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Sonapore Tea Co. Pvt. Ltd. and ors. Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1977CriLJ151
AppellantSonapore Tea Co. Pvt. Ltd. and ors.
RespondentCentral Bureau of Investigation and ors.
Cases ReferredIn Hashimara Industries Ltd. v. Co. Law Board
Excerpt:
- .....law amendment act, 1952 is competent to issue a search warrant under section 93(1)(c) of the code of criminal procedure, 1973.2. the petitioner no. 1 is a company having its registered office at 18/15, ballygunge place east, calcutta-19, the said company owns a tea estate known as sonapore tea estate in the district of kamrup (assam). the petitioners nos. 2 and 3 are the directors of the said company. during the period of chinese aggression, sometime in the year 1963, the defence authorities took over possession of about 1434 bighas of land belonging to the sonapore tea estate. after the expiry of the proclamation of emergency with effect from 10th of january, 1968 the said lands were again requisitioned by the government of assam, in exercise of the powers under the requisitioning.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Amiya kumar Mookerji, J.

1. A short point (that) arises for consideration in this Rule is whether the Spl. Judge, Gauhati appointed under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952 is competent to issue a search warrant under Section 93(1)(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

2. The petitioner No. 1 is a company having its registered office at 18/15, Ballygunge Place East, Calcutta-19, The said company owns a Tea Estate known as Sonapore Tea Estate in the district of Kamrup (Assam). The petitioners Nos. 2 and 3 are the directors of the said company. During the period of Chinese aggression, sometime in the year 1963, the Defence Authorities took over possession of about 1434 bighas of land belonging to the Sonapore Tea Estate. After the expiry of the Proclamation of Emergency with effect from 10th of January, 1968 the said lands were again requisitioned by the Government of Assam, in exercise of the powers under the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952 and the Defence Authorities continued to be in possession of the said lands as before. By a notification of the Government of Assam dated 11th of May, 1972 Sri D.C. Sangma, District Judge, was appointed as an Arbitrator for the purpose of fixing the amount of compensation payable in respect of the said requisitioned land The case relating to the claim by the petitioner company for compensation was marked as Arbitration Case No. 189 of 1972. On October 3, 1972 the said D.C. Sangma made an award in favour of the petitioner company for a total sum of Rs. 49,08,786.50 as compensation for the period from March 8, 1963 to May 11. 1972 in respect of the said requisitioned lands covering an area of 1434 bighas with interest thereon (c) 6% amounting to Rs. 1,51,817.08 p. The total award was thus for a sum of Rupees 50,60,603.68 p. On December 2, 1972 a cheque for Rs. 43,07,960. 21 was made over to the petitioner No. 2 acting for and on behalf of the petitioner company as one of the directors of the said company. The balance amount of compensation was adjusted towards the payment of the dues payable by the said company to the Government of Assam. It appears that the entire amount of compensation moneys was paid within a period of two months. It is alleged that the concerned Officers of the State Government wilfully allowed the appeal against the said award to become time-barred and even prevented the filing of any such appeal. Soon thereafter reports began to pour from different sources in the Government of Assam at different levels, wherefrom it appeared that the amount of compensation paid to or received by the petitioner company through the petitioner No. 2 on account of requisitioning of their lands was far in excess of the amount which would have been legally due to them on account of fraudulent actions on the part of the petitioners acting in collusion and conspiracy with some officers of the State Government of Assam. The State Vigilance Commissioner of Assam instructed on February 20, 1973, the Superintendent of Police Anti-Corruption Branch, Gauhati to make a preliminary enquiry into the matter. On June 4, 1973, the Superintendent of Police, Anti-Corruption Branch, Assam sent a preliminary enquiry report to the said Vigilance Commissioner stating therein that the complaints made in the said reports were substantially correct and that the matter required further enquiry. The Special Secretary to the Government of Assam by a letter dated May 30, 1974 requested the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (who is also the Inspector General of Police, Delhi Special Police Establishment), to make a thorough investigation into the fraud, irregularities and illegalities in the award and payment of compensation for the requisitioned lands belonging to the petitioner company in Assam. On December 11, 1974 the Superintendent of Police respondent No. 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment recorded a first information report regarding commission of cognizable offences punishable under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code read with Sections 5(2) and 5(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 against the said Arbitrator Sri D.C. Sangma, the officers and directors conducting business or affairs of Sonapore Tea Company Ltd. and others. The various reports received by the Delhi Special Police Establishment disclosed that Sri D.C. Sangma had deliberately inflated the amount of compensation payable to the petitioners Nos, 1, 2 and 3 for the said requisitioned lands and thus committed fraud on the Government of India and Assam in collusion and conspiracy with some Senior State Officials holding very responsible positions in the Revenue Dept. of the Govt. of Assam and the Land Acquisition Office, Gauhati, who had actively aided and abetted the commission of the said offence. On May 15, 1975 the respondent No. 7 made an application to the Court of the Special Judge at Gauhati under Section 93 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for the issue of search warrants to effect search at four different places and seizure of relevant documents. On the said application the learned Special Judge, Gauhati passed an order on May, 1975 issuing four search warrants as prayed for therein. On May 17, 1975 the residential premises of the petitioner No. 3 was searched by a Deputy Superintendent of Police, Delhi Special Police Establishment (respondent No. 8) and some relevant documents were seized by him therefrom. The said search warrant was duly endorsed by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Calcutta before the said search was conducted. On May 17 and 19, 1975 a Deputy Superintendent of Police, Delhi Special Police Establishment searched the registered office of the petitioner company at premises No. 18/15, Ballygunge Place East, Calcutta and seized therefrom' a number of relevant documents. The said search warrant was duly endorsed by the District Magistrate of the 24-Parganas. Alipore. The books, documents and papers seized in execution of the said search warrants were at first produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Calcutta and District Magistrate, 24-Parganas at Alipore and with their respective permission taken over to Gauhati for production before the learned Special Judge at Gauhati who granted permission to the Investigating Officer, the respondent No. 7 to retain the seized books, documents and papers for the purpose of conducting police investigation according to law. On 21st of May, 1975 the apprehension that the petitioners might be arrested in connection with the said investigation, applied in the Court of Special Judge, Gauhati under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in Special Case No. 2 of 1975 for bail and the petitioners Nos. 2 and 3 were permitted to go on bail on a surety of Rs. 10,000 each on condition that they should make themselves available in any interrogation by the Police as and when required. On August 8, 1975 the petitioners made an applicaiton under Art. 226 of the Constitution for quashing the police investigation and for return of the seized documents. On 8th of August, 1975 this Court issued a Rule and also granted an interim injunction. On 26th of November, 1975 the respondents 1, 2, 6 and 7 to 9 made an application in this Court for vacating the interim order. On 6th of July, 1976 this Court passed an order that the main Rule as well as the application for vacating interim injunction both would be heard together.

