Murari Mohan Dutt, J.
1. In this Rule, the first petitioner is the Statesman Limited (hereinafter referred to as the Statesman) and the second petitioner is Cushrow Russy Irani, who is a shareholder and the Managing Director of the Statesman, Mr. Irani is the Chairman of the Press Trust of India and of the Audit Bureau of Circulation Limited. He is also one of the two Directors from India of the Press Foundation of Asia, Manila, Phillipines. He was at all material times the President of the Indian and Eastern Newspaper Society.
2. By a resolution No 19/3/72- Press, dated April 14, 1972. The Government of India decided to set up a Fact Finding Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) with the Respondent No. 2, Bhabatosh Datta as the Chairman and the third, fourth, fifth and sixth respondents as members of the said Committee. The resolution is in the following terms:--
In pursuance of the decision to inquire into the economics of the newspaper industry, the Government of India have decided to set up a Fact Finding Committee, consisting of non-officials and officials. The composition of the Committee is as follows:--
1. DR. BHABATOSH DATTA,
Retd. Professor of Economics,
Presidency College, Calcutta.
1. SHRI R. RAJAGOPALAN.
Chief Cost Accounts Officer,
Ministry of Finance, New Delhi.
2. SHRI K.C. RAMAN,
Retd. Production Manager,
M/s. Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd.,
3. SHRI I.P. GUPTA,
Officer on Special Duty,
Central Board of Direct Taxes,
4. SHRI G. GOVINDAN. (Member Secretary),
Registrar of Newspapers for India,
2. The terms of reference of the Committee will be--
(i) to ascertain all the elements of the cost of production (including distribution to the reader) of the daily newspapers; and the relative magnitude of these elements in the different categories of newspapers;
(ii) to ascertain all the different elements of the total revenue earned by the newspapers; and the relative magnitude of these elements in the different categories of newspapers;
(iii) to study, under both the above items, the trends during the past few years and forecast, to the extent possible, the normal changes likely to occur in the next year or two;
(iv) to evolve norms for different elements of expenditure from the point of view of reasonableness combined with efficiency and examine the prevailing levels of expenditure with reference to such norms; and
(v) on the basis of the above studies to record its findings in regard to the effect of the restriction of news-print supplies to different categories oi newspapers and the fair prices to be charged by newspapers of different categories.
3. The Committee will consult newspaper managements and also working journalists, non-journalist workers and any other interested group that it may consider desirable to consult.
4. The Committee will meet as often as considered necessary. The Headquarters of the Committee will be at new Delhi but it may visit such place as considered necessary for a proper and comprehensive study of the various aspects of the newspaper industry.
5. The Committee will evolve its own procedure.
6. The Committee will report its findings as soon as possible but not later than six months from the date of its constitution.
Sd/- (R. C. DUTT)
Secy, to the Govt. of India.'
3. The Committee by its letter dated September 5. 1972 issued a questionnaire and required all newspapers including the Statesman to answer the same. The Statesman did not answer the questionnaire. Many other newspaper proprietors also did not answer the same. It is now admitted that out of 821 daily newspapers only 150 have sent their answers to the questionnaire.
4. By notification No. GSR/208 (F), dated April 26. 1973 published in 'the Gazette of India, the Government of India directed that all the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), other than the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 5 thereof, would apply to the Committee. The said notification is as follows:--
G.S.R. 263 (F)-- Whereas a Fact Finding Committee has been set up under the Resolution of Government of India in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting No. 19/3/72-Press dated the 14th April, 1972 for the purpose of making an inquiry into a definite matter of public importance, namely, the economics of the newspaper industry;
AND WHEREAS the Fact Finding Committee had addressed a detailed questionnaire to all the daily newspapers in September, 1972 requesting information and data on matters pertaining 'to the terms of reference which, in the opinion of the Fact Finding Committee, may be useful or relevant to the subject-matter of inquiry;
AND WHEREAS only a small number of newspapers have furnished the requisite information and data:
AND WHEREAS the information and data supplied by some daily newspapers have been found to be insufficient Or inadequate;
AND WHEREAS a large number of daily newspapers have still not furnished any information or data;
AND WHEREAS haying regard to the nature of the inquiry and the circumstances of the case, the Central Government is of opinion that all the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (60 of 1952) other than the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 5 thereof should be made applicable to the said Fact Finding Committee;
NOW. THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 11 of the said Act, the Central Government hereby directs that all the provisions of the said Act other than the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 5 'thereof shall apply to the said Fact Finding Committee.' ,
The Committee by its letter dated May 19, 1973, again required the Statesman to send its replies to the said Questionnaire without any further delay and to furnish the figures, estimates and accounts. By its letter dated February 21, 1974, the Committee intimated the Statesman that failure to furnish information required by 'the Committee within the stipulated period would constitute an offence within the meaning of Section 176 of the Indian Penal Code. This letter has been annexed to the affidavit-in-reply of the petitioners and marked as Annexure 'D'
5. It is contended by the petitioners that the Committee has no real right or power or authority or jurisdiction under the Act or at all to require the Statesman to answer 'the said or any other questionnaire or to furnish the said or any figures or estimates or accounts. The reasons therefor as stated inter alia in sub-paragraphs (a) to (e) of paragraph 6 of the petition are-
The economics of newspaper industry is not a matter of public importance within the meaning of the Act. It is not a definite matter of public importance or a definite matter at all inasmuch as the expression 'economics of the newspaper industry' is vague and indefinite and has no fixed or exact limits or bounds and is incapable of beine defined with precision. Each and all the terms of reference set out in the resolution dated April 14, 1972 are vague and indefinite and have no fixed or exact limits or bounds and none of them is a definite matter. In any event, and on the assumption that the notification dated April 26, 1973 is valid, inasmuch as the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 5 of the Act have not been made applicable to the Committee and no notification under the said sub-section(1) of Section 5 has been or can be issued In respect thereto, the Committee has not been invested with any powers under Subsection (2) or Sub-section (3) of the said section. Accordingly it is alleged that the Committee has no power or authority to require the Statesman to answer the said questionnaire or to furnish the said figures or estimates or accounts in terms of the said letter dated May 19, 1973.
