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Imran Alias Abdul Quddus Khan vs State Of U.P. And Ors.

High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad|30 November, 1999


1. The neat point for determination in the present writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution is whether a bona fide student of Master of Arts can be dubbed as 'Goonda' primarily for the reason that he adopted an agitational approach to espouse the cause of the students of the college with a view to get the memorandum of their demand accepted by the college authorities. The thumb nail sketch of the case is as follows :
Imram alias Abdul Quddus Khan, a student of Master of Arts in Bundelkhand College, Jhansi has been issued a show cause notice by Sri Bhagwat Prasad Misra, District Magistrate Jhansi under the provisions of Section 3 of the U.P. Control of Goonda Act, 1970 (Act No. VIII of 1971) (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') case No. 65 of 1999. This show cause notice has been challenged on the ground that it has been issued by the District Magistrate on insufficient and perfunctory material and there has been total non-application of mind to the stringent provisions of law and since the notice has been issued in an arbitrary, perfunctory and cursory manner to repress the legitimate demands of the students, it may be quashed.
2. The learned A.G.A. took notice on behalf of the District Magistrate/State and vehemently urged that a writ petition against a 'show cause notice' is not maintainable. The submission was repelled and appears to be against the well established legal position.
3. Normally, a writ petition against a show cause notice is not maintainable as has been held in Executive Engineer, Bihar State Housing Board v. Ramesh Kumar Singh, AIR 1996 SC 691 wherein, the Apex Court was concerned with the entertainment of the writ petition against a show cause notice issued by the competent authority. In that case there was no attack against the vires of the statutory provisions governing the matter and no question of infringement of any fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution was alleged or proved. It could also not be said in that case that the notice was ex facie 'nullity' or totally 'without jurisdiction' in the traditional sense of that expression that is to say, that even the commencement or initiation of the proceedings on the face of it and without anything more, was totally unauthorized. In the backdrop of these facts, the Apex Court observed as follows :-
...In such a case, for entertaining a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India against a show cause notice, at that stage, it should be' shown that the authority has no power or jurisdiction, to enter upon the enquiry in question. In all other cases, it is only appropriate that the party should avail of the alternative remedy and show cause against the same before the authority concerned and take up the objection regarding jurisdiction also, then. In the event of an adverse decision, it will certainly be open to him, to assail the same either in appeal or revision, as the case may be, or in appropriate cases, by invoking the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
Learned counsel for the petitioner urged that in view of the law laid down by a Full Bench decision of this Court in Bhim Sain Tyagi v. State of U.P., 1999 UP Cri R 417 : 1999 All LJ 1845 in which the earlier decision of this Court in Ramji Pandey v. State of U.P., (1982) UP Cri R 1 : 1981 All LJ 897 : 1981 Cri LJ 1083 (FB) has been relied upon and approved and in the light of the observations of the Apex Court in the case of Whirlpool Corporation v. Registrar of Trade Marks, Mumbai, (1998) 8 SCC 1 : AIR 1999 SC 22 : 1998 AIR SCW 3345 alternative remedy does not affect the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the present writ petition is maintainable.
4. We have heard Sri S.P. Sharma, learned counsel for the petitioner as well as Sri Mahendra Pratap, Additional Government Advocate at some length. Since purely a legal question is involved in the present case, we propose to decide the writ petition finally at this stage. The scanning of this question does not call for any further material.
5. The crucial point for consideration in the present case is whether in the light of the facts and circumstances, as mentioned in the show cause notice, a copy of which is Annexure 6 to the writ petition, the District Magistrate was justified in labelling the petitioner as Goonda and clamping upon him with a notice.
