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Ambika Roy Vs. the State of West Bengal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1974CriLJ1002
AppellantAmbika Roy
RespondentThe State of West Bengal
Cases ReferredSmt. Mahamaya Dasi v. Sanat Kumar Law
Excerpt:
- .....procedure. to be more precise, the point relates to the interpretation of section 457 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973.2. the backdrop of facts necessary for the consideration of the point at issue is a short one. on 18-4-74 at about 10.45 p.m. three persons boarded a taxi, bearing no. wbt 7316, on the diamond harbour road near about the calcutta hospital and while the taxi was proceeding towards the esplanade, passing by the side of the race course, one of those three persons all of a sudden directed the claimant-petitioner to stop the taxi. as soon as the taxi was stopped, the three occupants threatened the claimant-petitioner at the point of a dagger and snatched away about rs. 80/- from him. thereafter they pushed him out of the taxi which was driven away by them. the.....
Judgment:

N.C. Talukdar, J.

1. The point involved in this Rule is one of law, raised in the backdrop of the new Code of Criminal Procedure. To be more precise, the point relates to the interpretation of Section 457 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

2. The backdrop of facts necessary for the consideration of the point at issue is a short one. On 18-4-74 at about 10.45 P.M. three persons boarded a taxi, bearing No. WBT 7316, on the Diamond Harbour Road near about the Calcutta Hospital and while the taxi was proceeding towards the Esplanade, passing by the side of the Race Course, one of those three persons all of a sudden directed the claimant-petitioner to stop the taxi. As soon as the taxi was stopped, the three occupants threatened the claimant-petitioner at the point of a dagger and snatched away about Rs. 80/- from him. Thereafter they pushed him out of the taxi which was driven away by them. The claimant-petitioner proceeded to the Hastings Police Station and reported the incident whereupon a case started, being Hastings Police Station Case No. 93 dated 19-4-74, under Section 384/34, I.P.C. The taxi in the meanwhile was found abandoned, with some parts missing, on the Lee Road on 19-4-74 by another taxi driver, one Bant Singh, who brought the taxi back to the Hastings Police Station where it is now lying in the open compound. The claimant-petitioner, who is the registered owner of the taxi, possessing the requisite documents, applied before the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for returning the vehicle to him on a requisite bond inter alia on the ground that the car was being damaged and he was suffering heavy loss daily. On the 28th April, 1974, an application was filed before the officer-in-charge, Hastings Police Station for delivering the taxi to the claimant-petitioner on a bond or for submitting a report to the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta. A report was ultimately submitted stating inter alia that the relevant papers produced by the claimant-petitioner, Ambika Roy, were found to be correct on verification and it ultimately recommended that there was no objection if the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate was pleased to deliver the taxi to its registered owner, directing him to produce the vehicle before the Court on call. On the next date, namely the 2nd May, 1974 an application was filed before the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta, reiterating the prayer for returning the taxi but the same was also rejected not on merits but on the purported ground that Section 457(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on proper interpretation did not apply to the facts of the present case. This order has been impugned and forms the subject-matter of the present Rule.

3. Mr. Barendra Nath Sur, Advocate, appearing on behalf of the claimant petitioner, made a short submission, namely that the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta had erred in rejecting the application made on behalf of the claimant-petitioner on a misinterpretation of the provisions of Section 457 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 although he was otherwise satisfied on the merits of the case. Mr. Ajay Nath Mukherjee, Advocate, appearing on behalf of the State contended that the provisions of a new Code may raise some difficulties in interpretation but, by and large, the meaning of the provisions incorporated in Section 457, are clear. He conceded, in his fairness, that in the facts and circumstances of the present case he can have no objection to the taxi being returned to the claimant-petitioner on adequate terms and conditions.

4. The point involved is one of law, relating to the interpretation of Section 457 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 1973 and for a proper consideration thereof, a reference has to be made in the first instance to the provisions of the statute. Chapter XXXIV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 lays down provisions for disposal of property. The corresponding chapter in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, as amended by Act 26 of 1955, is Chapter XLIII. Section 451 of the new Code corresponds to Section 516-A of the old Code and relates to order for custody and disposal of property pending trial in certain cases. It lays down that

when any property is produced before any Criminal Court during any enquiry or trial, the Court may make such order as it thinks fit for the proper custody of such property pending the conclusion of the enquiry or trial etc.

A part of the old provisions relating to the nature of the property is incorporated in clause (b) of the explanation provided for under the new section. Section 457 of the new Code corresponds to Section 523 of the old Code. Sub-clause (1) thereof provides that

whenever the seizure of property by any police officer is reported to a Magistrate under the provisions of this Code, and such property is not produced before a Criminal Court during an inquiry or trial, the Magistrate may make such order as he thinks fit inspecting the disposal of such property.

The aforesaid provisions are indeed shorter than the old one and contain two conditions --precedent, viz. that (i) the seizure of the property by any police officer is reported to a Magistrate under the provisions of this Code; and (ii) such property is not produced before a Criminal Court during an inquiry or trial. The addition of the words 'any such property is not produced before a Criminal Court during an inquiry or trial' appears to have raised some clouds although there should not have been any.

5. It is now necessary to refer to the principles of interpretation of statute to ascertain the intention of the law-making authority, as incorporated in the relevant provisions referred to- above. Some meaning and effect must be given to the specific words used by the legislature. The principles on which statutes should be interpreted are, as was observed by Dallas Sand in his Roscoe Pound Lectures, 'the principle of intent and that of meaning' are the principles on which statutes should be interpreted. Maxwell observed in his 'The Interpretation of Statutes' that

A statute is the will of the legislature and the fundamental rule of interpretation to which all other are subordinate, is that a statute is to be expounded 'according to the intent of them that made it.

