The Newspaper ‘The Daily’ vs Unknown (04/07/1947)
In Re: The Newspaper ‘The Daily’ vs Unknown on
Achhru Ram, J.
1. This is a petition Under Section 23, Press (Emergency Powers) Act. The petitioner before us is K. Narendra, Printer and Publisher of the Urdu newspaper “The Daily Pratap” of New Delhi. The petitioner was ordered to deposit a security of Bs. 6000 Under Section 9 (1), Press Aot and the amount was depoaited by the petitioner on and June 1948. By his Order No. F-8 11/48 Press, dated 10th December 1948, Mr, Shankar Parshad, Chief Commissioner of Delhi, forfeited the amount of the security because certain articles and news items published in a number of issues of the Daily Pratap came within the mischief of 4 (i), Press Act. The offending material was printed in seven different issues of the newspaper. Of these five are news items and two are editorial comments. It was alleged that the subject-matter of these articles and news items fell within Clauses (b), (d) and (h) of Section 4 (1), Press Act. The petitioner’s application is directed against the order of forfeiture parsed by the Chief Commissioner of Delhi and it is contended in the petition that the articles and news items objected to are harmless and they do not come within the purview of Section 4 (1), Clauses (b), (d) and (h), Press Act and in any case the Exceptions to Section 4 cover the petitioner’s case,
2. It must be mentioned that the petitioner Was on a previous occasion asked to deposit a security of BB. 3000 and this security was forfeited by an order of the Chief Commissioner on 16th May 1948. The petitioner moved this Court against the order of forfeiture in criminal original No. 7 of 1948. This petition has since been decided and the order of forfeiture set aside. At the time the present petition was filed the previous petition was still pending.
3. The first news item was published in the morning issue of 27th June 1918. The substance of this news is that Pakistani officials with the connivance and abetment of the English had taken away a large quantity of military stores from the Agra Central Ordnance. It is alleged by the Crown that this news was totally false and its publication tended directly or indirectly to excite disaffection towards the Government within the meaning of Clause (d).
4. The second news item was published in the morning issue of 9th September 1948. It was reported that an armament factory had been discovered from the headquarters of the Mirzaia in Qadian and a number of Muslims had been arrested. The Crown case is that this news item is also false and tends to excite ‘disaffection towards the Government.
5. The third news item is contained in the morning and evening editions of 10th November 1948 and is nothing more than a report of the statement made by Nathuram Godse during the course of his trial in the Court of the Special Judge at Delhi. It is alleged by the Crown that the head-lines of this item were chosen by the editor in order to give prominence to certain aspects of the case and tbat the article expresses approval or admiration of the crime committed by Nathuram Godse. This item is alleged to fall within the mischief of Clause (b),
6. The fourth item was published in the morning issue of 19th November 1948 and relates to the arrest of Golwalkar, the leader of the R.S.S organisation, and comments that Master Tara Singh, who is an equally communal-minded person, had not been arrested. The editorial note then recommends that Golwalkar should also be released. It is said by the Crown that this somewhat invidious comparison between Golwalkar and Master Tara Bingh was intended to promote feeling3 of enmity between the Hindus and Sikhs and that this news item, therefore, fell within the mischief of Clause (b).
7. The fifth news item is the report of a speech made by Master Tara Singh in Hissar. This report was published in the morning edition of 24tb November 1948. It is alleged by the Crown that this item falls within the mischief of Clause (d) as it tends to excite disaffection towards the Government.
8. The last item objected to is an editorial note entitled “Punjabi Suba” published in the morning edition of 25th November 1948. In this note the writer referring to the history of the Sikh rule in the Punjab says :
There was Sikh rule in the Punjab but for a few days only. The Sikhs have proved by their conduct that they are good soldiers but not good administrators, that they do wall a3 subordinates but quarrel with one another when they have an opportunity of standing on their own feet and that they are good soldiers but not good as generals. The Sikh rule began with Maharaja Ranjit Singh and ended with him. After him the few rulers who sat on the throne fell victims of domestic conspiracies.
It is said that these sentences also fall within the mischief of Clause (d) as they tend to bring into hatred the Sikhs as a class.
9. To determine whether “any words, signs or visible representations” contained in any newspaper fall within the mischief of Clause (d) it is necesaary to determine the meaning of the words “bring into hatred or contempt” and “excite disaffection towards the Government.” The question came up before this High Court recently in two cases Kidar Nath v. The Grown 61 P.L.B. 82 : A.I.R. (36) 1G49 E. P. 289 : 50 Or.L.J, 756 SB and Criminal original No. 7 of 1948, Narendra v. The Grown A.I.R. (86) 1949 E.p. 305 : 50 Cr.L.J. 818 SB. My Lord the Chief Justice in disposing of the last mentioned case discussed the entire law on the subject and enunoiated the principles which must govern the decision of suoh oases. The matter has been so admirably dealt with in thia judgment (Criminal Original NO. 7 of 1948) Narendra v. The Crown A.I.R. (36) 1949 E. P. 305 : 60 Or. L. J, 813 SB that I need do no more than summarise briefly the main principles set out in that judgment.