?. It is alleged that the Central Government has acted mala fide and in abuse of its powers in petting up the Committee and in directing that the provisions of the Act other than Sub-section (1) of Section 5 thereof, shall apply thereto and the aforesaid action of the Central Government and of the Committee are violative of the fundamental rights of the second petitioner, namely, Mr. Irani and the Editor, Assistant Editors, Correspondents and Readers of the Statesman -to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. In naragraph 7 of the writ petition certain facts have been given from which, it is alleged the mala fides of the Central Government can be inferred. The said facts will be referred te later.
7. It is alleged that the Committee by virtue of its composition is likely to be prejudiced and biased against the Statesman and is unlikely to be impartial. The complaint in this regard relates to the inclusion of the respondent No. 4, K.C. Raman as one of the members of the Committee. The respondent No. 4 was appointed as a Government Director of the Indian National Press Limited (proprietors and/or publishers of the Free Press Group of Newspapers). The said appointment was for six months only from January 15, 1972, and he was a Government Director at the time when he was appointed as a member of the Committee. Even after his appointment as a member of the Committee the said K.C. Raman was. on October 15. 1972, appointed a Director of Associated Journals Limited, Lucknow, which is the proprietor and/or publisher of the National Herald and he is still a Director thereto. It is alleged that the aioresaid newspapers are competitors of the Statesman and they also hold and express views on public matters that are divergent from those of the petitioners and the petitioners cannot expect fair treatment from the Committee of which the fourth respondent is a member. On these ground's the constitution of the Committee has been challenged by the petitioners.
8. It is alleged that it is impossible to have any norms of expenditure in relation to newspapers, in particular in respect of travelling expenses oramounts paid in the Managing Directors or Editors or Foreign or other Correspondents or any employees of the higher levels inasmuch as the remuneration that is appropriate to and can be commanded by the such persons depends upon their individual quality and calibre and is a matter for 'the exercise of judgment on the part of the proprietors of newspapers by assessment of the worth of the individual concerned to the particular newspaper. Further, it is alleged that the expression 'fair prices' is a meaningless expression in relation to newspapers. Unit cost of production of a COPY of a newspaper is always far in excess of any price at which it can be sold. Accordingly, the greater the circulation of the newspaper the larger the excess cost over the total sale prices and Ihe greater the loss of the newspaper proprietors in this respect. This loss or difference is however, made up by revenues from advertisements; the greater the circulation the greater the amount that commercial concerns are willing to spend on advertisements: moreover the lower the price the greater the circulation and also the greater the amount of interesting matter that a newspaper contains the greater its circulation. It is, therefore, again a matter for the exercise of judgment on the part of the newspaper proprietors to determine what price can be charged end what proportion of advertisements can be included in the newspaper without causing readership to decline and what amounts can be spent in securing interesting matter commensurate with the expected increase in circulation and increased advertisement revenue. Further, it is alleged that all these are matters in which no norms or uniformity are possible. Different daily newspapers ester to different tastes, have different characteristic features, and vary widely in matters, such as coverage of foreign and indigenous news, choice of articles from writers in India and abroad, nature and quality of editorials, auality of printing and so forth. It is the contention of the petitioners that any attempt to fix the so called fair prices on the basis of the so called norms which the Committee is required to evolve would infringe the fundamental rights of the Statesman and/ or Mr. Irani to freedom of speech and expression.
9. On the aforesaid allegations, the petitioners have prayed for a writ in the nature of mandamus commanding the respondents to forbear from taking any steps or proceedings whatsoever pursuant to or under the resolution dated April 14. 1972 or the notification dated April 26, 1973 and from requiring the petitioners to answer the questionnaire issued under cover of the letter dated September 5, 1972 or to furnish any fi-gures or estimates or accounts in terms of the letter dated May 19. 1973.
10. The respondents have entered appearance in this Rule and have opposed the same by filing affidavits-in-opposition, it has been specifically averred by the respondents that the Committee is a lawfully constituted body and the provisions of the Act were lawfully made applicable to it by the Central Government in exercise of powers under Section 11 of the Act. A memorandum dated July 7, 1972 from the Statesman, including some opinions and observations on the working of the paper under the signature of Mr. Irani was received by the Committee. The said memorandum fnrms part of Annexure F' to the writ petition. It is also point pri out that the Manager of the Delhi office of the Statesman by his letter dated October 18. 1972 asked for extension of time till October 31. 1972 for filing a reply to the questionnaire and such request was granted. In the said memorandum of the Statesman, the petitioners not only invited the Committee to study various aspects of the working of the newspapers including the Statesman but went so far as to say -- 'the Committee are at liberty to visit the office of the Statesman and inspect any books that they choose to satisfy 'themselves that this state of affairs has come out for reasons which lie beyond the power of the Company to influence or correct.' As the collection of the information about economics of newspapers was a difficult task the Committee sought co-operation in this matter of two Newspaper Associations, namely, the Indian and Eastern Newspaper Society. New Delhi and the Indian Language Newspaper Association, Bombay. Mr. Irani, as president pf 'he Indian and Eastern Newspaper Society made an appeal on June 10, 1972 to all members of the Society. In the appeal, it has been stated by him that it is to the interest of all members, and all newspapers as a whole, to co-operate as fully as possible, with the Committee. Further, it has been stated by him that the Society, too will be submitting its own memorandum to the Committee and that he trusts that members are arranging to return the complete questionnaire by June 15, 1972.