In this context a reference may be made to the golden rule of construction. Viscount Simon, L. C. held in the case of Nokes v. Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries reported in (1940) AC 1014 at p. 1022 that 'The golden rule is that the words of a statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning.' It was further observed by the Lord Chancellor that

At the same time, if the choice is between two interpretations, the narrower of which would fail to achieve the manifest purpose of the legislation, we should avoid a construction which would reduce the legislation to futility and should rather accept the bolder construction based on the view that Parliament would legislate only for the purpose of bringing about an effective result.' Judges are not called upon ordinarily to apply their opinion of sound policy so as to modify the plain meaning of statutory words. It is again to be remembered that the principles of interpretation of statute rule out redundancy. Mr. Justice Subbarao (as His Lordship then was) also observed in the case of Ghanashyamdas v. Regional Asst. Commr. of Sales Tax, Nagpur, reported in : [1964]51ITR557(SC) that 'a construction which would attribute redundancy to a legislature shall not be accepted except for compelling reasons'. We respectfully agree with the aforesaid observations and the same rules out the interpretation given by the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in his impugned order. One of the well-established principles again of statutory constructions, as has been observed by Crawford in his 'The Construction of Statutes' is the principle of Reddendo Singula Singulis viz. that words in different parts of a statute must be referred to their appropriate connection, giving to each in its place, irs proper force and effect, and, if possible, rendering none of them useless or superfluous.

It is further to be borne in mind, as was observed by Viscount Simonds in the case of Magor and St. Mellons, Rural District Council v. New Port Corporation, reported in (1952) AC 189 at p. 191 that 'the power and duty of the Court to travel out side them on' a voyage of discovery are strictly limited'. To give effect to the inter pretation given with regard to the provisions of Section 457 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 would be to embark on a voyage of discovery beyond the utmost bounds of the statute. The learned Magistrate, in coming to his finding, incidentally observed that.

legislature is said not to waste words and all the words used in a legislation must be given due meaning and interpretation.' It is certainly so and possibly the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta, had in view the observations by Lord Sumner in the case of Quebec Railway Light, Heat and Power Co. Ltd. v. Vandra, reported in AIR 1920 PC 181, wherein it was observed at p. 186 that Effect must be given, if possible, to all the words used, for the legislature is deemed not to waste its words or to say anything in vain.

The said principles however, are a pointer to the other way and do not lend assurance to the interpretation given by the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta.

6. On a consideration of the relevant provisions of the Code and in the light of the principles of interpretation of statutes, it is abundantly clear that Section 457 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is in the context of the earlier provisions laid down in Chapter XXXIV and should not be construed bereft of such context. The words 'such property is not produced before a Criminal Court during an inquiry of trial' merely refer to the stage of investigation and not the stage of inquiry or trial. If the property is produced in the Criminal Court during an inquiry or trial, Section 451 of the new Code would apply and not Section 457. The words relied upon by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta, therefore do not constitute a bar but a condition precedent-not a disqualification but a qualification; and not an exception but an essential ingredient forming the mainspring of such application. The learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta, has misconstrued the said words to find ultimately that 'in this case there is non-production but the non-production is not during trial but prior to trial'. The learned Magistrate proceeded on the purported footing that the inclusion of the aforesaid words in the statute required in the first place the non-production of such property as opposed to production; and secondly that the factum of such non-production must be during an inquiry or trial. It is abundantly clear, however, that ultimately there is no cloud and the legislature in its wisdom merely used the said words in order to differentiate the various stages, viz. the stages of an inquiry or trial, completion of trial and that of investigation etc. In this particular case, it appears from the records, that the conditions precedent enjoined in Section 457 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 have been duly fulfilled viz. that the factum of seizure has been reported to a Magistrate under the provisions of this Code and that the property produced has not been produced during an inquiry or trial but at the stage of investigation. The essential ingredients of Section 457 of the new Code, are therefore, fulfilled and the case comes clearly within the ambit of the said provisions. The first dimension of Mr. Sur's contention accordingly succeeds.

7. The next branch of submission is on merits. In fairness to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta, it must be observed that he was, in fact, in favour of the claimant-petitioner on merits. He is right in his conclusion because a motor vehicle is not just an ordinary property. As was observed in the ease of Smt. Mahamaya Dasi v. Sanat Kumar Law reported in : AIR1968Cal564 'motor vehicles are not just ordinary 'chattels personal' and the owner thereof has got rights as well as liabilities under the statute'. We agree and we hold that the relevant documents having been produced by the claimant-petitioner to establish his claim to the motor vehicle, the same should be made over to him and be not allowed to get damaged by lying in the compound of a Police Station exposed to sun and rain. The motor vehicle in question, namely WBT 7316, therefore, should be delivered to the claimant-petitioner, as was ultimately found by the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate himself.

8. In the result, the Rule is made absolute; the order dated 2-5-74 passed by Shri R. K. Sharma, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Calcutta, in Section L. Case No. 93 dated 19-4-1974 under Section 384/34, I.P.C. is set aside; and we direct that the seized taxi, being No. WBT 7316, be delivered to the claimant-petitioner, Ambika Roy, on his furnishing the requisite bonds to the satisfaction of the learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Calcutta, on such terms and conditions as he may deem fit and proper, and upon his undertaking to produce the vehicle whenever called upon to do so.

9. Let the order go down expeditiously.

A.N. Banerjee, J.

10. I agree.


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