10. The similarity of the phraseology employed in a. 124-A, Penal Code, B. 34 (8)(e); Defence of India Rules, and Clause (d) of Section 4 (1), Press Act shows that the offence of sedition described in the Penal Code has for its ingredients the same elements which constitute a prejudicial act within the meaning of Section 34 (1), Defence of India Rules, and these ingredients are also common to the mischief envisaged by Clause (d) of Section 4 (1), Press Act. In other words, if the utterance of a person is seditious it may also amount to a prejudicial act and may be taken as tending to bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection towards the Government. In England it has been held that in order to constitute sedition the words etc, must evoke such a degree of hatred or contempt or excite so much disaffection that public disorder or violence may result. The Indian law of sedition, however, is not so liberal and it has been held that incitement to violence or disorder is not an essential ingredient of the offence of sedition. The latest ruling of their Lordships of the Privy Council in King-Emperor v. Sadashiv Narayan Bhalerao I.L R (1947) BOm. 110 : A. I. R (34) 1947 P. O. 82 : 48 Cr.L.J. 79i is conclusive on this point. It was conceded before us by the learned Assistant Advocate-General that not a single one of the six items mentioned above could be said to contain an incitement to violence or disorder. It was, however, argued that they naverthelesa came within the mischief of Section 4 (1), Press Act,
11. Although incitement to violence or disorder has been held not to be an essential ingredient of the offence of sedition in India the provisions of the Press Act must be interpreted liberally and in favour of the subject. My Lord the Chief Justice in dealing with the petitioner’s previous application observed;
The section taken and read as a whole is not to be regarded as intended to minister to the mere vanity or susceptibilities of the Government or its officers but permit reasonable criticisms, comments and ventilation of grievances although the same may generate or oxoita some amount of resentment or disapprobation against the Government provided that such resentment or disapprobation does not generate or excite the more intense or deeper passion of hatred, contempt or disaffection. To put the same thing in another way, the hatred, contempt or disaffection made culpable by the sections we are considering must, In its intensity and depth, be more than a mere feeling of resentment or disapprobation which Is generated by legitimate comments, criticisms or ventilation of genuine grievances.
The explanation to the section clearly contemplate and indicate that one may strongly criticize without being hateful, may severely comment without being contemptuous or may openly disapprove without being disaffecfcionate.
12. In the light of these observations I shall now proceed to consider the various items one by one.
13. The first item is the report of the removal of a large quantity of military stores from the Agra Central Ordnance. It is alleged that the Pakistani officials were responsible for this removal and that the English helped them. The news item read as a whole does not even contain a strong criticism of the Government. It only advocates that the British officers should no longer be retained in the service of India. It is said by the Crown that this news item is wholly false and in support of this contention the Chief Commissioner of Delhi has filed an affidavit. The matter is dealt with in para, l of the affidavit and all that the affidavit says is that the allegations contained in this news item were investigated into by the military authorities and found to be false “vide information received from the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi.” We have not been supplied with the contents of the information received from the Government of India or its exact nature and I may say at once that the form of the denial is wholly unsatisfactory and I am unable to take the view that this kind of vague and nebulous denial by the Chief Commissioner in what purports to be an affidavit is sufficient to disprove the truth of the news item or to rebut a definite statement contained in the petitioner’s affidavit that the news was in fact sent from Agra and published bona fide. Moreover, the mere fact that a news is false is not sufficient to bring it within the mischief of Clause (d). I cannot hold that the news false or true i3 any. thing more than a somewhat restrained criticism of the policy of the Government in continuing to retain British official, in its service.
14. The same remarks apply to the second news item published in the morning issue of 9th September 1948 relating to the recovery of an armament factory from Qadian. The news reads:
It is reported that the police and Gurkha military acting on information received raided a place near the graveyard in the headquarters of the Mirzais in Qadian. They traced an armament factory in a building. In the course of this raid a dozen Muslims were arrested. Many secret documents were taken into possession. The police are continuing the investigation zealously. It is reported by the police that this was a very large armament factory. The police have recovered rifles, cartridges and guns from this factory.
It is said by the Crown that this news was wholly false. The contention of the Crown is sought to be supported by a somewhat vague and unsatisfactory denial contained in para, a of the Chief Commissioner’s affidavit. Curiously enough the Chief Commissioner says that the inaccuracy of the aforesaid news was pointed out to him by the East Punjab Government. A more unsatisfactory denial contained in an affidavit it would be difficult to imagine. It was contended on behalf of the petitioner that the East Punjab Government have not chosen to deny the truth of this news in any communique or other public utterance but whether the news is (true or false I fail to see how it tends to bring into hatred or contempt either the Government or any class of His Majesty’s subjects. No one on reading this news could hate the whole class of Muslims or feel contempt or disaffection towards the Government.