6. Before taking up the legal question it would be advantageous to advert to the definition of 'Goonda' as contained in Section 2(b) of the Act, which is as follows :-
2. Definitions :...
(b) "Gonda" means a person who
(i) either by himself or as a member or leader or a gang, habitually commits of attempts to commit, or abets the commission of an offence punishable under Section 153 or Section 153B or Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code or Chapter XV, or Chapter XVI, Chapter XVII or Chapter XXII of the said Code; or
(ii) has been convicted for an offence punishable under the Supression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956; or
(iii) has been convicted not less than thrice for an offence punishable under the U.P. Excise Act, 1910 or the Public Gambling Act, 1867 or Section 25, Section 27 or Section 29 of the Arms Act, 1959; or
(iv) is generally reputed to be a person who is desperate and dangerous to the community; or
(v) has been habitually passing indecent remarks or teasing women or girls; or
(vi) is a tout;
Explanation : 'Tout' means a person who-
(a) accepts or obtains, or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain from any person for himself or for any other person, any gratification whatever as a motive or reward for inducing, by corrupt or illegal means any public servant or member of Government, Parliament or of State Legislature, to do or forbear to do anything or to know favour or disfavour to any person or to render or attempt to render any service or disservice to any person, with the Central or State Government, Parliament or State Legislature, any local authority, corporation, Government Company or public servant; or
(b) procures, in consideration of any remuneration moving from any legal practitioner interested in any legal business or proposes to any legal practitioner or to any person interested in legal business to procure, in consideration of any remuneration moving from either of them, the employment of legal practitioner in such business; or
(c) For the purposes mentioned in explanation (a) or (b), frequents the precincts of civil, criminal or revenue Courts, revenue or other offices, residential colonies or residences or vicinity of the aforesaid or railway or bus stations, landing stages, lodging places or other places of public resort; or
(vii) is house-grabber.
Explanation.- 'House-grabber' means a person who takes or attempts to take or aids or abets in taking unauthorized possession or having lawfully entered unlawfully remains in possession, of a building including land, garden, garages or out-houses appurtenant to a building.
The preamble to the Act gives a clue to the intention which impelled the law makers to enact the legislation. It makes it clear that the Act was brought on the Statute book with a view to make special provisions for the control and suppression of Goondas with a view to the maintenance of 'public order'. A bare reading of the various provisions of the Act makes it clear that there are two pre-requisites which are required to be fulfilled before issuing a show cause notice under Section 3 of the Act, firstly, a person should fall within the definition of the expression 'Goonda' and, secondly, it is necessary to control and suppress him with a view to the maintenance of 'public order. If either of the two pre-requisites are missing, the District Magistrate shall not be entitled to initiate action under the Act.
7. Let us now take up the first point whether the petitioner answers the description of a 'Goonda' as defined in Section 2(b) of the Act. For this purpose, it would be necessary to wade through the recitations, or say the grounds as unfolded from the impugned show cause notice issued by the District Magistrate. Rendered in English, in the prefatory clause of the notice, it has been substantially mentioned as follows :
...Sri Imram son of Mohd. Aslam resident of...district Jhansi, who normally resides in Mohalla...is a 'Goonda', meaning thereby, he is habituated to commit crimes covered by Chapters XVI, XVII and XXII of the Indian Penal Code and that he has acquired the general reputation of being desperate criminal, dangerous person to the society.
A sweeping allegation has come to be made in the second clause that the activities of the petitioner in district Jhansi are such that he causes damage to the person and property of the citizens and criminally intimidates, insults, and annoys them or plans to commit the aforesaid crimes and there is reason to believe that the petitioner is engaged in committing the offences punishable under Chapters XVI, XVII and XXII of the Code.
8. In the third clause, it is mentioned that in respect of the above allegations no person is prepared or comes forward to stand as a witness against the petitioner on account of fear of hurt to his person and damage to his property. A mention has been made with regard to the two incidents-firstly, dated 14-10-1999 about which Sub Inspector Ved Ram had submitted a beat information that on account of enhancement in the amount of fee, the petitioner and his companion incited students, attempted to disturb the peace and tranquility in the college campus and being over-awed, the Principal, Professors and clerical staff of the college are feeling unsafe and insecure; secondly, Constable Mani Ram, while he was on patrol duty on 23-10-1999, registered a beat information that the petitioner along with his companion assembled in front of the gate of the college and were making preparations to intimidate the Principal and Professors and to create an atmosphere of unrest in the campus; that he was also planning that the Principal should be so much terrorized that he may not be in position to object to the conduct of the unruly crowd of students. It was further mentioned in the notice that some unknown student had sent an application, obviously anonymous, addressed to the District Magistrate that on account of criminal activities of the petitioner and his companions, the college atmospere was terror-stricken and that Sri S.P. Pathak, Principal and other Professors and Ministerial staff were not prepared to lodge an F.I.R. or complain against the conduct of the petitioner or to stand as a witness against him and his companions; that the petitioner along with his associates tease the passing by girls in front of the crossing of the college. On the basis of the aforesaid allegations, the District Magistrate required the petitioner to show cause by 18th November, 1999 as to why an order of externment against him should not be passed under the provisions of Section 3(3) of the Act.