11. It has been denied that economics of newspaper industry is not a matter of public importance within the meaning of the Act or that it is not a definite matter of public importance or that the terms of reference incorporated in the Government resolution dated April 14, 1972 are vague or indefinite or have no fixed or exact limits or bounds or are not definite matters. It is alleged that the field which the committee has been asked by the Government to study, iseconomics of newspaper industry which is a very well defined area. Further, it is alleged that for all policy decisions of the Government with regard to this important medium of mass communication, a reliable body of information on the subject of newspaper economics is extremely useful and necessary. The Government wants the Committee to study the relative magnitude of the various elements of costs of production including dis-'tribution to the reader, total revenue earned by the newspapers and the effect of restricted supply of newsprint, as well as the question of fair price not with reference to different categories of newspapers as a whole clubbed together, but to study variations of all those factors with reference to different categories of newspapers, it being left to the Committee to determine scientifically, in the light of the facts collected and the expert knowledge of the members of the Committee what exactly the different categories should be. The contention of the petitioners that the reference of 'fair price' without specifying to whom they are to be fair renders the reference indefinite and vague has been denied It has been alleged that the concept of fair price is very well-known, namely, that a fair price has to be fair to the producer including the distributor, as well as the consumer. They have denied that the Committee has not been invested with the powers under Sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 5. It has been pointed out that the Committee has not so far invoked the provisions of Sub-section (2) or Sub-section (3) either in the case of the Statesman or in any other case though those powers may have to be used bv the Committee as and when necessary
12. On behalf of the respondent No. 7. The Central Government, it has been alleged that the Central Government has acted bona fide in the exercise of its powers in setting up the Committee and in issuing the Gazette notification applving the provisions of the Act other than Sub-section (1) of Section 5 thereof, to the Committee. It has been denied that the action of the Central Government and the Committee are violative of the fundamental rights of the petitioner No. 2 or of the Assistant Editors, Correspondence and readers of the Statesman in respect of freedom of speech and expression as conferred by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. It has been denied that the Central Government has acted mala fide or that its mala fides can be inferred from the circumstances stated in paragraph 7 of the writ petition. It is contended that the writ petition is not maintainable in law and the same is absolutely speculative. The respondents have prayed that the writ petition should be dismissed.
13. At this stage, it is necessary to dispose of certain preliminary objections raised on behalf of the respondents by Mr. Banerjee. appearing on their behalf. My attention has been drawn by Mr. Banerjee to the prayer made by the petitioners. It has been already stated that the petitioners have prayed for a writ in the nature of mandamus. It is contended that unltss there is a demand for justice and a refusal thereto, the petitioners are not entitled to ask for a writ in the nature of mandamus nor can this Court issue that writ without being satisfied that there was such a demand and refusal. In paragraph 12 of the writ petition, it has been stated that by letters, copies of which are included in Annexure 'F' to the petition and in particular by the letter dated June 21, 1973, the petitioners demanded justice and justice had been denied to them. The letters which have been included in An-nexure 'F' have all been written bv the petitioners before the Committee came into existence, excepting the letter written by the petitioners to the respondent No. 2 Dr. Bhabatosh Datta. The Chairman of the Committee on June 21. 1973, that is. after the Committee was set up by the Government. Mr. Banerjee submits that the letters which were written before the setting up of the Committee cannot be relied on by the petitioners for the purpose of showing that they made a demand for justice and the same was refused. It is argued that before the Committee came into existence there was no scope for demanding justice, or in other words, no cause of action arose to the petitioners so as to demand performance of duties by the Government. Regarding the letter addressed to Dr. Bhabavosh Datta, the Chairman of the Committee the contention of Mr. Banerjee is twofold. Firstly, he submits that Bhabatosh Datta or the Committee is not the authority to grant any relief to the petitioners. The Committee was set up by a resolution of the Government and it was the Government alone which could withdraw, recall or cancel the resolution in favour of the petitioners. Secondly, it is contended that even in that letter no demand for justice has been made by the petitioners; on the contrary, it will reveal that the petitioners agreed to co-operate with the Committee.
14. It is now well settled that a party seeking for a writ in the nature of mandamus must prove 'that he demanded justice from the authority responsible for the performance of duties and that the demand was refused. On behalf of the respondents certain decisions have been cited in support of the said principle, but it is not necessary to refer to those decisions, for there is no doubt or dispute about the same. The petitioners haveclaimed that the demand was made by the letters which are included in An-nexure 'F' to the writ petition. of these letters, all excepting one were written before the setting up of the Committee. Mr. Banerjee has rightly painted out that there was no scope for demanding justice before the Committee came into existence. There has not been any serious attempt on behalf of the petitioners to rely on these letters written before the Committee was constituted. The petitioners have, however, placed reliance on the letter dated June 21, 1973 which was addressed by Mr. Irani to the Respondent No. 2, Dr. Bhabatosh Datta, the Chairman of the Committee. It is said on behalf of the respondents that Bhabatosh Datta is not the proper authority to whom any demand can be made. The Committee is only a creature of the Government and accordingly the proper authority to whom such a demand should have been made was the Government. It is argued that it was the Government which could comply with the demand of the petitioners by rescinding the resolution or order appointing the Committee. It is submitted that even assuming that the said letter dated June 21, 1973. is considered as a letter of demand, it not having been made to the proper authority, namely, the Government, there was no demand for justice. Certain passages from Halsbury's Laws of England, Volume 11. Third Edition have been placed before me on behalf of the respondents of which. I may refer to Article 198 at page 106 which is relevant to the contention of the respondents. Under that Article it has been stated that as a general rule the order will not be granted unless the party complained of has known what it was he was required to do so that he had the means of considering whether or not he should comply Relying on this statement it is contended that the Committee or the respondent No, 2 was not in a position to comply with the demand made by the petitioners. Reliance has also been placed on behalf of the respondents on a decision of the Madras High Court in Gorbarandum Universal Ltd., Madras v. Union of India, : AIR1966Mad365 . It has been laid down in that decision that when a power is entrusted by a statute to a named authority and the exercise of it is invoked by a person concerned and there is an improper refusal to exercise the power, a mandamus may well issue under Article 226 of the Constitution directing the authority to exercise that power. It is said on behalf of the respondents that in the instant case, the proper authority is the Government.
