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K.N. Nag and ors. Vs. the State - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1957CriLJ128
AppellantK.N. Nag and ors.
RespondentThe State
Excerpt:
- .....before a magistrate of the first class, asansol, upon a charge under section 15(3) (b) of the bengal mining settlements act, 1912, for contravention of rr. 25 (i) and 27 (ii) of the bye-laws issued under that act. the magistrate found them guilty and convicted them under the said section and sentenced them, - the first two to pay a fine each of rs. 60/-, in default to undergo simple imprisonment for one month each and the third g. d. bhattar to pay a fine of rs. 150/-, in default to undergo simple imprisonment for three months.2. the prosecution case, briefly, was that the radhamadhabpore colliery within asansol mining settlement area was owned by ghasick chand moslea collieries limited of which g. d. bhattar was the managing director. the sanitary inspector attached to the asansol.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Debabrata Mookerjee, J.

1. These three revision petitions are on behalf of K. N. Nag, M. L. Daga and G. D. Bhattar, Manager, Agent and Managing Director, respectively, of Radhamadhabpore Colliery at Asansol. They were prosecuted before a Magistrate of the First Class, Asansol, upon a charge under Section 15(3) (b) of the Bengal Mining Settlements Act, 1912, for contravention of Rr. 25 (i) and 27 (ii) of the bye-laws issued under that Act. The Magistrate found them guilty and convicted them under the said section and sentenced them, - the first two to pay a fine each of Rs. 60/-, in default to undergo simple imprisonment for one month each and the third G. D. Bhattar to pay a fine of Rs. 150/-, in default to undergo simple imprisonment for three months.

2. The Prosecution case, briefly, was that the Radhamadhabpore Colliery within Asansol Mining Settlement area was owned by Ghasick Chand Moslea Collieries Limited of which G. D. Bhattar was the Managing Director. The Sanitary Inspector attached to the Asansol Mines Board of Health inspected the Colliery on the 13th of December, 1954, and found that no bed for indoor patients had been provided for accommodation of the sick and the injured. The allegation further was that, although under the bye-laws the Colliery was to have provided in view of its population figure three Isolation huts, only two such huts had in fact, been provided. A report was accordingly made to the Chief Sanitary Officer by the Sanitary Inspector find the attention of the colliery authorities was drawn to these defects but nothing was done to remedy them whereafter a second inspection was held en the 22nd of January, 1955, which was followed by a complaint against these petitioners. The defence denied the charges made and pleaded innocence. Their case further was that they could not be convicted under the bye-laws issued under the Bengal Mining Settlements Act, 1912.

3. The learned Magistrate, however, found that the case made by the Prosecution had been proved and convicted and sentenced the petitioners, as described above, for infringement of bye-laws 25 (i) and 27 (ii) under the Bengal Mining Settlements Act. On appeal the convictions and sentences were affirmed. Thereafter the petitioners applied to this Court and obtained these Rules.

4. Mr. Mukherjee appearing in support of these Rules has contended that the petitioners could not, in law, be convicted of the offences charged against them. The contention further is that neither the Managing Director nor the Agent nor the Manager could be held liable under the law for omission to do what was required to be done in accordance with the bye-laws. There was another point raised which is of a more fundamental character and that related to the validity of the bye-laws themselves. It was argued that the bye-laws, particularly those under which the convictions have been had, were in excess of powers conferred by the parent Act, namely, the Bengal Mining Settlements Act, 1912. These contentions require examination.

5. Section 15 (3) (ta) of the Act punishes in a particular manner contravention of any provision of the Act, Rule, bye-law or order made thereunder for breach of which no penalty is otherwise provided. Section 11A of the Act provides that a Mines Board of Health may, after previous publication, make bye-laws. The subjects on which these bye-laws may be framed are indicated in different clauses attached to the section. Under Clause (ix) power is given to make bye-laws defining the medical assistance to be provided by the owners of mines within the mining settlement for the labourers employed while under Clause (xi) power is given to provide generally for bye-laws for carrying out the purposes of the Act and for promoting the safety, health and welfare of persons employed in mines within the mining settlement. There are other clauses to Section 11A setting out the subjects on which bye-laws may suitably be framed to which no reference need be made in the present context.

