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Satya Ranjan Bakshi and anr. Vs. Emperor - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Reported inAIR1929Cal277,121Ind.Cas.749
AppellantSatya Ranjan Bakshi and anr.
RespondentEmperor
Cases ReferredAnnie Besant v. Advocate
Excerpt:
- .....they have recently adopted, viz., letting loose police hooligans, they will not save the british empire from ruin.3. which of these conflicting view is correct can only be determined by an examination of the article itself. the article begins with historical reference to the time of the east india company before the assumption by the crown of the sovereignty of india, and refers to various acts of oppression and repression. it then goes on apparently to refer to the mutiny period, and finally to jallianwalla of recent memory, whose bloodstained walls and bloodstained earth testify, the article says to this day to the sovereignty of brute force.4. after this historical retrospect the police and their lathis are introduced and reference is made to lalaji and pundits jawaharlal nehru and.....
Judgment:

Graham, J.

1. The appellants, Satya Ranjan Bakshi and Pulin Bihari Dhar, Editor, and Printer of the newspaper 'Forward' which is printed in English and published in Calcutta, have been convicted by the Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta under Section 124-A, I.P.C., and sentenced to terms of six months and three months simple imprisonment respectively. They were prosecuted in connexion with an article entitled 'The Uninformed' which appeared in that paper on 1st December last. The learned Chief Presidency Magistrate found that the article taken as a whole clearly refers to the Government established by law, that the words 'imperial bullies' occurring therein refer to that Government and not to the police, and that the entire article was clearly intended to be an attack upon Government, that it was calculated and intended to bring Government into hatred and contempt, and to excite disaffection towards it. He further found that it did not come within any of the exceptions to Section 124-A.

2. On behalf of the appellants these findings have been challenged, and it has been urged that the article as a whole does not come within the purview of Section 124-A, that the learned Magistrate erred in construing it and interpreting it in the manner he has, and that in doing so he has relied upon isolated expressions and passages, whereas upon a true construction he should have held that it was merely an attack on the police and not upon Government. On behalf of the Crown the learned Advocate-General contended that however much ingenuity might be employed in endeavouring to explain away the language used, the article taken as a whole was plainly an attack not merely upon the police but upon the Government. The words 'imperial bullies' he argued, referred to the Government and not to the police, and the warning at the end was given not to the police, but to the Government that, if they continue to employ the methods which they have recently adopted, viz., letting loose police hooligans, they will not save the British Empire from ruin.

3. Which of these conflicting view is correct can only be determined by an examination of the article itself. The article begins with historical reference to the time of the East India Company before the assumption by the Crown of the Sovereignty of India, and refers to various acts of oppression and repression. It then goes on apparently to refer to the mutiny period, and finally to Jallianwalla of recent memory, whose bloodstained walls and bloodstained earth testify, the article says to this day to the sovereignty of brute force.

4. After this historical retrospect the police and their lathis are introduced and reference is made to Lalaji and Pundits Jawaharlal Nehru and Gobinda Bullabh Punt, and there occurs this passage:

Prison cage has done its worst. The hangman's rope has done its good part. The imperial bullies at whose mercy we seem to drag our life have tired with the dilatory processes of law and the caricatures of law. The police hooligans have taken the law into their own hands. On numerous occasions they have answered brickbats with bullets

Rough tough we're the stuff

We want to fight and can't get enough these bullies cry.

5. The writer then goes on to find fault with those who merely profess indignation and continues:

Time has come when we must be prepared to make it clear that a few uniformed goondas cannot save an empire from ruin. Time has come when we must also learn the much needed lesson that passivity is not always wise, and that protests are only the language of cowardice when they do not emanate from consciousness of strength. 'We must know to respect ourselves, We must know to respect and love our cause. Freedom is an invaluable treasure. It is only when we shall truly respect our honour and our nation's honour that the foreigner within our doors will hesitate thrice to treat us with contempt. The lathi blow that came upon Lalaji and has smitten Pundits Jawaharlal and Govinda Ballabh should serve for the rough work of awakening.

6. The learned Advocate-General very properly conceded that the accused are entitled to a fair and generous reading of the article, and there can be no doubt that it should be construed as a whole in a fair, free and liberal spirit without attaching undue importance to isolated passages or expressions here and there. For this reason I have in order to be fair to the accused, quoted the article at perhaps greater length than would otherwise have been necessary, so as to include certain remarks about patriotism and in praise of freedom which in themselves and apart from their context are unexceptionable.

7. Mr. Chatterjee on behalf of the appellants strenuously argued that the first part of the article is merely a reference to history, and in support of his contention invited us to refer to various historical books and treatises. As to the remainder he urged that it was an attack upon the police and not upon the government. Adverting to the words 'imperial bullies' which the learned Magistrate has held to refer to Government, Mr. Chatterjee contended that from the immediate context it is plain that they refer to the police and that they can have no other meaning. Finally he contended that the warning towards the end of the article was addressed to the police and meant that if they persisted in following such method's, they would instead of saving the British Empire bring about its ruin. In other words the passage in question was according to him not a threat to the Government but rather a well-meant warning to the police not to persist in their evil ways.