15. There can be no doubt that the demand must be made to the proper authority and not to an authority who isnot in a position to perform its duty in the manner as demanded. It is no doubt true that the Committee had been set up by an order of the Government. After the conferment of powers on the Committee by the Government under Section 11 of the Act, the Committee will proceed to discharge its duties in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The claim of the petitioners is that the Committee should not act and they have prayed for a writ in the nature of Mandamus commanding the respondents to forbear from taking steps or proceedings whatsoever pursuant to or under the Resolution dated April 14, 1972, or the 'notification dated April 26, 1973, and from requiring the petitioners to answer the questionnaire issued by the Committee. The petitioners have not claimed the rescission, cancellation or withdrawal of the said resolution of the Government, but they want to restrain the Committee from proceeding any further with the inquiry and from requiring the petitioners to answer 'the questionnaire. The prayer which has been made by the petitioners is directly concerned with the actions of the Committeee. It was the Committee which could only consider whether the demand made by the petitioners should be complied with or given effect to The questionnaire has been issued by the Committee and not by the Government The prayers of the petitioners include a prayer for direction upon the Committee not to require the petitioners to answer the questionnaire. The Government has nothing to do with the questionnaire issued by the Committee. In these circumstances, I am unable to accept the contention of the respondents that the Government was the proper authority to whom a demand for justice should have been made. In my opinion the proper authority is the Committee and the petitioners have rightly made a demand for justice from the respondent No. 2. The Chairman of the Committee.
16. Now it has to be considered whether by the said letter dated June 21, 1973 any demand for justice has been made by the petitioners. It is argued on behalf of the respondents that by that letter the petitioners wanted to co-operate with the Committee, although they only expressed certain difficulties on matters of principle in dealing with the questionnaire. I may first of all refer to the last sentence of the said letter written by Mr. Irani which reads as
'I could in conclusion like to express a hope that this matter will not be pressed further, for the reasons and arguments that I have ventured to place before you'.
Throughout this letter Mr. Irani has, in a clear language but in a courteous manner, argued against the terms of reference. He has said that the difficulty in the matter is the language of the terms of reference and that it is not possible to de-link the questionnaire that has been issued from these terms of reference about which they have serious complaints. He has not accepted the propriety of an inquiry into any of the terms of reference. He has challenged the power of the Government to fix the fair prices to be charged by different newspapers of different categories. It is well settled that demand for justice is not a matter of form but it is a matter of substance. It is amply clear from the said letter of Mr. Irani that the arguments which he has put forward in the letter are all for the purpose of impressing upon the respondent No. 2 not to proceed with the inquiry and to require the petitioners to answer the questionnaire. I have already referred to the concluding sentence of his letter in which a request has been made to the respondent No. 2 not to press the matter any further. In my opinion, a proper and sufficient demand for justice has been made in this letter.
17. The next objection of the respondents is that the Committee is neither a Tribunal nor a Statutory body and as such no writ can be issued against the Committee. Mr. Banerjee has placed reliance on certain passages from Garner on Administrative Law, Second Edition. At page 168 of that book, the distinction between a 'tribunal' and an 'inquiry' has been discussed as follows:--
'Neither expression is denned in any statute, but it is submitted that for an investigating agency to be properly described as a 'tribunal', it must be constituted under statutory authority, it must have a regular or permanent existence, and also a defined jurisdiction within which it is required to exercise its powers to hear and determine dispute * * * * * *. In ordinary language also a tribunal connotes something similar to or approaching a judicial body. An 'inquiry', on the other hand is an investigating agency constituted specially (in this context under statutory authority, but not necessarily in pursuance of a statutory requirement) to inquire into a particular matter, and it may have few analogies with a court of law. In general, a tribunal will come to a conclusion and be responsible therefor, but an inquiry may or may not arrive at any conclusion, and will often be required only to make a report or recommendations to some other Government agency (for example, a Minister of the Crown) so as to enable that agency the better to come to a conclusion on the matter. In the case of a tribunal, an individual (often a 'person aggrieved') will normally have a statutory right to request his complaint tobe heard and determined by the tribunal. In the case of an inquiry the individual's statutory right will most frequently be a rifiht to appeal to a Minister, the statute 'then providing that the Minister shall convene an inquiry to hear the matter and report to him thereon so that he may make a decision.
This distinction between tribunals and inquiries is rather descriptive than precise. The only precise classificationseems to be one based on legal status;Then dealing directly with tribunals of inquiry it has been observed at page 171as follows:--
'A tribunal of this kind is constituted in particular circumstances to inquire into a definite matter described in the Resolution as of 'urgent public importance' * * * * These tribunals give rise to special difficulties of their own. They have the powers of the High Court and usually consist of a small number of persons, presided over by a High Court Judge. Their procedure is investigatory and inquisitorial rather than in accordance with the mure normal accusatory pattern of tribunals in this country, in which the issues before the tribunal are to some extent defined and any person concerned knows the case he has to meet. * * * * Because of their quite exceptional nature, however these Tribunals of Inquiry cannot be fitted logically into any scheme of classification of tribunals and inquiries.'
18. All that has been stated in the passages referred to above is that a tribunal of inquiry is not a tribunal exercising iudicial functions or deciding any disputes between two parties. Its procedure is investigatory and inquisitorial rather than iudicial.