9. A reading of the various allegations made in the impugned notice would reveal that all of them are vague, general and inconcrete. On the basis of the sweeping allegations, the petitioner has been termed as 'goonda' and has been required to show cause as to why he should not be directed to remove himself outside the district for a specified period. Prior to the issuance of the impugned notice, no case was ever registered against the petitioner. He is not involved in any criminal case. The petitioner is a bona fide student of M.A.-IInd year (Politics) in the college as would be evident from the documents brought on record as Annexures 1 and 2. The principal of the college had recently issued a character certificate dated 2-8-1999 Annexure 4 to the writ petition. He has certified that the work, conduct and character of the petitioner is good and he wished him well for his future.
10. As said above, the Act was enacted with a view to make special provision for the control and suppression of 'Goondas' with a view to the maintenance of 'public order'. Unless a person is a 'goonda' within the meaning of Section 2(b) of the Act, no show cause notice can be served upon him. The definition of the expression 'goonda' has been extracted above. A bare reading of this definition would indicate that a person before he is termed as a 'Goonda' should either by himself or as a member or leader of a gang, habitually commits or attempts to commit or abets the commission of an offence punishable under Section 153, or Section 153B or Section 294 or Chapter XV, XVII or XXII of the Indian Penal Code or has been convicted for an offence punishable under the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 or under the U.P. Excise Act, Public Gambling Act or under certain Sections of the Arms Act, is generally reputed to be a person who is desperate and dangerous to the community or has been habitually passing indecent remarks or teasing women or girls or is a tout. Except for the bald averments made in the show cause notice issued by the District Magistrate there is no material, whatsoever, incorporated in the notice to support the various grounds.
11. Ex facie, a person is termed as a 'goonda' if he is a habitual criminal. The provisions of Section 2(b) of the Act are almost akin to the expression 'anti social element' occurring in Section 2(d) of Bihar Prevention of Crimes Act, 1981. In the context of the expression 'anti social element' the connotation 'habitually commits' came to be interpreted by the apex Court in the case of Vijay Narain Singh v. State of Bihar, (1984) 3 SCC 14 : AIR 1984 SC 1334. The meaning put to the aforesaid expression by the apex Court would squarely apply to the expression used in the Act, in question. The majority view was that the word 'habitually' means 'repeatedly' or 'persistently'. It implies a thread of continuity stringing together similar repetitive acts. Repeated, persistent and similar but not isolated, individual and dissimilar acts are necessary to justify an inference of habit. It connotes frequent commission of acts or omissions of the same kind referred to in each of the said sub-clauses or an aggregate of similar acts or omissions. Even the minority view which was taken in Vijay Narain's case (supra) was that the word 'habitually' means 'by force of habit'. It is the force of habit inherent or latent in an individual with a criminal insteinct with a criminal disposition of mind, that makes a person accustomed to lead a life of crime posing danger to the society in general. If a person with criminal tendencies consistently or persistently or repeatedly commits or attempts to commit or abets the commission of offences punishable under the specified chapters of the Code, he should be considered to be a 'anti social element'. There are thus two views with regard to the expression 'habitually' flowing from the decision of Vijay Narain's case (supra). The majority was inclined to give a restricted meaning to the word 'habitually' as denoting 'repetitive' and that on the basis of a single act cannot be said to be forming the habit of the person. That is to say, the act complained of must be repeated more than once and be inherent in his nature. The minority view is that a person in habitual criminal who by force of habit or inward disposition inherent or latent in him has grown accustomed to lead a life or crime. In simple language, the minority view was expressed that the word 'habitually' means 'by force of habit'. The minority view is based on the meaning given in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, Fourth Ed. Vol. II-1204 - habitually requires a continuance and permanence of some tendency, something that has developed into a propensity, that is, present from day to day. Thus, the word 'habitual' connotes some degree of frequency and continuity.
