S. K. Das, J. -
(1.)This is a writ petition. The three petitioners before us are (1) R. P. Kapur, a member of the Indian Civil Service, who before his suspension was serving as a Commissioner in the State of Punjab, (2) Sheila Kapur, his wife, and (3) Kaushalya Devi, his mother-in-law. They have moved this Court under Art. 32 of the Constitution for the enforcement of their rights under Arts. 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which rights they say have been violated by the respondents who are the State of Punjab, Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon, Chief Minister thereof, and certain officials, police, administrative and magisterial, who have been conducting, or are connected with, the investigation or inquiry against the petitioners. We shall refer to some of these officials later in this judgment in relation to the part which they have played or are playing in those criminal cases.
(2.)Briefly stated the case of the petitioners is that petitioner No. 1 had the misfortune to incur the wrath of the Chief Minister of the State. It is alleged that the Chief Minister was annoyed with petitioner No. 1, because the latter did not show his readiness to give evidence for the prosecution in a case known as the Karnal Murder Case (later referred to as the Grewal case) in which one D. S. Grewal, then Superintendent of Police, Karnal, and some other police officials were, along with others, accused of some serious offenses. That case was transferred by this Court to a Special Judge, at Delhi, who commenced the trial sometime in May/June, 1959. Petitioner No. 1 was at the time Commissioner of Ambala, and he alleges that he was told by the Chief Minister that it was proposed to cite the Deputy Commissioner and the Deputy Inspector-General of Police as prosecution witnesses in the said case and it would be in the fitness of things that petitioner No. 1 should also figure as a prosecution witness; to this suggestion petitioner No. 1 gave a somewhat dubious reply to the effect that his appearance as a prosecution witness might or might not help the prosecution. Another reason for the displeasure of the Chief Minister, as alleged in the petition, related to certain orders which petitioner No. 1 had passed as Commissioner, Patiala Division, in a revenue case known as the Sangrur case. We shall presently give more details of that case, but it is enough to state here that the allegation is that in that case petitioner No. 1 passed certain orders, involving the disposal of properties worth about Rs. 9 lacs. which were adverse to one Surinder Sing Kairon, son of the Chief Minister. It is stated that as a result of the displeasure which petitioner No. 1 had incurred for the two reasons mentioned above, a special procedure was adopted in the investigation of the criminal cases instituted against the petitioners; and some new cases were started through the instrumentality of the C. I. D. Police with a view to subject the petitioners to harassment and persecution. The substantial allegation, to quote the language of the petition, is that "a special procedure or rather a technique has been devised for circumventing the mandatory provisions of the law (meaning the Code of Criminal Procedure) as regards the petitioners, two of whom are ladies and who are being dragged about unnecessarily because they happen to be related to petitioner No. 1." It is stated that there has been a deliberate departure from the normal and legal procedure in the matter of institution and investigation of criminal cases against the petitioners - a departure said to be the result of "an evil eye and unequal hand" which the petitioners allege constitutes a denial of the right of equal protection of the laws guaranteed to them under Art. 14 of the Constitution. The special procedure or technique of which the petitioners complain is said to consist of several items, such as (1) entertainment of a criminal complaint personally by the Chief Minister; (2) institution of complaints by the C. I. D. Police; (3) registration of first information after such complaints; (4) investigations in advance of the complaints; (5) investigation by specially chosen (hand-picked as learned Counsel for the petitioners has suggested) C. I. D. officials, not necessarily of high rank, who have no power to investigate; (6) the arrangement of a special C. I. D. squad to "unearth something" against the petitioners etc. In the petition four criminal cases were referred to as illustrative of the special procedure, said to be unwarranted by law, adopted against the petitioners, and in a supplementary petition filed on June 9, 1960, some more cases were referred to. After we had conveyed to learned Counsel for the petitioners that we could not consider the supplementary petition which the respondent had no opportunity of meeting, the supplementary petition was withdrawn. Therefore, we do not propose to say anything about the cases which are referred to in the supplementary petition. The four cases mentioned in the original petition are -
(1) F. I. R. No. 304 of 1958, given by one M. L. Sethi, referred to hereinafter for brevity as Sethi's case;
(2) F. I. R. No. 39 of 1959 instituted on the complaint of one M. L. Dhingra, called hereinafter as Dhingra's case;
(3) F. I. R. No. 135 of 1959 instituted on the complaint of the Civil Supply Officer, Karnal, the accused in this case being the State Orphanage Advisory Board of which petitioner No. 1 was Vice-President at the relevant time and Kartar Singh, farm manager of Kaushalya Devi, called the Orphanage case; and
(4) F. I. R. No. 26 of 1960, instituted on the complaint of Daryao Singh, D.S.P., C.I.D., Karnal, (one of the respondent police officials) in which there are three accused persons including petitioner No. 1, called for brevity the Ayurvedic Fund case.
(3.)We may say at once that we are not concerned with the merits of any of the aforesaid cases:that is a question which will fall for consideration if and when the cases are tried in Court. Therefore, nothing said in this judgment shall be construed as affecting the merits of the cases. Two questions have been posed before us in relation to these cases:one is if in the matter of institution and investigation of these cases a special procedure unknown to law has been adopted; and the other is if the petitioners have been singled out for unequal treatment in administering the law relating to the institution and investigation of criminal cases in the State. The two questions are in one sense connected, for if a special procedure unknown to law has been adopted against the petitioners, that by itself will be a denial of the right of the equal protection of the laws. Learned Counsel for the petitioners has, however, argued the second question somewhat independently of the first question, and he has submitted that even if the procedure adopted against the petitioners is warranted by law, it is a departure from the normal procedure and has been adopted with "an evil eye and unequal hand" so as to put the petitioners to harassment and persecution. We shall consider both these questions in relation to the procedure adopted in the four cases referred to above.