P.N. Mookerjee, J.
1. We issued this Rule on the Chief Secretary to the Government of West Bengal and the Superintendent; of the Berhampore Central Jail to show cause why the order directing withdrawal of certain, privileges from a particular detenu, confined at the Berhampore Central Jail, should not be set aside. The application for redress was-made to this Court by some of his co-detenus. At the hearing of the Rule it transpired that as the period, for which the order of withdrawal was effective, had expired, the privileges had been restored to the detenu concerned. By-lapse of time, therefore, the Rule had become, infructuous and, on that ground, it is liable to be discharged.
2. During the hearing, however, one matter ergaged our particular attention. The application from Jail, upon which this Rule was issued, appeared to have been received by the Jail Superintendent on 31st of August 1951; According to usual practice the application was sent to the Secretariat at Calcutta on the 3rd of September, 1951 for transmission to this Court for necessary action. This Court, however, received the application only on 25th September 1951. Clearly, therefore, more than three weeks' time had been taken by the different State Departments concerned to send the application to this Court. To us this delay-appeared to be grossly inordinate and to re quire satisfactory explanation. We felt and felt strongly that unless the delay was satisfactorily explained by the State, some action was plainly necessary. When, therefore, the Rule came up for final hearing we drew the attention of the State's Counsel to this aspect, of the matter. To the learned Deputy Legal. Remembrance we gave time to make necessary enquiries and on the day when the matter was finally heard causes were shown for the delay. The learned Deputy Legal Remembrance explained that the delay in question was due to a misunderstanding of the real position on the part of the subordinate officials and submitted that there was no intentional withholding or detaining of the detenus' application. He also expressed on behalf of the State sincere regret for the delay made. Having considered the materials, placed before us, in the light of the circumstances of this case, we feel that there was some scope for misunderstanding. We, therefore, accept the State's explanation and expression of regret and do not consider it necessary to pursue the matter further for purposes of this case and we do not, therefore, intend to take any further action.
3. One thing, however, ought to be made clear. When an application is received by the State for transmission to this Court it is only-proper that the despatch should be made as expeditiously as possible. Any delay in the matter may entail serious consequences. In such cases it is not open to any official-superior or subordinate to withhold or detain the application. Whoever attempts to place any impediment in the way of such application reaching this Court within a reasonable time may well find himself-however highly placed he may be-guilty of interfering with the administration of justice and thus liable to be committed for contempt of this Court. Every such application is to be transmitted to this Court with reasonable despatch and it is for this Court and this Court alone to decide whether the detenu's application calls for any action on its part. The State may submit to this Court for its consideration its own views in the matter along with the supporting materials which, according to it, would be relevant for the decision of the question at issue but it is certainly not open to it to withhold the application on any ground whatsoever. State Officials would do well to remember that this Court will not tolerate any interference with its authority or with the administration of justice in this State and that any such interference will be severely dealt with.
4. Before leaving this subject, we may usefully recall the words of 'Humphreys J. in the case of Thomas Wilson, a detenu in England, whose petition to the King's Bench was intercepted and suppressed by a Home Office official. Wilson moved the King's Bench to attach the Home Secretary for contempt of Court. The Court severely censured the action of the Home Office and Humphreys J. characterised it as 'a great piece of impertinence.' The Home Secretary apologised to the Court and, although this expression of regret was accepted and no further action was taken, Humphreys J. in course of his judgment, expressed himself as follows:
'I am speaking only for myself but if any case is brought before me hereafter in which any person-I care not how high his position or how great his fame- be found to have interfered with that right (the right to come to Court) of one of His Majesty's subjects I think I should have no difficulty in putting in force with the assistance of other members of this Division the great powers of this King's Bench Division of imprisoning such a person for contempt of Court.'
5. Speaking for ourselves we endorse every word said by the learned Judge and, although circumstances in the present case may be slightly different from Wilson's case, it seems to us that the principle underlying the above observations of Humphreys J. applies with all force to this case. We would also point out and let there be no doubt or misgiving on this point-that under the Constitution the High Courts in India do possess 'the great powers' to which Humphreys J. made a pointed reference.
6. Before concluding, we ought to record, in fairness to the State, our appreciation of the steps which, so we are informed this morning by the learned Deputy Legal Remembrancer-have, since the close of the hearing of this Rule, been taken by the Government for expeditious despatch, of detenus' applications to this Court. We also express our satisfaction at the State's assurance, conveyed through the learned Deputy Legal Remembrancer, that delay, such as has occurred in the present case in the transmission of the detenus' application to this Court, would not occur in future. These are steps in the right direction and they bespeak of a right attitude of mind and, though somewhat late, they deserve to be complimented. It is only necessary to add that this Court will never be slow in its appreciation of such actions on the part of the State.
7. With the above observations we discharge this Rule.
8. Let a copy of this judgment be sent to the detenus concerned.
9. I agree.