19. Mr. Deb also concedes that the Committee is not a tribunal exercising any iudicial functions. He, however, submits that it is a statutory authority discharging certain statutory duties. According to Mr. Banerjee it is not a statutory authority and as such it is not amenable to the writ jurisdiction of this Court. It follows from the contention of Mr. Banerjee that unless an authority is a statutory body no writ can be issued against such an authority. In support of his contention that the Committee is not a statutory body and as such no writ lies against it, Mr. Banerjee has cited before me the decision of D. Pal, J., in Borjahan Khan v. 24 Parganas. Southern Co-operative Bank, (1973) 77 Cal WN 691, The question that has been considered in that case is whether a co-operative society is a statutory body. In repelling the contention that a co-operative society is a statutory body. Pal. J.,has obsorvea that it is now wsli established in England that the bodies to which in modern time the remedies of the prerogative writ have been applied are all statutory bodies on whom Parliament has conferred statutory powers and duties, exercise of which may lead to 'the detriment of subject. On the basis of this observation it is argued on behalf of the respondents that as the Committee has not been set up by a statute enacted by Parliament but has been constituted by the Government in exercise of its powers under Section 11 of the Act, it is not a statutory body on which Parliament has conferred statutory powers and duties. This contention of Mr. Banerjee, does not find support from the observation of Pal, J., referred to above. It may be that the Committee has not been set up directly by the provisions of a statute and it has been set up by the Government in exercise of its powers under the Act, but in my opinion, it makes no difference. It is not disputed that the Committee has to discharge its duties in accordance with the provisions of the statute enacted by Parliament. The powers which are exercised by the Committee are powers conferred on it by the statute. Some of the powers which are exercised by a Civil Court under the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure can also be exercised by the Committee under the provisions of the Act. In my view, the true test for the application of the writs is whether a body, though set up by the Government in exercise of its powers under a statute, discharges statutory functions or not. It has been laid down by the Supreme Court in Praga Tools Corporation v. C. V. Imanual. : (1969)IILLJ479SC that a mandamus lies to secure the performance of a public or statutory duty in the performance of which 'the one who applies for it has a sufficient legal interest. Further, it has been observed that it is not necessary that the person or the authority on whom the statutory duty is imposed need be a public official or an official body. A mandamus can issue, for instance, to an official of a society to compel him to carry out the terms of the statute under or by which the socieiy is constituted or governed and also to companies or corporations to carry out duties placed on them by the statutes authorising their undertakings. It is, therefore, apparent from what has been laid down in the aforesaid decision of the Supreme Court that for the purpose of having the performance of statutory duties, a writ in the nature of mandamus will lie. This does not mean that no negative order can be passed directing an authority not to do something. A writ will lie not only for compelling an authority to perform the statutory duties, but also for restraining or prohibiting him from doing somethingwhich he is not entitled to do under the law. The contention of Mr. Banerjee that the writ will lie only when the authority is a statutory authority created directly by the provisions of a statute, seems to be too wide a proposition to accept. As has been stated already, the Committee has to perform statutory duties; in my opinion, a writ will lie against i't.
20. It is said that the Committee has not yet done anything which has infringed any right of the petitioners. It is true that the Committee has asked the Statesman to answer the questionnaire, but it has not yet enforced any coercive process under the Act to compel the Statesman to comply with the direction of the Committee to answer the questionnaire. On the other hand, the petitioners submit that there is a sufficient threat to the infringement of the legal and fundamental rights of the petitioners. Specific reference in this regard has been made on behalf of the petitioners to a letter written By the Joint Secretary of the Committee to the Statesman dated February 21, 1974. which is Annexure 'D' to the affidavit-in-reply. In this letter, it has been pointed out that the Committee has been conferred with powers of a Commission of Inquiry including those under Sections 5(2) and 5(4) of the Act. The Statesman has been once more requested to submit the information to the Committee's office within a fortnight from the date of receipt of the letter, by answering the questionnaire. Further, it is stated that failure to furnish the said information required by the Committee within the stipulated period would constitute an offence within the meaning of Section 176 of the Indian Penal Code. Mr. Deb submits that this is a sufficient threat which has given rise to a cause of action to the petitioners to move this Court. There can be no doubt that in this letter it has been firmly indicated that if the Statesman does not answer the questionnaire within the time allowed steps would be taken against it as having committed an offence under the provisions of Section 176 of the Indian Penal Code, In my opinion, there is a threat to use the coercive power of the Committee to compel the Statesman to answer the questionnaire. Whether the petitioners are bound to answer the questionnaire or not is a matter which will be considered later, but at this stage it cannot but be held fhat there is a threat. In State of Madhya Pradesh v. Bhailal Bhai. : 6SCR261 , the Supreme Court has held that where there has been a threat only and the right has not been actually in-fringed an application under Article 226 would lie and the courts would give necessary relief by making an order in the nature of injunction. In order to maintain an application under Article 228. itis not necessary for the petitioner to show that he has already suffered an actual injury; apprehension of in.iury or threat of injury is enough (See Ram Krishna v. Union of India, : AIR1969Cal18 ; Bengal Immunity Co. v. State of Bihar, : 2SCR603 ; Kochuni v State of Madras, : AIR1959SC725 .) Therefore, it is not correct to say that so long the right is not actually infringed or a party does not actually suffer a writ petition will not be maintainable at his instance.
21. Counsel for the respondentsargues that in any event the writ petition should be dismissed on the ground of inordinate delay. The Committee was constituted on 14-4-1972 and the writ petition has been filed on July 19, 1973, that is, more than a year after the setting up of the Committee. It is accordingly, argued that there has been an inordinate delay by the petitioners in presenting the writ petition to this Court and, as such, on this ground alone, the petition should be dismissed. In answer to this contention of the respondents. Counsel for the petitioners submits that so long the Com-mittee was not conferred with the powers under the Act, or in other words, so long the Committee was not given the status of a Commission of Inquiry under Section 11 of the Act, the petitioners had no locus standi to move this Court. For the first time, on April 26. 1973. The Government by a notification under Section 11 of the Act directed that all the provisions of the Act excepting Section 5(1) thereof would apply to the Committee. It is submitted on behalf of the petitioners that since that date the petitioners felt aggrieved and on June 21, 1973, the second petitioner Mr. Irani by his said letter demanded .justice from the respondent No. 2, Dr. Bhabhatosh Datta, the Chairman of the Committee. On July 7-1973, there was an implied refusal by the respondent No. 2 to comply with the demand made by the petitioners and. as already stated, the writ petition was moved on July 19, 1973. It is contended on behalf of the petitioners that there has been no delay. In my opinion, in considering the question of delay, the date on which the Committee was conferred with the powers of the Commission of Inquiry should be taken to be the starting point and not the date on which the Committee was appointed by the Government not under the provisions of the Act. and so considered, it does not appear that there has been any delay on the part of the petitioners in moving this Court. For these reasons. I am unable to accept the preliminary objections of the respondents as to the maintainability of the writ petition.
22. I may now consider the contentions of the petitioner on the merits ofthe case. The first point that has been urged on behalf of the petitioners relates to the terms of reference. It is contended that the economics of the newspaper industry is not a definite matter inasmuch as the expression economics of the newspaper industry' is vague and indefinite and has no fixed or exact limits or bounds and is incapable of being defined with precision. It has not been disputed that it is a matter of public importance. It is contended that Items (i), (ii) and (v) of the terms of reference refer to different categories of newspapers without specifying the manner of categorisation. Item (iii) refers to 'trends during the first few years', without specifying the period of years, and to forecasts and possibilities and likelihoods of future changes, none of which is a definite matter. Item (iv) refers to the alleged norms which do not exist but are to be evolved and are not definite matters and item (v.) refers to fair prices without specifying to whom they are to be fair.
23. In this connection. Counsel for the petitioners has made a reference to the memorandum dated July 7, 1972, which was submitted by Mr. Irani to the Committee. In this memorandum, Mr. Irani has questioned the propriety of the terms of reference and has sought to support his reasons by facts and figures. It is not necessary to state in details 'the reasons given by Mr. Irani in this memorandum, but I may refer to the concluding portion of this memorandum wherein it is stated that it is an absurdity to fix norms of expenditure, irrespective of what test is sought to be applied to categorise newspapers. It is a matter of highly individualist standards set by each newspaper. Expenditure on news coverage and on the calibre of journalists and managerial personnel must remain individual to each newspaper. Apart from the impossibility of laying down norms, no reason has been advanced why an attempt to set norms should even be made. Similarly, there can be no conclusion drawn as regards the fair prices to be charged by different newspapers. The concern for 'the consumer in so far as the selling prices of newspapers are concerned, is totally unwarranted. It is stated that the reference is incomplete and must remain incomplete until an opportunity is given to a representative of the Statesman to give oral evidence before the Committee.
24. The principal question in 'this regard is whether the matters which have been referred to the Committee are definite matters. It is not the contention of Mr. Deb that the economics of the newspaper industry has no public importance, but he has strenuously urged that the expression 'economics of the newspaper in-dustry' is not at all a definite matter having limits or bounds. It is said that this term may be understood by different PPO-ple in different ways. Mr. Banerjee has, however, pointed out that in the memorandum submitted to the Committee by K. Narendra, President of the Indian and Eastern Newspaper Society, the term 'economics of newspaper industry' has been used. He submits that they have clearly understood the import of the term as they have themselves used the same without any complaint that it is a vague term and not a definite matter to be inquired into. It is submitted that the expression covers a study of capital investment, employment and association in industry, its inputs and outputs, its market structure and distribution, its cost, revenues and profits or loss and its social cost and social benefits. In paragraph 7 (b) of the affidavit-in-oppositiqn used on behalf of the Union of India, it is stated that 'there has been many studies of comparable nature like 'economics of transport' (M. R. Bonavia, Cambridge University Press, 1954) and 'Economics of Middle Eastern Oil' by Issawi and Y. Mohammed (New York, 1962) and 'Cent per Cent Swadeshi or economics of Village Industries' by Mahatma Gandhi, (Navajivan Trust, 1958). Mr. Deb. however, submits that although the petitioners have understood the term in their own way, still it is not at all a precise term having a limit. The Government has not understood the term in the same way as the Society in its said memorandum has understood. Particular reference has been made to page 33 of the memorandum where it has dealt with rehabilitation and modernisation. It has been stated there that with severe restrictions on import of up-to-date machinery and equipment and hardly any large scale latest indigenous manufacture of printing machinery and equipment in the country, most newspaper establishments in the country have of necessity to depend on antiquated machinery and equipment for the production of newspapers. There is a dire need for the installation of modern equipment and machinery in the production and distribution departments of newspapers. Modernisation apart, rehabilitation and replacement of existing printing machinery and equipment in the production departments of newspaper establishments itself poses a big financial problem for the newspaper industry. Referring to the questionnaire Mr. Deb points out that the rehabilitation and modernisation of machinery and replacement of antiquated machinery by the newspaper industry as stated in the said memorandum has not been included in the questionnaire. He submits that this is one of the most important aspects which should have been included within the questionnaire. Accordingly, it is con-tended that the Committee has not understood the term in the way the Society or the newspaper proprietors have understood the same and. as such, the term cannot be said to have a limit or a definite matter.
25. The Committee has been set up by the Government for the purpose of inquiring into the economics of newspaper industry by the resolution dated April 14, 1972. The resolution has also specified certain terms of reference .which have to be considered by the Committee. These terms relate to the economics of newspaper industry. It may be that the expression 'economics of newspaper industry' includes within it various factors and may be understood in different ways by different persons as contended on behalf of the petitioners, but the said expression should be read subject to the points of reference. If the resolution had simply directed the Committee to inquire into the economics of newspaper industry without specifying the points which should be considered under it there could be some scope for argument that it was not a definite matter. It can-net be denied that the different factors which are to be considered to be inquired into as specified in the terms of reference come under the subject 'economics of newspaper industry'. The main issue is 'economics of newspaper industry' and the points referred to are the sub-issues clarifying the main issue. The contention of the petitioners is that the terms of reference are also vague and idenfinite. This contention will be dealt with subsequently. On the assumption that the terms of reference as contained in paragraph 2 of the resolution are definite matters, it is difficult to accept the contention of the petitioners that the present inquiry into the economics of newspaper industry is not an inquiry on a definite matter. The resolution must be read as a whole and not piecemeal. The economics of newspaper industry may be a wide issue or a subject having a wide amplitude but if taken together with the terms of reference it narrows down to specific points which are definite in character. The terms of reference clearly indicate what 'the Committee has to do. The Committee has not to grope in dark to find out the matters which it would consider for the purpose of inquiry into the economics of newspaper industry. Because of the terms of reference there is no room for any ambiguity as to the matters that are required to be considered or inquired into by the Committee. It is true that in the questionnaire there is no query as to the rehabilitation and modernisation of printing machinery and equipment in the country. The questionnaire has been framed by the Committee and not by 'the Government. It Is for the Committee todecide what evidence it will take and what information it requires for the purpose of its inquiry into the points of reference. The Court cannot take any notice of any omission on the part of the Committee to include in the questionnaire any particular question. The only question which is relevant is whether the matter which has been referred to the Committee is a definite matter. If the matter to be inquired into is a definite matter of public importance, the Court cannot enter into a further inquiry into the propriety or otherwise of the questions framed by the Committee for the purpose of inquiry into the matter directed to be inquired into. I am. therefore, unable to accept the contention of the petitioners that the matter for which the Committee has been set up by the said resolution of the Government, namely, the economics of newspaper industry is not a definite matter.
