1. This is an application by one Bidhuranjan Chakravarti, the publisher of the Janasakti' a Bengali Weekly newspaper published in Sylhet, asking the Court to set aside an order made by the Government of Assam on 26th February 1932, directing him to deposit a sum of Rs. 1,000 as security. Under Section 7 (3), Press (Emergency Powers) Act 1931 (Act 23 of 1931), whenever it appears to the Local Government that a, newspaper, in respect of which security under the provisions of the Act has not been required, contains any words, signs or visible representations of the nature described in Section 4. Sub-section (1), the Local Government may require the publisher to deposit security.
2. Under Section 23(1) the publisher may apply to the High Court to set aside the order, and the High Court shall decide if the newspaper, in respect of which the order was made, did or did not contain any words, signs or visible representations of the nature described in Section 4, Sub-section (1). Under Section 25 (1), if it appears to the High Court that the words, signs or visible representations were not of such a nature it shall set aside the order. The words in respect of which the order for security was made were published in the issue of the 'Janasakti' of 17th February 1932 and are as follows:
Find of satyagrahis at Karimganj.--On 10th February last ten satyagrahis went from Daser Bazar to Karimganj Congress Office. Within a. few minutes of their arrival at the place, at about half past ten, the local Police Inspector the officer in charge, one assistant Police Sub-Inspector and six constables came up, and declaring that they were under arrest led them out of the town to a place near Shahajbati bridge in the vicinity of village Batrachi and used lathis on them. On account of the lathi charge satyagrathi Ambica Charan Sen became unconscious on the spot. All the others have received injuries. This news got circulated in the town in due course. The pleaders and muktears of the local Bar and many of the respectable people of the town, together with Doctor Srijut Benode Behari Deb and Doctor Srijut Karunamoy Gupta came to the place of occurrence and saw the unconscious satyagrahi and the marks of assault on the other satyagrahis who had been beaten. After a while the police arrested four persons and took them to the thana. He who was unconscious is in the local public hospital as his condition is serious; he is somewhat better now. A list is given below of the satyagrahis who were beaten and arrested. (Here was given a list of ten such-joersons). Those who had been arrested by the police wore taken to the jail lock-up on 11th February at 4 O'clock in the afternoon.
3. We have accordingly to, decide whether these words are or are not of the nature described in Section 4, Sub-section (1). That sub-section has been temporarily amended by Section 63 of the Emergency Powers Ordinance 1932 (Ordinance 2 of 1932), published in the Gazette of India of 4th January 1932. read with Section 2 of the amending Ordinance 1932 (Ordinance 7 of 1932), published in the Gazette of India of 6th February 1932.
4. The relevant portions of the subsection as amended are as follows:
Any newspaper .... containing .... any words....which tend, directly or indirectly ...(d) to bring into hatred or contempt His Majesty or the Government established by law in British India or the administration of justice in British India or any Indian Prince or Chief under the suzerainty of His Majesty or any class or section of His Majesty's subject in British India or to excite disaffection towards His Majesty or the said Government or any such Prince or Chief, or...(b) to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between classes of His Majesty's subjects.
5. What is the result when we apply these tests to the words on account of (which the order for furnishing security has been made It will be observed that the accusations are directed at nine police officers, six of whom are constables and none of whom is above the rank of Inspector. There is no suggestion that the misconduct of these officers is approved of by the administration, or is part of a deliberate policy of repression. In fact there is no comment of any sort. The circumstances of the case before us are not unlike those in the case of Raj Pal v. Emperor A.I.R. 1923 Lah. 61 where a Special Bench of the Lahore High Court held that the statement that the police of Firozpur Jhirka fired for an hour on a peaceful crowd, killing fifteen and wounding two hundred, was not covered by the wider language of Section 4 (1) of the new repealed Indian Press Act 1910 Act 1 of 1910. It is not possible to lay down a precise test and we do not desire to commit ourseves to all the reasons given in that case. In particular we are far from saying that in no circumstances can asspersions on individual police officers tend, directly or indirectly to bring into hatred or contempt the Government established by law in British India or the administration of justice, or to excite disaffection towards His Majesty. In other words such aspersions may well in certain cases fall within Section 4 (1) (d) of the present Act as extended by Section 63 of the Ordinance. It is sufficient for our purpose to say that in our opinion the words here complained of cannot be said having regard to all the circumstances to be covered by the clause. It is also suggested that Clause (h) may have some application, that is to say, that the words tend directly or indirectly to promote feelings of hatred or enmity between different classes of His Majesty's subjects. In Raj Pal v. Emperor A.I.R. 1923 Lah. 61 it was contended that the police of Ferozpur Jhirka constituted 'a class or section of His Majesty's subjects.' On this aspect of the case Sir Shadi Lal, C. J., observes at p. 413:
I do not think that a fortuitous concourse of one or two Inspectors or Sub-Inspectors and a few policemen who happen to be employed at a particular place, can be designated a section of His Magesty's subject's much loss a class thereof.
6. We consider that these observations are applicable to the present case and that it is not possible to hold that the nine police officers and the satyagrahis of Karimganj are 'different classes of His Majesty's subjects' within the meaning of Clause (h). The conclusion of the matter is that it appears to us that the words contained in the newspaper in respect of which the order of the Government of Assam of 26th February 1932 was made are not of the nature described in Section 4, Sub-section (1), Press (Emergency Powers) Act 1931, and we must accordingly set the order aside under Section 25 of that Act.
7. I agree.
8. I agree.