Decided on December 14,1963



J.B.MEHTA, N.M.MIABHOY - (1.) These two petitions are made under section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1952 by two different sets of petitioners. The petitioner in Criminal Application No. 937 of 1962 is the Government Pleader and the petitioners in Criminal Application No. 62 of 1963 claim to be respectively the President and members of the Nyaya Panchayat of Chogath. There is only one respondent in the first petition. He is one Koli Nanji Bhagwan a resident of the Chogath village. The same respondent also appears as respondent No. 1 in Criminal Application No. 62 of 1963. The second respondent in that application is one Natwarlal a pleader practicing in the District of Bhavnagar. Respondent No. 3 in that petition is the State of Gujarat. Both the petitions arise out of a criminal complaint filed by respondent Nanji Bhagwan drafted by the other respondent Natwarlal and presented in the Court of the learned Judicial Magistrate First Class at Vallabhipura-Umrala. The allegation of both the sets of petitioners is that that complaint contains certain passages which constitute contempt of the Nyaya Panchayat of Chogath which is alleged to have been in existence at the relevant time and of which the petitioners in Criminal Application No. 62 of 1963 claim to be the President and members. In Criminal Application No. 937 of 1963the impugned passages are set out in paragraphs 5 to 10. In the other petition the passages alleged to be contemptuous of the Nyaya Panchayat are not set out. However Mr. Vyas appearing for the petitioners in that petition addressed us on the basis that the passages set out in the petition of the Government Pleader were the only passages which constituted contempt of the Nyaya Panchayat.
(2.) The facts leading up to the presentation of the two petitions may shortly be stated. There is no dispute that a Nyaya Panchayat was constituted for the dram Panchayat of the village Chogath under sec. 28(1) of the Saurashtra Gram Panchayat Ordinance 1949 (hereafter called the Ordinance) and that that Nyaya Panchayat was in existence till 18 June 1959 when the Bombay Village Panchayats Act 1958 (hereafter called the Panchayats Act ) came into operation in that area. There is also no dispute that at the commencement of the Panchayats Act the petitioners in Criminal Application No. 62 of 1963 were respectively the President and the members of the Nyaya Panchayat. Respondent Koli Nanji Bhagwan ( hereafter called Nanji simpliciter) was prosecuted before the Nyaya Panchayat of Chogath ( hereafter called Nyaya Panchayat) and convicted in Criminal Case No. 65 of 1960-61 for the offences under sections 426 447 and 269 Indian Penal Code and was fined Rs. 15/for each of the offences. Nanji preferred Criminal Revision Application No. 33 of 1960 in the Court of Sessions at Bhavnagar. His conviction and sentence for the offence under sections 426 and 269 were set aside but his conviction and sentence for the offence under sec. 447 were confirmed by the Sessions Court Bhavnagar. The judgment in that Criminal Revision Application was delivered on 26th of November 1960. Nanji resisted his convictions on the ground amongst others that the Nyaya Panchayat which had convicted him was not validly constituted. The Sessions Court rejected his that contention. Nanji obtained a certified copy of that judgment on 14th December 1960.
(3.) Nanji was convicted and sentenced as aforesaid on the complaint filed by one Bhagwan Kawa. It appears that that Bhagwan Kawa started proceedings before the same Nyaya Panchayat sometime in January 1961 for recovery of the amount of the fine and proceedings were started before that Nyaya Panchayat in connection with such recovery. Nanji was summoned before the Nyaya Panchayat on 14th January 1961 and again on 14th of February 1961. The Nyaya Panchayat again conducted some further proceedings on the 25th of February 1961. On that date some evidence was taken by the Nyaya Panchayat. One Khokhar Ahmed Akbar was the secretary of the Nyaya Panchayat and one Kanbi Bechar Kalyan was the Police and Revenue Patel of the village Chogath. The secretary put some questions to Nanji. The Nyaya Panchayat directed the Revenue and Police Patel to go to the house of Nanji and inspect the boundary between the fields of Nanji and Bhagwan Kawa. The Revenue and Police Patel went to the spot accompanied by two panc has named Kanbi Ravji Radma and kanbi Jiva Mavji. Accordingly the aforesaid three persons the Police Patel and the two panchas entered the premises of Nanji After this Nanji presented the impugned complaint on 13th of March 1961 in the court of the learned Judicial Magistrate First Class at Vallabhipura-Umrala. The complaint was against 9 persons in all. The President and the four members of the Nyaya Panchayat figured therein as accused Nos. 1 to 5 the Police Patel figured accused No. 6 the Secretary as accused No. 7 and the two panchas as accused Nos. 8 and 9. Nanji alleged that the aforesaid respondents had committed offences under sections 117 153 120 119 166 147 167 193 182 etc. of the Indian Penal Code. The complaint was based on the main allegation that the Nyaya Panchayat was not a validly constituted body and that therefore the petitioners in Criminal Application No. 62 of 1963 were neither the President nor the members of a valid Nyaya Panchayat. The complaint alleged that inspite of the aforesaid legal and factual position the aforesaid persons had arrogated to themselves the functions of the Nyaya Panchayat and had committed the aforesaid offences by doing the aforesaid acts on 14th January 1961 14 February 1961 and 25th of February 1961 The allegations were that there were two factions in the village that the aforesaid 9 persons were members of one faction that the petitioner Lalji Patel the alleged President of the Nyaya Panchayat was also an M. L. A.; that taking advantage of his high position he was exercising pressure on big and small officers and getting things done according to his own desire that the accused Nos. 2 to 9 aforesaid were acting according to the wishes of that person and that all the aforesaid persons had entered into a conspiracy and hatched a plot to harass the members of the opposite group and thereby they committed the aforesaid offences. Process was issued against all the aforesaid accused persons. Amongst other grounds the accused resisted the complaint on the ground that the cognizance thereof was bad as sanction of the Government was necessary for prosecuting all the accused persons except accused Nos. 8 and 9 and that the prosecution of those two accused persons was also bad because they were alleged to have committed the aforesaid crimes jointly with the aforesaid other accused persons. That contention was upheld by the learned Magistrate and on 25th of February 1961 the learned Magistrate dismissed the complaint. After this the President and the members of the Nyaya Panchayat made an application No. 22 of 1962 in the Court of the learned Sessions Judge at Bhavnagar requesting the Court to take proceedings against Manji and Natwarlal respondent No. 2 in the second petition Nanji and Natwarlal resisted the proceed lag. Whilst these contempt proceedings were pending in the Sessions Court Bhavnagar the learned Government Pleader presented in this Court Criminal Application No. 937 of 1962 and rule was issued thereon on 18 of December 1962. Thereafter on 29th of December 1962 the learned Sessions Judge at Bhavnagar decided the Criminal Application No. 22 of 1962 and disposed it of. He came to the conclusion that there was no valid reason shown for taking any action against either Nanji and Natwarlal. Thereafter the same persons presented Criminal Application No. 62 of 1963 in this Court on 11th of March 1963 and obtained a rule thereon on 1st of April 1963.;

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