Govt. He may as far as we know be plotting our destruction. Why should we be presumed to give when we receive nothing?'
In my opinion, there has been no infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution. Persons like M.E. Namazi are really to be treated as nonresident aliens & they cannot complain if, in the interests of the State, provision is made for taking into custody the property which they have left in India & for its administration. It appears to us that these provisions are also intended to safeguard the rights & interests of the evacuees in cases where they had left India practically abandoning their properties.
14. Nor do we think that these provisions of the Ordinance are inconsistent with Article 31(1) which says that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. We have already pointed out that none of the provisions of the Ordinance deprives the evacuee of his title to the property. The only thing which he can be said to have been deprived of nationally is his possession, but on a closer examination, it will be evident that he is not actually deprived of possession in law. 'Ex hypothesi', an evacuee such as 'M.E. Namazi who has migrated to Pakistan cannot be in actual physical possession of his property. He can only be constructively in possession, say, through his agent or manager. As we read the provisions of the ordinance, the custodian is really in the position of a statutory agent or manager. The position of the Court of Wards under the Court of Wards Act is analogous. We cannot describe a statute which provides for possession through a special kind of agent as an enactment which deprives the owner of his constructive possession. I am therefore of opinion that Article 31 does not come into the picture at all. There is no deprivation of the property of the evacuee within the meaning of Article 31(1). Nor is there any taking possession or acquisition falling under Article 31(2). An Act, for instance, like the Court of Wards Act, which provides for the Court of Wards assuming management of the properties of a proprietor who is declared to be disqualified cannot be described as an Act depriving the ward of his property or as contemplating an acquisition of his property by the State. I cannot understand how any compensation can be given to the evacuee when the Custodian keeps accounts of all receipts & disbursements relating to his property & there is provision for restoration at a subsequent date.
15. I do not therefore think it necessary to embark on a discussion of what is meant by 'public purpose' & what is included in the words 'save by authority of law'. I respectfully agree with Das, J. that Article 31(1) means only that no person shall be deprived of his property by a mere executive, administrative or prerogative act.
'If the executive takes the property of any person, it must be prepared to justify that act under the authority of a valid law. Vide 'Kameshwar Sigh v. Province of Bihar', AIR 1950 Pat 392 . I also agree with him with respect that mere state policy or policy of the party in power may not be the same thing as public purpose. If it were necessary I am prepared to hold that the Ordinance & the Act which replaced it, if they involve acquisition, then such acquisition is for public purpose. Having regard to what happened soon after the partition in 1947 & the fact that a satisfactory & final settlement has not yet taken place between the Dominion of India & the Dominion of Pakistan in respect of property of person who on account of the partition & disturbances migrated from one Dominion to the other, it cannot be said that the enactments in question were not undertaken in the general interests of large sections of the community. I need only refer to Clause (5) of Article 31 of the. Constitution itself which specifically provides that nothing in Clause (2) shall affect the provisions of any law which the State may make in pursuance of any agreement entered into between the Govt. of the Dominion of India & the Govt. of any other country with respect to property declared by law to be evacuee property. In one sense the subject matter of these enactments belongs more to the realm of international law rather than to Municipal law.
16. I need only refer to two other circumstances. One is that the action taken under the Ordinance or the Act as regards what is called evacuee property is expected to be only tentative & temporary in nature & duration. There are elaborate & detailed provisions as to the manner in which the Custodian has to manage & administer the property & there is provision for restoration. There is also the contemplated agreement between the two Dominions. The second circumstance is that the evacuee himself has not chosen to complain before us against the order in A. C. No. 224 A. It is he who should feel aggrieved if there had been any deprivation of his right & he has not complained. There is no ground therefore for quashing that order.
17. There is, however, one thing about which I am not quite clear. The Ordinance no doubt declares the order of the Custodian declaring any property to be evacuee property as final. That might be so in one sense, i.e., if any property belongs to a person who has been declared to be an evacuee within the meaning of the definition in the Ordinance, then the custodian's order would be final. But, does the finality amount to an adjudication on title in case there is any dispute? Take for instance the case where a property is declared to be evacuee property on the assumption that it belongs to A who is an evacuee. Does it mean that some one else cannot say that the property really does not belong to the evacuee but belongs to himself who is not an evacuee? I am inclined to hold that the order of the Custodian or the notification under Section 7 of the Ordinance is not final, in case of disputed title.
18. Then we come to the case of intending evacuees. Obviously a mere declaration under Section 19 of the Ordinance that a person is an intending evacuee does not in any way injure that person. The question is whether the consequences of such declaration inflict on him any injury & if so whether all or any of the provisions under which such consequences ensue are void. Section 20 of the Ordinance prohibits an intending evacuee from transferring in any manner whatsoever his right or interest in immoveable property except with the previous approval of the Custodian & any transfer madein contravention of the section shall be void; Section 21 confers certain powers on Custodians in respect of the property of intending evacuees. It runs as follows:
'For the purpose of preserving any property in which any person in respect of whom a declaration has been made under Section 19 that he is an intending evacuee has any right or interest, the Custodian may:
(a) by order in writing, require any such person to furnish such returns, accounts or other information in relation to any such property & to produce such documents in his possession as the custodian may require;
(b) inspect the books of accounts or other documents maintained by or in the possession of such person;
(c) pass such orders or direct such action to be taken in relation to any such property;
(d) by order in writing, prohibit the transfer to Pakistan of a sum of money belonging to any such person or permit such transfer subject to such conditions as the Custodian may think fit to impose.'