8. With every desire to be fair to the accused and while recognizing that the article is in a language which is not their language and making allowance therefor it appears to me that the construction which Mr. Chatterjee has sought to put upon it cannot be accepted. In the first place it seems to be apparent that, if the article was intended merely to be an attack upon the police, the historical references were superfluous and unnecessary. The manner in which the theme has been developed by Mr. Chatterjee seems to me to be a strained interpretation. Moreover the mention of Jalianwalla brings us down to recent times and the reference there and a little later to ' the sovereignty of brute force' can only be to the Government, and to the military authorities who acted on behalf of the Government. It is noteworthy too, as pointed out by the learned Advocate-General, that in animadverting upon the Jallianwalla affair the writer has not thought it to make any reference to the subsequent condemnation by Government of the action of the military authorities in connexion with that incident.

9. Then coming to the passage about the 'imperial bullies' Mr. Chatterji urged that, if it is loosely read, it can only refer to the police, and he laid emphasis on the words 'these bullies' as referring back to the aforementioned police hooligans' and 'imperial bullies.' The references, however, to the 'prison cage' and 'hangman's rope' seem to make it clear that the words 'imperial bullies' cannot mean the police or at all events cannot be limited to them.

10. The fact moreover is that it is not always easy to disassociate the Government from the police which represents one of the chief agencies of Government, and, as representing law and order, a most important agency. The term Government is in itself an abstraction, but Government can only work through human agency. To the man in the street and more particularly to the villager (and it may be supposed that a paper like Forward has a circulation in the mofussil) the term Government is vague. But the policemen or parawallah as he is sometimes called is no abstraction, but rather the outward and visible emblem of Government and is in the public mind often associated with Government. Indeed he may be said to represent Government in a concrete form.

11. Then there is the passage about saving the Empire from ruin. Mr. Chatterjee reads it as merely a warning to the police that they cannot save the Empire from ruin by such methods of violence. But taken in conjunction with the context it appears to me that it contains a threat or incitement and that the meaning intended to be conveyed in that, if the people ceased to be content with mere professions of indignation and adopted more forcible methods, then a few thousand uniformed goondas would not be able to save the Empire from ruin. To interpret this passage as a benevolent hint or exhortation to reform seems to me to be reading into it a meaning which it does not fairly bear. It appears to me too that it is addressed not to the police but to the Government.

12. Finally there is the reference at the end of the article to ' the foreigner within our doors ' which serves ... to emphasize the same point of view, and to show that the article is aimed not- at the police but at the Government.

13. Reading the article as a whole it seems to me to be impossible to arrive at any other conclusion than that it is directed against the Government and that it cannot be explained as being merely an attack on the police. Even, however, assuming for the sake of argument that the article does refer only to the police, I think that it would still come within the purview of the section, since the police is one of the human agencies, and as I have said a very important agency, through which Government acts.

14. As was observed by Batchelor, J-, in the case of Bal Gangadhar Tilak v. Emperor : (1917)19BOMLR211 :

The Government established by law acts through human agency, and admittedly the civil service is its principal agency for the administration of the country in times of peace. Therefore where...you criticise the civil service on bloc, the question whether you excite dissatisfaction against the government or not seems to me a pure question of fact. You do so if the natural effect of your words, infusing hatred of the civil service, is also to infuse hatred or contempt of the established Government whose accredited agent the civil service is. You avoid doing so if, preferring appropriate language of moderation, you use words which do not naturally excite such hatred of Government....It is a mere question of fact.

15. Substituting the police for the civil service it appears to me that these observations apply to the present case with equal force.

16. As it appears to be now well settled that intention is a necessary ingredient of the offence it remains to be seen whether the intention of the accused was to bring or attempt to bring the Government into hatred and contempt or to excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government. Beading the article as a whole it appears to me that there is no room for any doubt on the point and that the writer was clearly animated by these intentions. As Jenkins, C.J., tersely said : Queen-Empress v. Luxman [1899] 2Bom. L.R. 286 at p. 296:

To determine whether the intention of the accused was to call into being hostile feelings, the rule that a man must be taken to intend the natural and reasonable consequences of his act must be applied ; so that if on reading through the articles the reasonable and natural, and probable effect of the articles on the minds of those to whom they are addressed appears to be that feelings of hatred, contempt or disaffection would be excited towards the Government, then it is justifiable to say that the articles are written with that intent and that they are an attempt to create the feelings against which the law seeks to provide.

17. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council have also laid down that in judging the question of intent the publisher must be deemed to intend that which is the natural result of the words used having regard among other things to the character and description of the part of the public who are expected to read the words : Annie Besant v. Advocate-General of Madras A.I.R. 1919 P.C. 31.

18. Judged by these tests it seems to me that the intention of the article was clearly to create feelings of hostility to Government, and to excite disaffection, Indeed no other conclusion is possible. The article exceeds ail the limits of fair and reasonable criticism. It vilifies the police as a body in the most opprobrious language, and contains a threat or warning to government that, if the police continue to act as they have in the past, the Empire will be brought to ruin. It is difficult to calculate the amount of harm which may be caused by an article written in language so intemperate and so devoid of all sense of restraint. It is no doubt perfectly true, as the writer has said that 'Freedom is an invaluable treasure' and so too is liberty of the press which forms part of that freedom. But freedom must not be abused and cannot be allowed to degenerate into license.

19. For the reasons I have stated I am of opinion that the appeal fails and must be dismissed. The appellants must surrender to their bail and serve out the remainder of their sentences.

Suhrawardy, J.

20. I agree.


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