15. Item 3 (3) the report of a statement made by Nathuram Godse in the course of his trial for murder. The learned Assistant Advocate-General contended that the headlines tended to show that the editor approved of the crime of murder. The absurdity of this argument can be immediately demonstrated by quoting the headlines in full:
Godse had in the course of his a statement read out In Court confessed to the crime of murder. He had, however, tried to justify it on various grounds.
In reporting this statement the Pratap of 10th November 1948 contained the following headlines :
Godse’s statement in the Gandhiji murder case I do not beg for pity.
Gandhiji was father of Pakistan. I shot him in order to save the Hindua from sufloringa.
I alone am responsible for death of Gandhiji.
No one else had a band in the conspiracy to raurdar, I shall not be held guilty in the Court of God.
16. Godse’s trial attracted a great deal of public attention and the newspapers naturally gave as much publicity to it as they could. This they could do legitimately in order to further their sales. The interest was due mainly to the personality of the individual who had been murdered and also because of the some-what unusual attitude taken up by the murderer. It cannot be said by any stretch of imagination that the headlines quoted above amounted to an approval of Godse’s crime. The public were interested in knowing what the murderer of Gandhiji had said in the course of his trial and the newspaper accordingly gave prominence to the circumstance that Godse had openly confessed his guilt but was trying to justify it on some ulterior grounds. To give publicity in this manner cannot be said to express approval directly or indirectly and I would hold that the news items contained in the morning and evening editions of 10th November do not fall within the ambit of Clause (b).
17. Item 4 relates to the arrest of Golwalkar, the Chief of the B, Section 8. The purport of this note is that Golwalkar and Master Tara Singh are both communal leaders and while Golwaltar is in jail Master Tara Singh is at large.
I should not be taken to mean that I want to see Masterji locked up in jail. I am a supporter of the liberty of thought. I am against the unfettered powers assumed by the executive…..For this reason I do not wish to see Master Tara Singh in Jail bat will like to see Golwalkar, the Guru o the It, S. S. outside the jail.
The writer has suggested in this note that the Government were not dealing with the Hindus in the same way as with the Sikhs but this amounts to nothing more than legitimate criticism of the Government policy. It could not have been intended to excite disaffection towards the Government or to bring the Government into hatred or contempt.
18. Item 5 is nothing more than a report of a speech made by Master Tara Singh in Hissar. Master Tara Singh had said that he would rather die than live under the regime of this Government. Master Tara Singh himself does not appear to have been prosecuted for making this speech in Hissar. It is not alleged that the speech was incorrectly reported. I cannot take the view that this publication was intended to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between Hindus and Sikhs or that it tended to bring into contempt or hatred His Majesty’s Government. It appears nothing more than a wholly harmless report of a somewhat unrestrained speech made by Master Tara Singh. A newspaper would be lacking in its duty if it did not publish an item of this type.
19. The last item is an editorial cote called “Punjabi Suba“, In this note the language question is dealt with and the writer has taken the view that Punjabi is a wholly inadequate medium of expression for the Punjab Province. The note contains a reference to the past Sikh history in the passage which has already been quoted above. I cannot take the view that this passage tends to bring into hatred or contempt the Sikh class as a whole. The learned Assistant Advocate-General argued that the Sikhs on reading this passage would feel aggrieved that in the opinion of the writer they were only good as soldiers and not aa generals and were good at following and bad at initiating adminiatrative measures. The article read as a whole, however, shows that the writer was drawing certain inferences from the past history of the Sikh rule and that all that he was trying to show was that the Punjabi should not be adopted as the official language of the Punjab. The reference to the past history even though some, what unnecessary does no t in my view fall within the mischief of either el. (d) or Clause (h).
20. None of the passage objected to there-fore, amount to anything more than the reporting of new3 or permissible criticism of Governmental policy. I am not a little surprised that the Chief Commissioner should have considered it necesssary to base an order of forfeiture on this material. Item 1 was published more than five months before any action was taken by the Chief Commissioner, The desire to stifle legitimate criticism is to be deprecated and the press must be allowed more liberty of expression. The proceedings in this case would appear to show that even innocent and harmless utterances of the press are looked upon with disfavour by the executive authorities.
21. For the reasons given above, I would allow this petition and set aside the order of forfeiture. The petitioner will be allowed Rs. 200 costs.
Achhru Ram, J.
22. I agree.
23. I also agree.
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Tagged: Press, PUNJAB AND HARYANA HIGH COURT