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Anowar Hussain v/s Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee

Case Brief:
Anowar Hussain V. Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee
AIR 1965 SC 1651, 1965 CriLj 686

Supreme Court Of India - Date of Judgement - 19 February 1965
  1. Hon'ble Justice Jayantilal Chhotalal Shah
  2. Hon'ble Justice Ranadhir Singh Bachawat
Parties to the suit: Appellant - Anowar Hussain v/s Respondent - Ajoy Kumar

Facts of the case:
In 1950 the situation was of riots and violence in the Kamrup district of Assam. Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee which is respondent in this case, owned a large agricultural land plot in the said area. On march 17, 1950 around 22:30 he was arrested by the Assam Police on the ground of inciting riots and violence. Next day he was presented before Mr. Anwar Hussain who is the appellant in this case and also the sub divisional magistrate of the Barpeta sub-division.

The appellant sent him again to the custody. On march 20, 1950 the first class magistrate, Justice Barua granted bail to the respondent and he was further released. The respondent appeared many times before the court but the proceeding were delayed because the police investigation was pending.

On may 27, 1950 Justice Barua recorded that there is a confusion between police officer regarding the case and observed that the officer in incharge should regard to circle inspector as an authority for the arrest and he should regard the same to the sub divisional officer. And it seems that in fact no case was registered with the police. No justified reason for holding the accused in custody for the mentioned charges. This was issued on 31 may, 1950 and the proceeding were adjourned.

The respondent filed a case against the sub divisional magistrate on the grounds of false imprisonment, as no complaint was registered against himself relating to riots. He alleged that the arrest was malicious and had no legal justification to it. He claimed that it was done to disgrace and insult him in the society.

He added that he had health issues relating to heart. The situation was so critical that that he even fainted during the arrest and remained unconscious for a considerable amount of time. He got examined by a doctor in the morning of 18 march 1950 who advised him to be admitted to a hospital. But he got released on 20 march 1950 only. He filed a claim of Rs. 20,000/- with all the defendants liable severally and jointly.

Legal issues raised:
The appeal was made to the supreme court.

The legal issue raised in the case are:
  1. whether the appellant ordering the respondent's arrest was in his judicial duties
  2. And if yes then was he protected under the Judicial Officers' Protection Act of 1850.

Arguments forwarded by the appellant:
  1. Sufficient information was present which suggested that the respondent was involved in some offences done by other people in the area on the lands which belonged to the respondent.
  2. The case was investigated thoroughly and he was discharged on 31 May 1950.
  3. The appellant had no malicious intention against the respondent, and the actions were protected under the Judicial Officers' Protection Act 1850.
  4. The deputy. Commissioner ordered the arrest respondent under section 436 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860.[1]
  5. A sub-divisional magistrate could take cognizance of any offence under section 190 of the code of criminal procedure, 1898.[2]
  6. The magistrate took the action under section 204 of the code of criminal procedure 1898.[3]
  7. The magistrate had discharged his judicial duties and is entitled to get protection under Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1850.
  8. Magistrate said that he acted so because of the order of the deputy commissioner and he cannot confirm the source from which the deputy commissioner made the order of arrest of the plaintiff.

Arguments forwarded by the respondent:
  1. No complaint was on records of the police mentioning the respondent on whose basis the officer could take cognisance.
  2. The deputy commissioner in his statement denied that he gave any orders regarding the arrest of the respondent.

Decision Of The Court:
The Judicial Officers Protection, 1850 provides exemption to a judicial officer only when he is discharging his judicial duties. If the said act falls under his jurisdiction then the protection is absolute no liability lies against him even if the act was erroneous or illegal, or was done with bad intention.

The decision clearly stated that no formal complaint was lodged with the police against the respondent alleging him with any offence and in the absence of a complaint in writing the facts stating the offence power will not be exercised. The High Court understood it as an admission without any implication because he did not even tried to justify his actions by arguing that he acted so under the specific order given by the Deputy Commissioner.

The Deputy Commissioner denied giving such authority to the appellant. The respondent was booked under the Indian Penal Code and further directed for his arrest. It was held that the protection under the Judicial Officers' Act will not be given to the appellant.

The base of this judgement was that the act done does not fall under his jurisdiction and he believed to have the jurisdiction in good faith and hence he cannot be given the immunity from the Judicial Officer' Act, 1850.

Decision of the High court:
The decision of the High Court of Assam in Anowar Hussain vs Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee was to confirm the decree of Rs. 5,000 as damages awarded to Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee by the Subordinate Judge of Lower Assam District. The High Court held that Anowar Hussain had acted without any lawful authority or reasonable cause in arresting and detaining Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee, and that he had violated his constitutional rights under Article 22[4] of the Constitution. The High Court also rejected the defence of good faith and official duty raised by Anowar Hussain.

Precedents followed in this case:
In the case of Tayen V. Ram Lal,[5] the court rendered a significant decision with regard to the Judicial Officers Act. This legal pronouncement established a fundamental principle: the primary intent of the Judicial Officers Act is to shield judicial officers from legal actions initiated as a response to their actions or directives carried out during the course of their official duties as judicial officers. However, it's essential to emphasize that this defense can exclusively be invoked when the actions in question are explicitly categorized as judicial acts.

The Judicial Officers Act thus emerges as a crucial safeguard, extending substantial protection to judges and magistrates while they discharge their judicial responsibilities. This statute serves as a legal bulwark against potential legal challenges that might arise due to the nature of their official functions. By putting a threshold to the scope of immunity with precision, the Act ensures that judges and magistrates can fulfill their roles without the constant threat of personal legal repercussions. In doing so, it not only upholds the integrity of the judiciary but also ensures that justice can be administered without fear or favour, thereby bolstering the bedrock of a fair and impartial legal system.

Case Commentary:
The appeal was filed by Anowar Hussain, a lawyer by profession for claiming compensation from the respondent, namely Ajoy kumar who is a sub - divisional officer in the Kamrup district of Assam. The compensation was claimed for the tort of false imprisonment. False imprisonment refers to intentionally restraining a person from exercising his freedom to move freely, without any lawful justification.

The issue raised in this case was if a judicial officer can be liable for his erroneous decision while discharging his/ her official duty. The court in this case upheld that the arrest of the appellant without a warrant was illegal. Here the immunity from the Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1850 could not be claimed because the magistrate had exceeded the jurisdiction and he had full knowledge of the same.

The court observed that the defendant had violated the fundamental right of personal liberty of the plaintiff guaranteed by Article 21[6] of the constitution. In my opinion the respondent was liable to pay compensation as the purpose of the said act was to protect the judicial officers from any consequences which they may to face while discharging their judicial duties, and thus empowering them to give justice without having to fear any repercussions.

This act did give a free hand to the judicial officers and they might use this immunity for malicious acts but if we look at the larger picture, it made the judicial officers free from the fear of having to face any legal proceeding against their decisions. So, according to me the decision of the honourable court is the right course of action and served justice.

  • Anowar Hussain v. Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee, 1965 SCC Online SC 1
  • Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1850
  • Tayen v. Ram Lal, ILR 12 All 115
  • PEN. CODE. � 436
  • CODE CRIM. PROC. � 190
  • CODE CRIM. PROC. � 204
  • INDIA CONST. art. 22
  • Tayen V. Ram Lal, ILR 12 All 115
  • INDIA CONST. art. 21

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