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Case Analysis: Union Of India V/s Prafulla Kumar Samal, 1979 Scr(2)229

Relevant Facts
  • Prafulla Kumar Samal, respondent No. 1 who was a joint secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for the duration between April,1966 to January,1969. After that he also worked in the ministry of foreign affairs as a joint secretary till November,1971. He then changed his job and worked under Ministry of Education and Social welfare
  • While the respondent no. 2, Debi Prasad Jena worked as a Land acquisition officer, Orissa. His tenure was from February 1972 � August 1973
  • All India Radio Authorities in the year of 1969 were interested in buying the piece of land in the area of Cuttak so as to provide quarters to their staff members and hence wanted to start a construction.
  • The authorities of All India Radio came to know that there is a land along with a structure who belonged to respondent No 1 situated in Cuttak only. So, they approached him through his mother which certainly did not work and things were not materialized.
  • The authorities then approached to the collector of Cuttak to determine the price of the area so as to obtain it
  • To fix the valuation of the land a revenue officer by the tehsildar was sent who proclaimed that the land being of respondent 1 was his private land which was fixed at the rate of Rs 3000 per sq ft (1080) also said as guntha.
  • This land in particular was a khasmal land (After the zamindari system the seized land was brought under khasmal estate, this covers government and rayayti land) and was first leased out to Mr. Boment in late 1943 for about 30 years the land was with him which after his death was inherited by his wife. She then transferred the property to P.K. Samal with the consent of khasmal authorities.
  • P.K Samal wrote a letter to S Gill that the land may be acquired by mutual consenting of price as and when he got to know about All India Authorities wanted to obtain the land.
  • It was alleged by the appellant that the respondent no. 1 and respondent no. 2 have come into the conspiracy of showing that he is the undisputed owner of the land and taking a huge compensation of the land which was actually a government�s land and respondent no. 2 being a land acquisition officer has helped and instigated respondent no.1 in doing so.
  • The matter is now listed before the supreme court, appeal has been sought in reference to the order given by the high court.

Procedural History Of The Case
Charge sheet under section 173 of Code of criminal procedure, 1973(CrPc), was framed by the police and the same was submitted before the special judge, who after scrutinizing the charge sheet and the statement of the witness made to the police.

The judge was of the view that there is no sufficient ground in framing of the charge under section 227 of the CrPc, 1973. The appellant was unsatisfied with the order of the special judge and moved to the high court in revision against the order, declining to frame charge. High court upheld the decision given by the special court and dismissed the revision petition.

Appellant then filed a special leave petition in the supreme court, the matter then proceeded in the court.

Relevant Law
The law in question in this case is section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 227 talks about discharge which says that � if upon consideration of the record of the case and the documents submitted herewith, and after hearing the submissions of the accused and the prosecution in this behalf, the judge considers that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, he shall discharge the accused and will record its reasons�

The appellant has brought this case under section 5(1) (d) and 5 (2) of the prevention of corruption act along with 120-B of IPC

But the case mainly revolves around section 227 because the Special judge refused to frame the charge and the matter went to the supreme court with this section of being in dispute. As the high court and special judge did not found any sufficient ground to frame a charge and hence dismissed the case so same was brought before the supreme court.

Issues In Dispute
Whether there are no sufficient grounds in framing of the charge under section 227 of the CrPc, 1973?
Whether respondent no. 1 and respondent no. 2 have done conspiracy against the appellant and has committed an offence under section 5(1) (d) and 5(2) of the prevention of corruption act read along with section 120-B of Indian Penal Code and acted illegally?
Arguments Advanced
  1. The supreme court took into view that the offences which are committed under the prevention of corruption act is regulated by the procedure of Criminal Law Amendment act, police has to submit the charge sheet to the special judge, section 227 applies when the charge sheet is submitted before the special judge.In a case it was held that where even if there is no strong suspicion about the accused committing the offence, it will be sufficient for the sessions trial to frame the charge. The court under the code of 1898 held that the committing magistrate has enough of his powers to weigh the evidence for a limited purpose as to find out that whether or not case of commitment has made out by the sessions judge.[1]

    The following principles were emerged by the supreme court under section 227:
    • The judge while dealing with the case can sift and weigh the evidence so as to find out whether the case is made or not, whether the charges will be framed under section 227 of the code.
    • Where there is a grave suspicion that the accused has made an offence, whether court explains this or not will be enough to frame charge.
    • The test to determine that the case is made against the accused or not depends on fact to fact therefore no universal application can be made. Also, if there is a suspicion but not so grave, the judge has the right to discharge the accused.
    • The judge under the code who is a senior and experienced court exercising the jurisdiction under section 227 cannot act as a mouthpiece of the prosecution, it has to look into a broader perspective by weighing down the evidence and documents and the basic infirmities. But that doesn�t mean that judge will do a roving enquiry by listing down pros and cons as he was conducting a trial.[2]
    Under the current case the special judge formed no grave suspicion about Mr. Samal as he had not hide anything about the land. The land belonged to the government and not was own private land. The same was supported by evidence and witnesses.
  2. The appellant contended that the respondent no. 1 has abused his position and concealing the fact the land is a khasmal land belonging to the government and demanded a huge compensation thereof. But the high court in its reply stated that from the very instance it was very clear that the land is a khasmal land near the cantonment area of Cuttak and that Mr. Samal was the lessee of the property.
The witness Mr. Vijyashekaran, collector of Cuttak who was interrogated by police also gave a statement that it is very familiar that those lands belonged to government and that this is the common knowledge of every person.

Another witness who was a land acquisition officer, Mr. B.C Mohantay who submitted a report in 1971 stating that the land belonged to the government and that Mr. Samal is a lessee of the land.

Appellant alleged that as soon as Mr. Samal got to know that All India Authority wated this land. He sent a letter to S.Gill stating that the land can be acquired by setting up a mutual price. But it is to be noted that nowhere in the letter did Mr. Samal concealed the fact that it belonged to government, exhibit for the same was presented before the court. Which wrote that a proper valuation of his government land should be done as a land on a adversely situated land is fixed at higher value than this land which is situated in more of a suitable location.

A copy of a lease agreement by respondents was submitted which showed that the lease will renew automatically every year unless lessee, Mr. Samal violates the lease. He didn�t do any fraud by writing a letter to the government and saying to fix the valuation at a better price as it is on a better location to those which are adversely situated government land.

Therefore, high court drew an inference stating that the fact that respondent 1 has concealed the very fact of his land being the government land and acting illegally by abusing of his official powers in astraying the appellants has been falsified. The government records itself showed the nature of the land. And respondent No. 1 never portrayed to be its own private land.

Another contention which was raised by the appellant was that the pace with the acquisition proceedings has started and ended clearly shows that the respondent 1 & 2 has joined their hands to get the lands acquired and claim the compensation and full fill the needs of the All India Radio authorities. It was submitted by them that the copies of the right were prepared on march 1972. Report was also prepared on the same date and the deed to transfer by the first respondent was also presented on the very same day. The amount was also awarded which was Rs. 4,18.642.55 on the same day. Possession was eventually transferred on the same day.

Appellant contended that it is very clear that the respondent no. 2 worked hurriedly on the part of respondent no. 1. As respondent 1 being at such a reputed position a high respect is placed for him and the work has been processed quickly.

It was pointed out by the high court that the other land acquisition officer B. C mohantay before the possession was handed over to the All India Radio authorities, in the month of march he sent a letter to the government sanctioned by the collector for the acquisition of 2 acres which was later reduced to 1.764 acres as was desired by the revenue officer and was sent to him on 7th of march 1972, and the estimated amount of 4,18,642.55 was sent on 8th of march 1972. The home department also by the letter dated 11th of march 1972 sanctioned the estimate. After which the government directed the collector that the award might be passed for 1.764 acres.

Therefore, the allegations made by the appellant that both the respondents have conspired together cannot be said to be true as they wouldn�t have known how much award they are getting. The area for which the letter was sent was for 2 acres but the actual acres sanctioned by the government was 1.764 acres.

Appellant further said that respondent No.1 wrote a letter to vigilance officer that he is the Karta of Hindu undivided family and that he would get an amount of 4,18,642.55 by 15th of march. But the high court did not agree with this counter as placed by the appellant.

Respondents cited a case which said that whenever a government has an interest in some kind of a land which is subject of acquisition, then its interest will always be outside such acquisition because there is no point for the government in acquiring its own property. To determine the compensation payable an investigation regarding to the interest can be made.[3]
It was also held that where it was contended that the Land Acquisition Officer has not valued the compensation which later was found that the officer has weighed the rights of the respondent and made the valuation.[4]

In the current case when the proceedings were carried out in the High Court then it was held that government was very well aware of the fact that the land belonged to the government itself and the interest which was acquired was that of the lessee�s and the fresh estimate of Rs 4,18,642.55 was sanctioned duly by the government.

The council of the respondent put forward that the compensation amount was himself reduced by the respondent no. 1 through communicating with the revenue officer.

The supreme court held the high court�s judgement and dismissed the appeal.

Legal Background
Section 227 under the code of 1898, where judges were to take the prosecution witness after providing due opportunity to the accused to cross-examine the witness.

Then to hear the parties and to commit to court of session, unless he finds under section 209 of 1898 that there is no sufficient grounds for bringing the trial against accused.

The magistrate under the court is empowered to take the evidence and documents as produced by the police and refer the case to the sessions court if it is triable by that court only.

Therefore, the code of 1898 has put a dual responsibility on the shoulders of the magistrate who first examine the case according the statements given by the witness and the documents produced by the police. And checking that whether a direct case is made on the accused. The rationale behind making this law by the legislature is to prevent any baseless trial and to prevent accused being prosecuted of conviction which does not have any material evidence to support it.

In this particular case also, the special judge has taken the place of the sessions judge and the procedure of the sessions judge has been fully applied to the trial this has been done so as to expediate the criminal process.

As far as section 209 of the code of criminal procedure, 1898 is concerned, where it was the magistrate to decide the point of discharge, the power is now with the sessions judge who has to decide before the commencement of trial that whether or not charges should be framed against the accused. The discretion made by the who is senior and experienced his decision should not be interrupted by high court or this court as laid down in the case of union of India vs Prafulla Kumar Samal & others 1979 (2) SCR 229

The special judge in this case enumerated four major principles for section 227 which in short are that the judge can sift and weigh the evidence to see if a charge can be framed or not. Secondly, when the evidence is so likely to produce a grave suspicion then the court can frame charge. Thirdly, the test that whether accused has committing an offence and the charge should be made or not depends on the facts of each case and therefore no universal application can be laid in this respect.

Fourthly, while applying section 227 the judge will not act as the mouthpiece of the prosecution, it will apply its mind and weigh the evidence to come to a conclusion and not deeply engross itself into the pros and cons like a trial.

These principles have helped the supreme court to make a clarity and to arrive at a conclusion.

Interpretation Of Law
Under section 227 the judge considers the documents submitted and then if he finds that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding after hearing the submissions of the accused and the prosecution, judge can discharge the accused and record its reasons.

If after hearing both the parties the Judge is of the opinion that there is a ground for framing of the charge then the same will be done under section 228 which talks about framing of charge.
Section 208 of the code, 1973 says that where the case has been instituted otherwise than on police report and the magistrate thinks that the issuing process will be done by the session judge then the magistrate without any delay sed free of cost the copy of the following:
  1. Statements which are recorded under section 200 or section 20, or all of the persons examined by the magistrate.
  2. The statements or confessions that may be recorded under section 161 and 164 of the code.
  3. Any documents which are produced before the magistrate pn which the prosecution rely.
But if the magistrate is satisfied that any such document is voluminous then he shall instead of furnishing a copy to the accused allow him to only inspect the documents personally or through a pleader.

Section 209 of the code, 1973 talks about when a case is constituted on the police report or otherwise and the accused appears or is brought before the magistrate and it appears to the magistrate that the offence if triable by the sessions court then the judge shall:
  1. Commit the case to the court of session after applying 207 or 208 as the case maybe and keep the accused in custody in cases of remand or bail until such commitment has been made
  2. According to the provision of this code relating to bail remand the accused will remain in the custody during and until the conclusion of the trial has been made.
  3. Send the record of the case and the documents and the articles or any evidence produced to that court.
  4. Notify the public prosecutor about the commitment of the case to the court of the session.
Therefore, the section 227 is to be read along with section 209, 208. As when the case is triable by the court of session and the magistrate comes to know about the same then the documents and other requirements are made by the magistrate to send to the court of session. And under 227 the judge has the power to discharge the accused when there is no sufficient ground to frame a charge. Which was done in this particular case and it was the special judge who made this decision which was upheld by high court and then finally by supreme court.

Ratio Of The Case
A two-judge bench has sat in this case. The bench has upheld the decision made by the high court which made clear that the respondent no. 1 did not abuse his official power and has not acted illegally, that the land was of government and nowhere did he conceal the fact. The letter which he sent regarding the valuation clearly wrote that his land was of government�s land.

And asking for a better valuation is not wrong. Respondent no. 1 being the lessee has a interest acquired into the property. And for the same the high court judges has weighed and sifted the evidence and have also took the statement of the witnesses into consideration.

The point of law which has been discussed by the high court is that there is no sufficient ground so as to frame a charge which means that the court applies its mind according the facts and the circumstances of the case and not merely act blindly by the word of the prosecution.

The Ruling In The Case
The ruling of the case was that the respondents are not in a conspiracy and has not committed any offence because simply the respondent has not concealed the very fact which was alleged by the appellant claimed was hidden from the government authorities. The court therefore did not frame charges against the respondents and discharged him. The appeal was dismissed, appellant lost the case. And the supreme court agreed to the decision of high court.

  1. State of bihar vs ramesh singh, 1978 1 SCR 257
  2. Union of india vs Prafulla kumar samal 1979 SCR (2) 229
  3. Collector of Bombay vs nuserwanji ratanji Mistri and ors AIR 1972 SC 2224
  4. The special land acquisition officer, hosanagar vs k.s Ramachandran rao & ors AIR 1955 SC 298

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Soumya Singh
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: AP33838234184-29-0421

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