26. The next question is whether the terms of reference are vague and indefinite. Item (i) of the terms relates to ascertainment of all the elements of the cost of production including distribution to the reader of the daily newspapers and the relative magnitude of these elements in the different categories of newspapers, and item (ii) relates to ascertainment of all the different elements of the total revenue earned by the newspapers and relative magnitude of these elements In the different categories of newspapers. Elements of the cost of production and distribution to the reader and elements of the total revenue earned by the newspapers are quite distinct and definite matters. The petitioners have not also contended that these are not definite matters. Under item (iii) the Committee is to study, under both the above items (i) and (ii), the trends during the past few years and to forecast, to the extent possible, the normal changes likely to occur in the next year or two. As regards item (iii), the complaint of the petitioners is that the number of years during which the trends are to be considered have not been specified, making this item of inquiry vague and indefinite. The Committee is to study the trends under items (i) and (ii) during the past few years. If the matters under items (i) and (ii) are definite matters then the 'trends' in regard to the said matters must necessarily be a definite matter. It is true that the number of years during which the trends are to be studied has not been specified but that does not make the matter, namely, study of trends under items (i), (ii) an indefinite matter. It is for the Committee to consider for how many years the trends are to be considered under item (iii) and the Committee is to forecast, to the extent possible, the normal changes likely to occur in the next year or two. It is said that to forecastis nothing but to speculate and as such it cannot be a definite matter for inquiry. Further, it is argued that there is no indication as to the starting point of 'the next year or two' and that if the same has to be understood with reference to the date of the resolution, namely, April 14, 1972. this item of inquiry has become infructuous in 1974. On behalf of the respondents, it is contended that the 'next year or two' has reference to the date when the life of the Committee is extended. In my opinion, both the petitioners and the respondents have taken a very narrow and restricted view of this item. The Committee has to first of all consider Items (i) and (ii) and after they come to the findings on those two items, 'then, they have to forecast the normal changes likely to occur in the next year or two. The forecast will have to be made for the next year or two from the date when the Committee arrives at its findings on Items (i) and (ii). The necessity of making a forecast as to the normal changes will not arise until the Committee makes its findings under Items (i) and (ii) and this, in my opinion, is quite apparent from the terms of reference. I am also unable to accept the contention of the petitioners that the direction to forecast the normal changes is wholly speculative and far less a definite matter. It is not disputed that the Committee cannot only give its findings on the points referred -to it. but it can also make recommendations which involve as element of opinion of the Committee. By the use of the word 'forecast' in Item (iii), the Committee has been simply asked to give its opinion as to the normal changes likely to occur in the next year or two. This opinion will not be arbitrary but it will be the result of the investigation by the Committee on Items (i) and (ii). In my view, there can be no valid objection to the formation of such opinion by 'the Committee based on its findings on Items (ii and (ii). There is, therefore, no substance in the contention of the petitioners that it will be a mere speculation on the part of the Committee to forecast the normal changes like-lv to occur in the next year or two.
27. Much has been said on behalf of the petitioners on the expression 'different categories of newspapers' which occurs in Items (i). (ii) and M of the terms of reference. Counsel for the petitioners argues that these three items of inquiry are rendered vague and indefinite as the categories of newspapers have not been specified and the Committee is also not required to determine the categories. The reply to this contention of the petitioners has been given by the respondent No. 7 in paragraph 7 (d) of its affidavit-in-opposition. It has been stated that the Government's re-solution only indicates that the Government wants the Committee to study the relative magnitude of the various elements of cost of production, including distribution to the reader, total revenue earned by the newspapers and the effect of restricted supply of newsprint as well as the question of fair price not with reference to different categories of newspapers as a whole clubbed together, but to study various of those factors with reference to different categories of newspapers, it being left to the Committee to determine scientifically in the light of the facts collected and the expert knowledge of the members of the Committee what exactly the different categories should be. Further, it is stated that it was not necessary for the Government without having expert knowledge in the field, to have exactly defined the categories which might later prove inadequate or unsuitable for the conduct of a purposeful study^ It is true that the categories have not been specified but. In my view, the contention of the Respondent No. 7 referred to above seems to be quite reasonable. If the categories are specified by the Government, in that case, the Committee might feel difficulty in the investigation of the matters referred to it. It is clear from the terms of reference that the Committee has to determine the different categories of newspapers. It is not correct to say that the Committee is not required to determine the categories of newspapers, but in my opinion, such determination by the Committee is implied in the terms of reference.
28. As to item (iv). The criticism on behalf of the petitioners is that the said item refers to 'norms' which do not exist but 'they are to be evolved and. as such, it is not a definite matter. I am unable to accept this contention. According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition, the word 'norm' means standard; pattern; type. For the purpose of evolving norms for different elements of expenditure a definite indication has been given as to the principle which should be the guiding factor of the Committee. It has to be evolved, namely, from the point of view of reasonableness combined with efficiency. Such norms will be evolved by the Committee on the basis of the facts and figures that may be available to it. The norms that will be evolved by the Committee will form part of its recommendation. I do not find any indefiniteness as to item (iv) of the terms of reference.
29. Item (v) includes fixation of fair prices to be charged by newspapers of different categories. Except the contention that the reference of this item without specifying the categories of newspapers and without requiring the Com-mittee to determine the categories is vague, the petitioners have not challenged the other matters under item (v) as vague or indefinite. It has been found that it would not have been prudent on the part of the Government to specify the categories and that it is implied in the terms of reference that the Committee has to determine and specify the categories. Further, it has been held that the non-specification of the different categories of newspapers has not rendered the terms of reference vague and indefinite. For the reasons aforesaid. I reject the contention of the petitioners that the terms of reference are vague.