Section 22 provides that if the intending evacuee makes any transfer of any property in contravention of Section 20 or fails to comply with any order made under Clause (c) or Clause (d) of Section 21, the Custodian may declare any property of his to be evacuee property. Section 23 provides for special cases of intending evacuees acquiring evacuee or abandoned property in Pakistan for inadequate consideration.
19. It was not represented to us that any action has been taken under either Section 22 or Section 23 against the applicant before us. Nor has it been alleged that the Custodian has called upon the applicant to do any of the things mentioned in Section 21. It was also not alleged that the Custodian has refused to approve any transfer made by the applicant. But it was contended that the provisions abovementioned seriously infringe the rights of the applicant who has been declared to be an intending evacuee, & are inconsistent with the Articles of the Constitution which confer on him certain fundamental rights & are therefore void. The basic assumption of the contention is that the applicant though declared to be an intending evacuee is still a citizen of India. There can be no doubt about that & the learned Advocate General did not contest the position. The applicant falls within the definition of a citizen under Article 5 of the Constitution as he has not migrated to Pakistan. He will therefore be entitled to all the fundamental rights declared in Part III of the Constitution. In particular he invokes Articles 15 & Article 19(1)(f).
20. The contention based on Article 15(1) may be briefly disposed of. The argument is that a discrimination has been made against persons of a particular religion, namely, Muslims. It may be that actually most of the persons to whom the provisions of the Ordinance may apply are likely to be Muslims, but there is nothing in the Act which necessarily leads to any discrimination. If a non-Muslim falls within the definition of an evacuee or an intending evacuee then the Ordinance would apply equally to him. Reference was made to the well-known case of 'Yick Wo v. Hopkins', (1886) 118 US 356. In that case the Supreme Court of the United States declared the general doctrine thus,
'Though the law be fair on its face & impartial in appearance, yet, if it is applied & administered by public authority With an evil eye & an unequal hand so as practically to make unjust & illegal discriminations between persons in similar circumstances, material to their rights, the denial of equal justice is still within the prohibition of the Constitution.' (Willoughby on the Constitution of the United States, Edn. 2, Vol. 3, p. 1931). I do not think there is any such thing here. It is idle to shut one's eyes to the context in which the Ordinance was passed & to seek to apply abstract principles without any consideration of the special circumstances relating to the passing of the enactment.
21. Article 19(1)(f) says that all citizens shall have the right to acquire, hold & dispose of property. This may be read with the limitation in Clause 5 of the same article that nothing in that sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes or prevents the State from making any law imposing reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause either in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any scheduled tribe. The question resolves itself into this, namely, whether any of the restrictions imposed by Sections 20 & 21 of the Ordinance are reasonable restrictions in the interests of the general public. I am inclined to hold that none of the restrictions contained in Section 21 can be said to be restrictions not reasonably imposed. I am prepared to hold that it is in the interests of the general public that powers have been conferred on the Custodian to see that moneys are not transferred to Pakistan before final settlement is arrived at between the Dominions of India & Pakistan as such indiscriminate transfer of assets would render the final settlement extremely difficult. Section 21 does not really prohibit the moneys of an intending evacuee being used by him or being invested. The incidental powers of the Custodian to require the intending evacuee to furnish returns & other information & the power of the Custodian to inspect the books of account & other documents do not, in my opinion, restrict the fundamental right to acquire, hold & dispose of property.
22. Section 20 of the Ordinance has given me the greatest difficulty. I asked the Advocate General if there were any rules which indicated on what grounds the Custodian may refuse to approve any transfer by an intending evacuee, but I was told that there was no rule in regard thereto. The result is that as the section stands, the Custodian can arbitrarily refuse to approve any transfer by an intending evacuee. The words 'transfer in any manner' are wide enough to include even an ordinary lease. The learned Advocate General was unable to convince me why & how the interests of the general public demanded a restriction on the power of an intending evacuee to lease his property or to sell or to make a gift of it. It may be said that the Custodian would not ordinarily refuse to approve any transfer unless for proper grounds. But surely that would be gambling on the reasonableness of the Custodian. As the section stands, there is nothing to prevent the Custodian from most unreasonably refusing to approve of any transfer by an intending evacuee. I can understand a provision giving power to the Custodian, to prohibit a transfer to an evacuee. I can well understand previous intimation to the Custodian being made a condition, because the Custodian would then take steps to prohibit the transfer to Pakistan of the proceeds of such transfer, if any. In my opinion, the restriction on the power of disposal of immovable property contained in Section 20 of the Ordinance, as it stands, is an unreasonable restriction on the exercise of the intending evacuee's right as a citizen under Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution. It is, however, unnecessary to make any order in this case on that ground, because it is not alleged that there has been any attempt at transfer by the applicant which has not met with approval of the Custodian.
23. As we have held that the applicant was rightly declared to be an intending evacuee within the meaning of the definition in the Ordinance, the only thing we can do at present is to dismiss the application. There will be no order as to costs.
24. The petitioner will have a certificateunder Article 132(1) of the Constitution that thiscase involves a question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution.