In the Supreme Court of India Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction Case No. 1952 AIR 123, 1952 SCR 435 Appellants Kathi Raning Rawat Respondent State of Saurashtra Decided on 27th February, 1952 Bench Patanjali Sastri, C.J; Saiyid Fazl Ali; K. Mukherjea; C. Mahajan; Sudhi Ranjan Das; Chandrasekhara Aiyar; Vivian Bose.
The appellant was punished for death for the offence of murder under §302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and seven years of rigorous punishment each under §§ 307 and 392 of Indian Penal Code. The unique feature is the case is decided by the Special Courts established under Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures Ordinance, 1949. The Special Courts followed a special treatment which was questioned by the appellant on discriminatory classification of offences and treatment of such offences. Thus the jurisdiction of the criminal jurisdiction of courts was question before the Special Courts, followed by High Court, later a binding judgment was rendered by the Hon’ble Apex Court of India.
The present case shares similar factual matrix as that of State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar. In the mentioned case, the criminal appeal was partly allowed but was adjourned to enable the respondent state to file an affidavit explaining the circumstances under which the Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 1949, hereinafter will be referred to as the impugned ordinance.
Constitution and Statutory Provisions
- § 7 to 18 of Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures Ordinance.
- Article 14 of Constitution of India, 1949.
- § 34, 302, 307 and 392 of Indian Penal Code, 1860
The impugned ordinance amends the Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures Ordinance (No. IX of 1948) which was aimed at maintenance of public order and preservation of peace and tranquility in the State of Saurashtra by constituting special Courts of criminal jurisdiction. The Courts’ procedure was different from normal criminal courts as the special Courts consists of abolition of jury or with the aid of assessors, the elimination of inquiry before session cases, no commitment proceeding is needed and special judge can take cognizance of case, no court has jurisdiction to transfer the case from Special Judge. Moreover, neither the distinct procedures are also not mandatory under the normal criminal procedures nor such deviation will imperil the chances of a fair and impartial trial. With the power conferred to government, notification was issued dated 9/11 February, 1950 directing that Special Courts can deal with §§ 302, 307 and 392 read with §34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. The person has to approach the High Court for appeal within 15 days of sentence. §§ 491 and 526 of the Criminal Procedure Code will not apply to any person tried by Special Judges and High Court is having the power to act according to §§ 423, 426, 427 and 428 of the Code.
The present case under analysis was preceded by State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar. In this case, the appellant was convicted under the impugned ordinance. The criminal jurisdiction of the special Court under the impugned Ordinance was contended to be discriminatory and void in the present case under analysis which was rejected by Special Judge and also by the High court of Saurashtra. The appellant now seeks the decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through a criminal appeal.
Issues which were in Challenge
- Whether the impugned law is violative of Article 14 by imposing an unreasonable classification of offences and differential treatment of people in different areas?
- Whether the impugned law is a product of excessive delegated legislation?
- Whether the impugned law is constitutionally void under Article 13(1) of Constitution of India, 1949?
Contentions of Appellant
- 11 of Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures Ordinance and the notification dated February, 1950 are discriminatory as the procedures to be followed by the courts and jurisdiction varies depending upon the territory.
- §9 and 11 of the impugned ordinance grants power to government to amend §5 of Criminal Procedure Code which is an excessive delegation to executive government that was beyond the legislative competence and hence void under Article 13(1) of Constitution of India, 1949.
- Variation of procedure which operates materially detrimental and disadvantageous to public was discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of Constitution of India.
- The offence of particular character included excludes another offence of cognate character; here the selection of offences is of no rational basis which is a clear projection of discrimination.
Contentions of the respondent
- In case of personal liberty, the constitutional safeguards were given only in Article 20 to 22 of constitution of India and in the present case only Article 21 applies. The special procedure satisfies the conditions of Article 21 and thus it cannot be held to be unconstitutional.
- The offences of looting, robbery, dacoity, nose cutting and murder by marauding gangs is in hike in certain areas which necessitates special courts to maintain peace and security of the state.