30. It has been strenuously urged that the Central Government has acted mala fide and in abuse of its powers in setting up the Committee and in directing that the provisions of the Act other than Sub-section (1) of Section 5 thereof shall apply thereto. It is alleged that the mala fides of the Central Government can be inferred from certain facts. It is said that the Central Government has at all times been hostile to the newspapers that fearlessly and independently express their views and has at all times resented criticism of its policies and exposure of its short-comings and/or failures and/or malpractices. In particular, it is alleged, the Central Government has been hostile to the Statesman and other proprietors of newspapers having a large circulation on a national scale among the educated and intellectual population of India, and has sought to denigrate them by describing them as 'monopolists' and as 'divorced from the people'. Pursuant to the said hostility, the Central Government has continuously sought to enforce a policy of controlling newspapers and curtailing their freedom of speech and expression and making them subservient to the Central Government by inter alia interfering with prices that they may charge, restricting their supplies and use of newsprint, prescribing the number of pages that they may publish, the number of supplements that they may issue, the proportion of space that they may devote to advertisements, and seeking to control the expenses that they may incur, and otherwise putting pressure on proprietors of newspapers that may occasionally be critical of the Central Government and, in particular, on the Statesman. An act of this hostility led to the enactment of the Newspaper (Price and Page) Act, 1956 and the making of the Daily Newspaper (Price and Page) Order 1960 under the said Act, the effect of which was to fix the minimum prices which it was permissible for the larger newspapers to charge. The said Act and the Order were held to be unconstitutional and invalid by the Supreme Court by its judgment delivered in the case of Sakal Papers (P)Ltd. v. Union of India on September 25, 1961, since reported in : 3SCR842 . The Newsprint Control Order, 1962 passed under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 laying down an Import Control Policy for newsprint from time to time thereunder, has also been criticised as in further pursuance of the said hostile policy. It is alleged that taking advantage of the natural crisis then facing the country as a result of the situation in the then East Pakistan Mr. Rajbahadur, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Shipping and Transport with the assistance of the then Chief Secretary of the Government of West Bengal, supported an agitation started by hawkers against a small increase in the price of newspapers and successively put pressure on the newspaper proprietors in the eastern region, including the Statesman to rescind and cancel the said price increase, ostensibly in the national interest but really with the object of causing loss and detriment to the financial condition of the said newspaper proprietors.
31. It is alleged that the real motives oi the Central Government in setting up the Committee emerged in the course of several interviews and/or conversation between Mr. Irani and Mr. R.C. Dutt, who was then the Secretary to the Central Government in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Mr. Dutt was alleged to have stated that newspapers such as the Statesman were paying excessively high salaries to personnel such as Managing Directors and Editors and also that it was unnecessary for each such newspapers to have separate and independent correspondents in foreign countries and that they ought to share the services of a single correspondent and remunerate such correspondent less It. was suggested by him that such sharing would effect a considerable saving to newspapers and would enable newspapers to work within 10 page ceiling which the Central Government had then imposed.
32. On October 30, 1972. In thecase of Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd. : 2SCR757 , the Supreme Court held that the Central Government's import policy for newsprint for 1972-73 was invalid and unconstitutional and violative of the citizens' right to freedom of speech and expression. As a further act of hostility and mala fide, it is alleged, that notwithstanding the said decision of the Supreme Court, the Central Government issued the said notification dated April 26, 1973. conferring powers on the Committee under the Act.
33. Instances of mala fides against the Statesman that have been alleged are, withholding of advertisements from the Statesman, roving inspections of its books of accounts for three weeks from July23, 1971. under Section 209(4) of the Companies Act. 1956 and exercise of powers under Section 234(1) of the Companies Act, 1956 by the Registrar of Companies West Bengal with a view to preventing the Statesman from incurring expenditure on travelling expenses and thereby from efficiently gathering news and publishing news and views.
34. After referring to the above allegations made by the petitioners, Mr. Deb submits that there is an attempt to denigrate the newspapers and that it was started with various remarks about the press by persons in authority that they are controlled by monopolists and industrial houses. It is argued that this attempt is being made with the deliberate object of lowering the national press of India- He has referred to the various documents which are mostly correspondence annexed to the writ petition in support of his contention that the hostile attitude of the Government towards the newspapers is amply proved by those documents. He submits that this policy of the Government is there from the beginning, but it has been rejected by the Supreme Court in the aforesaid two cases.
35. I have referred to the allegations of the petitioners in some details as those have been strongly relied on on behalf of the petitioners. The allegations of mala fides of the Central Government may be classified under two heads, namely, (1) mala fides against the newspapers generally and (2) mala fides against the Statesman. Most of the allegations referred to above relate to mala fides of the Central Government against the larger newspapers. The sheet anchor of thp petitioners in this regard is the two decisions of the Supreme Court, In Sakal Paper case : 3SCR842 the Supreme Court held that Section 3(1) of the Newspaper (Price and Page] Act. 1956 which was the pivotal provision, was unconstitutional, and therefore, the Daily Newspaper (Price and Page) Order. 1960 made thereunder was also unconstitutional. Section 3(1) was struck down as bad and accordingly nothing remained in the said Act. The effect of the said Act and the said Order was to regulate the number of pages according to price charged, to prescribe the number of supplements to be published and to prohibit the publication and sale of newspapers in contravention of any order made under Section 3 of the said Act. The said Act also provided for regulating by an order under Section 3, the size and area of advertising matter in relation to other matters contained in a newspaper. Penalties were also prescribed for contravention of all or any of the provisions of the said Act or order. The Supreme Court held that the provisions of Section 3(1) infringed the right of freedom of speech and expressionguaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. In Benett Colmen's case, : 2SCR757 the Newsprint Policy of 1972-73 was held to be violative of Articles 19(1)(a) and 14 of the Constitution. By the said Newsprint Policy restrictic is were sought to be put on the fundamental right of the Press by fixing lO page limit and by other restrictions. I shall have to refer to these decisions of the Supreme Court later in connection with the petitioner's contention of the infringement of their right to freedom of speech and expression. It is contended that the Central Government has been pursuing this policy for the purpose of curtailing the freedom of speech and expression of the newspapers and for making them subservient to the Central Government in spite of