6. It has been argued that Rr. 25 (i) and 27 (ii) generally go beyond the powers given Under Section HA of the Ant. It is indeed difficult to agree with this contention. Clause (xi) to Section 11A to which I have referred makes it perfectly clear that power is given generally for carrying out the purposes of the Act to frame suitable bye-laws in promotion of safety, health and welfare of persons employed in the mining settlement. Clause (ix) provides specifically for bye-laws intended to define the nature, character and extent of medical assistance which have to be provided by the owners of mines in any mining settlement for the benefit of the labourers employed.

7. The words of the clauses attached to Section 11-A of the Act itself are. to my mind, quite wide to allow of the adoption of bye-laws 25 (i) and 27 (ii) with which these Rules are concerned. These occur in Part IV of the Bye-laws which provide for treatment of the sick at collieries and are as follows:

25(i) : Every owner, agent or manager of a mine shall provide in a suitable building or buildings approved by the Board accommodation for sick and injured employees at the rate of one bed for every 200 persons employed at the mine.

8. Bye-law 27 provides for Isolation of patients suffering from dangerous epidemic diseases. It says that

the owner, agent or manager of every colliery shall provide separately for males and females accommodation for the isolation of persons, suffering from epidemic diseases. It then proceeds to say (bye-law 27 (ii) ) that at collieries employing more than 200 labourers there has to be extra accommodation at the rate of one patient and one attendant for every additional 200 patients or less, and the general rule (bye-law 27 (i) ) is that at collieries employing monthly not more than 200 persons there must be accommodation for two patients and two attendants.

9. It is, therefore, clear that the provisions to which I have referred, contained in the bye-laws, keep strictly within the limits of Section 11A of the Bengal Mining Settlements Act. The words of Section 11A are, as I have indicated, words of general import and the true purpose of Section 11A is to provide for different kinds of amenities and facilities in a mining settlement. Reading Clause (ix) and Clause (xi) of Section 11A of the Bengal Mining Settlements Act, it is impossible to say that they in any way go beyond the purpose of the Act or lapse from the real objective which is designed to be achieved by means of bye-laws for which provision is made under Section 11A. That being the position, I must hold that the bye-laws in question, namely, 25 (i) and 27 (ii), issued under Section 11A of the Bengal Mining Settlements Act cannot be pronounced bad and they must be held to keep to the true purpose for which the bye-laws were intended and for the adoption of which power was given by the Legislature Under Section HA of the Act, The contention, therefore, raised on behalf of the petitioners that the bye-laws are ultra vires the power under which they have been issued cannot possibly be sustained.

10. The next contention raised is that, although bye-laws 25 and 27 refer to 'owner, agent or manager', the bye-laws themselves do not contain any definition of any of these words nor is there any definition to be found of the word 'manager' in the Bengal Mining Settlements Act which, however, provides by its Section 2 that the expressions 'agent' and 'owner', as used in the Act, shall have the same meaning as in Section 3 of the Indian Mines Act. The word 'agent' is defined in Section 2 of the Mines Act, 1952 as

any person, whether appointed as such or not, Who acts as 'the representative of the owner in respect of the management of the mine or of any part thereof, and as such superior to a manager under this Act.

The word 'owner' is also defined in the same Act and means

any person who is the immediate proprietor or lessee or occupier of the mine or of any part thereof and in the case of a mine the business Whereof is being carried on by a liquidator or receiver, such liquidator or receiver; but does not include a person who merely receives a . royalty, rent or fine from the mine, or is merely the proprietor of the mine, subject to any lease, grant or licence for the working thereof, or is merely the owner of the soil and not interested in the minerals of the mine : but any contractor for the working of a mine or any part thereof shall be subject to this Act' (The Mines Act), 'in like manner as if he were an owner, but not so as to exempt the owner from any liability.