12. The word 'habit (has a clear, well understood meaning being nearly the same as 'accustomed' and cannot be applied to a single act. When we speak of habit of a person, we prefer to his customary conduct to pursue, which he has acquired a tendency from frequent repetitions. In B.N. Singh v. State of U.P., AIR 1960 All 754 it was observed that it would be incorrect to say that a person has a habit of anything from a single act. In the Law Lexicon - Encyclopedic Law Dictionary, 1997 Ed. by P. Ramanatha Aiyer, the expression 'habitual' has been defined to mean as constant, customary and addicted to a specified habit; formed or acquired by or resutling from habit; frequent use or custom formed by repeated impressions. The term 'habitual criminal', it is stated may be applied to any one, who has been previously more than twice convicted of crime, sentenced and committed to prison. The word 'habit' means persistence in doing an act, a fact, which is capable of proof by adducing evidence of the commission of a number of similar acts. 'Habitually' must be taken to mean repeatedly or persistently. It does not refer to frequency of the occasions but rather to the invariability of the practice.
13. The expression 'habitual criminal' is the same thing as the 'habitual offender' within the meaning of Section 110 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. This preventive Section deals for requiring security for good behaviour from 'habitual offenders'. The expression 'habitually' in the aforesaid section has been used in the sense of depravity of character as evidenced by frequent repetition or commission of offence. It means. repetition or persistency in doing an act and not an inclination by nature, that is, commission of same acts in the past and readiness to commit them again where there is an opportunity.
14. Expressions like 'by habit' 'habitual' 'desperate' 'dangerous' and 'hazardous' cannot be flung in the face of a man with laxity or semanitics. The Court must insist on specificity of facts and a consistent course of conduct convincingly enough to draw the rigourous inference that by confirmed habit, the petitioner is sure to commit the offence if not externed or say directed to take himself out of the district. It is not a case where the petitioner has ever involved himself in committing the crime or has adopted crime as his profession. There is not even faint or feeble material against the petitioner that he is a person of a criminal propensity. The case of the petitioner does not come in either of the clauses of Section 2(b) of the Act, which defines the expression 'Goonda'. Therefore, to outright label a bona fide student as 'goonda' was not only arbitrary capricious and unjustified but also counter productive. A bona fide student who is pursuing his studies in the Post Graduate course and has never seen the world of the criminals is now being forced to enter the arena. The intention of the Act is to afford protection to the public against hardened or habitual criminals or bullies or dangerous or desperate class who menace the security of a person or of property. The order of externment under the Act is required to be passed against persons who cannot readily be brought under the ordinary penal law and who for personal reasons cannot be convicted for the offences said to have been committed by them. The legislation is preventive and not punitive. Its sole purpose is to protect the citizens from the habitual criminals and to secure future good behaviour and not to punish the innocent stduents. The Act is a powerful tool for the control and suppression of the 'Goondas'; it should be used very sparingly in very clear cases of 'public disorder' or for the maintenance of 'public order'. If the provisions of the Act are recklessly used without adopting caution and descretion, it may easily become an engine of operession. Its provisions are not intended to secure indirectly a conviction in case where a prosecution for a substantial offence is likely to fail. Similarly the Act should not obviously be used against mere innocent people or to march over the opponents who are taking recourse to democractic process to get their certain demands fulfilled or to wreck the private vengeance.