3. It is contended by Mr. Deb, appearing on behalf of the petitioners that the Special Judge. Gauhati appointed under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. 1952 is not a Court constituted under the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Special Judge having been appointed under a Special Law for the purpose of trying certain offences including the offence under Sub-section (2) of Section 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, the proceeding relating to the investigation being carried on by the C.B.I. under Chapter XII of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 is wholly beyond the jurisdiction of the said Special Judge, The Special Judge is not competent to issue any search warrant in aid of investigation or pass an order for the purpose of investigation. The scheme of the Criminal Procedure and the various provisions therein relating to the taking cognizance of an offence and trial show that there is a distinction between the taking of cognizance of an offence and trial of the said offence. Under Section 7(1) of the Criminial Law Amendment Act, exclusive jurisdiction given to the Special Judge is only as regards the trial of the offence but the Special Judge has got no jurisdiction at the pre-cognizance stage to issue a search warrant under Section 93 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

4. 1st Part of Section 8(1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952 lays down that the Special Judge may take cognizance of offences without the accused being committed to him for trial. It is true that Section 7(1) of the Act confers exclusive jurisdiction only upon the Special Judge regarding trials of offences specified in Sub-section (1) of Section 6. But so far as taking cognizance of offence is concerned, both the Magistrate and the Special Judge are competent to take cognizance. Similar view was taken by a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in State v. Shankar : AIR1959Bom437 and another Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in Fedders Llyod v. B.A. Laxminarayana Swami : AIR1969Delhi26 . Section 8(3) of the said Act, Lays down that the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 shall so far as they are not inconsistent with this Act, apply to the proceedings before a Special Judge, In my opinion, the word 'proceedings' in that Section is not restricted only to the proceedings after taking cognizance of the offences but it also includes proceedings before taking cogniaance of the offences.

5. In Hashimara Industries Ltd. v. Co. Law Board 79 Cal WN 865 : 1976 Cri LJ 50. a Division Bench of this Court held that an investigation taken under the Criminal Procedure Code. 1898 is a 'proceeding' within the meaning of the third clause of Section 96(1) of the said Code. A general search warrant issued in aid of such an investigation is not invalid. Therefore in my opinion, the Special Judge, Gauhati is competent and has jurisdiction to issue a search warrant under Section 93(1)(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in aid of police investigation.

6. Where a search has been found to be legal, in that case, the question at restoration and returning of the seized documents does not arise.

7. In the result, this Rule is discharged. All interim orders are vacated.

8. In view of the order passed in the Rule itself, no separate order is passed on the application for vacating the order of injunction.

9. There will be no order for costs.


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