It is thus clear that, although the words 'owner' and 'asient' are defined in the Mines Act, the word 'manager' is left undefined. The argument on behalf of the petitioners is that the word 'manager' having been left out from the definition in the Mines Act or the Bengal Mining Settlements Act or even in the bye-laws, it is extremely difficult to fix the identity of the officer who is described as manager and who has certain statutory duties and liabilities. It is indeed somewhat curious that the word 'manager' has not received any precise definition in the Act - either in, the Mines Act or in the Bengal Mining Settlements, Act or in the bye-laws issued under the latter Act. Nevertheless, although lack of a definition might result in loss of precision, there is, I think, ground for thinking that the word is well-understood in the mining settlement areas and there can hardly be any mistake as to the identity of such person provided acceptable evidence is offered that the person performs the functions of a manager in relation to the mine and its works.

11. As regards the meaning of the word 'agent' as given in the Mines Act which has by incorporation been adopted for the purposes of the Bengal Mining Settlements Act, there also, I 'think, can be little doubt. According to the definition an agent appears to occupy an intermediate position. There cannot be any complaint as regards the lack of precision so far as the word 'agent' is concerned and it would require only some evidence to indicate that the person answering the designation fulfils functions appropriate to the agent as defined.

12. As respects the position of a managing director, I think there cannot be the slightest doubt that he closely answers the description of an owner as defined in the Mines Act. A reference to the definition would make the position clear that the proprietor, lessee, occupier or even a contractor engaged in the working of a mine is denned as owner. The definition purports to indicate that any person having some kind of proprietorial or financial interest, directly or indirectly, and interested in the minerals of the mine and its working is intended to be included in the term 'owner'. Even a contractor working in a mine is to be, for the purposes of the Act, deemed an owner. Not only that, the exceptions indicated in the definition of the word 'owner' also point to the same direction, namely, that persons who have nothing to do with the profits of a mine and not directly concerned with its workings are not to be considered as owners within the meaning of the word as defined in the Act. If that is the general trend of the definition of the word 'owner', I see no escape from the position that a managing director is a person who by implication answers the definition of 'owner' as given in the Mines Act,

13. Regard being had to what I have said above, it follows clearly that the managing director, petitioner G. D. Bhattar. in Criminal Revision No. 315 of 1956 who is described as the managing director cannot possibly escape the consecraence that he being the 'owner' had failed or neglected to provide for the amenities which the bye-laws issued under the Bengal Mining Settlements Act made it obligatory upon him to provide. This being a limited concern, the managing director answers the definition of an owner and he is certainly a person interested in the proceeds of the concern, its profits and its losses, and in its workings. I hold, therefore, that the managing director of a limited concern comes within the definition of 'owner under the Mines Act and this definition being adopted by incorporation in the Bengal Mining Settlements Act, the managing director, in this case G. D. Bhattar, must be held to have infringed bye-laws 25 (i) and 27 (ii) issued under the Bengal Mining Settlements Act.

14. Although the word 'agent' has been de-fined in the Mines Act and despite the fact that the word 'manager' is, curiously enough, left undefined, there can be no difficulty in the actual working of the Bengal Mining settlements Act and its bye-laws provided attention is paid to provide evidence from which it might reasonably be safe to conclude that a certain person answering the description of an agent or manager is the person who performs the functions of an agent as given in the Act or performs the duties and discharges the responsibilities of a manager about which the Act speaks. It is, therefore, necessary, in my view, to have some evidence before a person can be fixed with responsibility as manager or agent and could be made liable as such for failure to carry out the purposes of the Bengal Mining Settlements Act or the bye-laws issued thereunder. It has been rightly contended on behalf of K. N. Nag and M. L. Daga, manager and agent, respectively, that there is no evidence in the case from which it could be said that they fill the characters which they were described as occupying in the colliery. It was necessary, in my view, in the circumstances of this case, to give some evidence to indicate that K. N. Nag was 'in fact', the manager and M. L. Daga was, 'in fact', the agent. The paucity of evidence on this head is rather surprising and Mr. Boy appearing on behalf of the State has, with his usual candour, stated that it was indeed unfortunate that evidence as regards K. N. Nag and M. L. Daga being manager and agent, respectively, was not satisfactory and as full as it might have been.

15. In these circumstances, I discharge the Rule in Criminal Revision No. 315 of 1956 but make the Rules in Criminal Revisions Nos. 310 and 314 absolute. The conviction of and the sentence on G. D. Bhattar are affirmed while the convictions of and the sentences passed on K. N. Nag and M. L. Daga are set aside.


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