15. In the instant case, it appears that the college fee was substantially enhanced; that were certain disrepancies in the admission of students to M.A. Previous and L.L.B. classes; the college teachers had adopted a recalcitrant attitude of not attending the classes regularly. In order to curb the aforesaid maladies, and to adopt remedial measures, the students of the college united to get their grievances ventilated by preparing a demand note with which they met the Principal of the College on 12-10-1999 under the leadership of the present petitioner, Rashid Khan, Yashendra Singh Rajput, in a delegation. They have mentioned in the demand note, Annexure 5 to the writ petition, that in case their demands are not fulfilled they would abstain to attend the classes and close the fee counter and that the students shall then be compelled to stage Dharna and demonstrations in the campus. The demand note was signed by a body of students, the number of which swelled to 65. The students have adopted a lawful and democratic method to get their demands fulfilled. There is absolutely nothing on record that the students under the leadership of the present petitioner had committed the acts of violence or, in any manner, threatened, intimidated, insulted or annoyed their Principal, Professors, and the clerical staff. The notice itself indicates that none of these persons have come forward to complain against the petitioner and others. The petitioner cannot be expected to have such a monstrous capacity as to (sic) that the Principal of the college and other Professors and Lecturers would submit to his criminal acts without any demur or objections. There is also no material on record to indicate that there has occasioned a 'public disorder' and for the maintenance of which it was necessary to brand the petitioner as 'Goonda' and to initiate action against him for his externment. The nature of the menace posed by the petitioner would have been the determinative factor in the case.
16. Our constitution does not give a carte blanche to any organ of the State to be the sole arbiter in the matter of maintenance of security and public order. It would be too perilous a proposition to say that the District Magistrate was the sole judge of the steps required to be taken for the maintenance of public order. In the instant case, the District Magistrate has blatantly transgressed the limits of his jurisdiction and has issued a show cause notice without applying his mind to the twin aspects required to be established before issuing a notice to a person for externment. As said above, firstly, the person concerned should answer the description of a 'Goonda' as defined under Section 2(b) of the Act and secondly, it was necessary to control an suppress him with a view to the maintenance of 'public order'. Unfortunately, the District Magistrate has not taken note of the provisions of the Act and with a view to repress the legitimate activities of the students, which may have irked the School authorities or administration, a show cause notice wholly without jurisdiction was issued not realizing the implications that the future career of a bona fide student of Post Graduate class and who has to pass out the college in the near future would be seriously jeopardized and marred. The show cause notice issued by the District Magistrate not only suffers from the infirmity of lack of jurisdiction but is bereft of propriety. It is true, that the District Magistrate has the responsibility to maintain 'public order' and to initiate action to control and suppress the 'Goondas' but he is not unbriddled. His actions must have a flavour of law and unless he has an umbrella of law to protect his actions, this Court would not hesitate to step-in to correct and quash the illegal, arbitrary whimsical and uncalled for action of the District Magistrate.
17. The instance of an order and the circumstances in which the show cause notice have come to be issued, in the situations like the present one, may be multiplied. More often than not, the orders passed by the District Magistrates are being assailed, not in vain, before this Court primarily on the ground that the District Magistrate, without applying the mind and observing the provisions of law, are issuing show cause notices under the Act in a routine, casual and mechanical manner. Before parting, therefore, it may be mentioned that because of the litigation cropping up from time to time due to unwarranted and illegal steps taken by the District Magistrates concerned in flagrant violation of the provisions of the Act, an endeavour has been made above to indicate the circumstances in which a show cause notice can be issued to reiterate - it can be issued only if the District Magistrate is satisfied of the twin conditions of the basis of the material brought before him (1) that a person answers the descriptions of 'Goonda' as defined in Section 2(b) of the Act, (2) and that control and suppression of such a 'Goonda' is necessary for the maintenance of 'public order' - so that the District Magistrates may be cuatious enough to deal with the person who are sought to be externed under the Act in accordance with law leaving no scope for unnecessary litigation.
18. In the conspectus of the above facts, the impugned notice dated 26th October, 1999 is without jurisdiction and cannot be sustained. It would be proper to nip the vile in the bud. The writ petition, therefore, succeeds and is allowed. The impugned show cause notice dated 26th October, 1999 issued by the District Magistrater, Jhansi-respondent No. 2, Annexure 6 to the writ petition is hereby quashed.
19. The Registrar of this Court is directed to ensure that a copy of this judgment is sent to all the District Magistrates in the State with promptitude. A copy of the judgment should also be sent to the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Sachivalaya, Lucknow, who in his turn, shall issue necessary instructions to all concerned so that the observations made above are faithfully followed.
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Imran Alias Abdul Quddus Khan vs State Of U.P. And Ors.


High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad

30 November, 1999
  • O Garg
  • V Chaturvedi