Om Parrkash, J.C.
1. This is a petition, under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. The facts. giving rise to the petition, are as follows .
2. A complaint, under Section 323/504 I.P.C., was filed, in the Nyaya Panchaval, Lakhanpur, against the petitioner and other persons, including his mother. The complaint was fixed for hearing for 7-7-1964. On that date, the mother of the petitioner was not present. The petitioner had made an application that his mother may be exempted from personal attendance, as she was a pardahnashin lady and a Panch may be deputed to record her statement Shri Munshi Ram Panch, who was a member of the Bench of the Nyaya Panchayat, constituted for the purpose of trying the complaint, was appointed for recording the statement of the mother of the petitioner. There was some dispute, between the petitioner and the Bench, about the fee to be paid to Shri Munshi Ram. The Bench had got annoyed with the petitioner, on that account.
3. On 7-8-1964, the petitioner had received a notice, from the Bench, trying the complaint, informing the petitioner that he had abusedand offered insult to the Bench on 7-7-64 and that he had been convicted under Section 228 I.P.C., and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 75. The petitioner was directed to deposit the amount of fine, in the office of the Panchayat, within thirty days. The notice was a surprise to the petitioner as he had not committed any offence under Section 228, I.P.C., and was never tried for that offence. The petitioner, after obtaining a copy of the order of the Bench, appealed to the Full Bench of the Nyaya Pauchayat. His appeal was dismissed. A revision to the Sub-Divisional Judge met the same fate.
4. The petitioner has put in the present petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, challenging the validity of his conviction, tinder Section 228, I. P. C.
5. It was contended, on behalf of the petitioner, that in view of the provisions of Section 54 (4) of the Himachal Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, the Bench of the Nyaya Panchayat, which was alleged to have been insulted, was debarred from trying the petitioner for an offence under Section 228, I. P. C., for the alleged insult and that, therefore, its order convicting the petitioner was without jurisdiction and illegal.
This contention has got force. One of the well established principles of natural justice is that no tribunal or authority can be a judge in its own cause. This principle has received statutory recognition, in Sub-section (4) of Section 54 of the Himachal Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act (hereinafter referred to as Panchayat Act). That sub-section lays down that no Panch or Sarpanch shall take part in any case, suit, or proceeding, in which he is personally interested. The expression 'personally interested' occurs in Section 556, Cr. P C., also. 'Personal interest ', within the meaning of that section, was interpreted by their Lordships of the Supreme Court, to mean not only private interest but official interest as well, vide Rameshwar Bharlia v. Stale of Assam, AIR 1952 SC 405. 'Personal interest ' should bear the same meaning in Section 54 (4) of the Panchayat Act. The Bench of the Nyaya Panchayat, which was alleged to have been insulted, by the petitioner, and had lodged the complaint against him, was personally interested in the case and was disqualified from trying it, in view of the provisions of Section 54 (4) of the Panchayat Act. The trial and' conviction of the petitioner, by the same Bench, was without jurisdiction and illegal,
6. It will be relevant to point out that the provisions of Section 480, Cr. P. C., which confer a Special jurisdiction on a civil, criminal or revenue Court to take cognizance of, and try summarily, an offence under Section 228, I. P. C., if the offence is committed in the view or presence of that Court, are not applicable to a Nyaya Panchayat. Section 86 (4) of the Panchayat Act specifically excludes the applicability of the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure to proceedings before a Nyaya Panchayat.
The Panchayat Act or the Himachal Pradesh Panchayat Rules do not contain any provision, empowering a Bench of a Nyaya Panchayal, alleged to have been insulted or interrupted, to try an offence under Section 228, I. P. C., relating to that insult or interruption. The position, under the Panchayat Act and the Himachal Pradesh Panchayat Rules, is that the Bench of a Nyaya Panchayat, alleged to have been insulted or interrupted, is not competent to try an offence, under Section 228, I.P.C. relating to the alleged insult or interruption. A different Bench is to be constituted for the trial of that offence.
7. The conviction of the petitioner is bad in another ground, also. The Bench, convicting the petitioner, had violated the mandatory provisions of Rule 120 of the Himachal Pradesh Panchayat Rules. That Rule provides that while trying a criminal case, the Nyaya Panchayat shall first explain to the accused the charge made against him and shall then record prosecution evidence and then examine the accused and his defence The record of the Bench of the Nyaya Panchayat. which had convicted the petitioner, discloses that the particulars of the offence, against the petitioner, were not explained to him; no prosecution evidence was recorded and the petitioner was not examined
In fact, the petitioner was not afforded any opportunity to be heard. Thus, in convicting the petitioner, without a proper trial, the Bench not only violated the provisions of Rule 120 aforesaid, but also the fundamental principle of natural justice that no one shall be condemned without being heard.
8. For the reasons stated above, it is to be held that the conviction of the petitioner, under lection 228, I. P. C., is illegal and is liable to be set aside.
9. The next question is whether a retrial should be ordered. It was urged, on behalf of the petitioner, that he had not committed any offence and had already undergone the trouble and expense of litigation and that it would be unjust, if he is made to stand a second trial. The charge, against the petitioner, is that he had abused and insulted the Bench of the Nyaya Panchayat. while it was sitting in a judicial proceeding. The charge of contempt of a judicial tribunal is a serious matter. Such contempt not only tends to undermine and Impair the authority and dignity of the tribunal but tends to weaken the confidence of the public in the administration of justice as well. t is in public interest that a charge of contempt of a judicial tribunal should be thoroughly thrashed out. If the petitioner had not committed the offence, he would be entitled to an acquittal after he had been tried in accordance with law. It appears expedient, in the interest of justice, that the petitioner should be retried.
10. As a result of the above discussion, the petition is allowed. The conviction and sentence of the petitioner are set aside. The fine, if paid, shall be refunded to him. The case is remitted to the Nyaya Panchayat for fresh trial. The Sarpanch or any other appropriateauthority will constitute a new Bench, consisting of members, none of whom was a memberof the Bench, alleged to have been insulted.The new Bench will try the ease in accordancewith law.