- The differentiation can take place with or without reason. But the classification itself will not lead to differential treatment or unequal treatment as different persons are governed by different factors. If the classification is based on genuine objective then it is saved and here the aim is to maintain state and ensure security of state. There must be a nexus with the classification and purpose of the Act. The impugned notification applies to 49 offences and are directly linked with maintenance of public order and preservation of peace and tranquility.
- The ordinance has to be read with preamble which differentiates the ordinance with the West Bengal Act.
- The state government has not referred to certain individual cases but to offences of certain kinds committed in certain areas and hence it is not discrimination.
- All legislative differentiation is not discriminatory. Discrimination is not explained in Article 14 but in Article 15 and 16 and if classification is discriminatory with unfavorable bias within the context of Articles 15 and 16. The position of Article 14 is different.
- The Acts are supported by presumption of constitutionality of the acts of the State. The power of the State to constitute different courts with different procedures in different areas is a part of police power.
- The deviance in procedure is strong enough to repudiate the presumption of constitutionality but it must deny fair and impartial trial, a part of equal protection clause of Article 14 which remains as the important bulwark against discriminatory procedural laws.
- The impugned ordinance lacks the disputable features as that of the West Bengal Act and also does not take away the revision powers of the High Court of Saurashtra.
- Since the rate of crimes is increasing in the specified area, it becomes necessary on the part of the government to adopt special procedure to eradicate the crimes which is a genuine object.
- The appellant is a person punished with murder under §302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 which is the most heinous crime and it cannot be given equal footing even to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The plea of differential treatment may succeed for a person who has committed less severe offence where the convict will be getting the advantages of using special treatment but here there is no differential disadvantageous treatment in case of murder.
- The classification made has not singled out a particular person or a particular class and thus this classification cannot be held to be discriminatory.
- This special treatment results in speedier trial which is in consonance with the constitution.
- Regarding classification, it tended only to obscure the real nature of the problems for which we have to find the solution.
- If the legislative policy is clear and definite and as an effect method of carrying out the policy which gives discretion upon a body of administrators or officers to make selective application of the law to certain classes or group of persons then the piece of legislation cannot be considered as a discriminatory legislation after all. Such discretion must not be unguided and it must be for the purpose of fulfilling the object of the policy.
- The dissenting opinion was rendered by M.C. Mahajan, B.K. Mukherjea and N. Chandrasekhara Aiyar.
- The case was said to be similar to that of State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar,  S.C.R. 284, where the §5(1) of the West Bengal Special Courts Act, 1950 which was held unconstitutional.
- Though the classification does not seem to be discriminatory on face, it is discriminatory in its effect and operation by conferring exemplary power to the executive government unregulated government discretion. Similarly, §11 of the impugned ordinance is giving no reasonable classification with respect to offences or cases. For example, simple hurt of punishment for 2 years is included in the list whereas, §308 of Indian Penal Code which is of heavier punishment is not included in the list which shows that classification is made with reasonable basis and gives scope for discrimination.
- 11 of the impugned ordinance is unconstitutional and hence the conviction by the special judge is bad and must be quashed and the appellant must be reiterated to Criminal Procedure Code.
- The impugned ordinance gives wide power to the government to take action and these words cannot limit the plain and unambiguous language of §11 of the ordinance.
- § 9 and 11 of the impugned ordinance is not laying down any classification on itself and thus there exists differential treatment.
- Though the facts are true pertaining to the rise in crime rates, it does not require a new legal inclusion. There is no need for subjecting the ordinance under classification test as the differentiation travels beyond bounds that are legitimate.
The case was analysed in detailed regarding the special treatment of certain offences which was in hike. It was an attempt made by legislature to implement speedy trail and ensure security of the state and maintenance of public order. The court criticized the appeal of the appellant as he was a convict of death penalty and he must not misuse the advantages of differential treatment and also the court established that there is no differential treatment in the present case. Thus the court established that the Special Courts are having the criminal jurisdiction to deal with the offences and the comparison is made with West Bengal Act and held that the deviances in the Act are not present in the impugned ordinance. The court also held that there is no delegated legislation as it is a necessary effort to curb crimes and there was a guided discretion given to executive government to fulfill the aims of the ordinance.
1. Re The Delhi Laws Act, 1912,  S.C.R. 747.
2. K. Gopalan v. State of Madras.Union of India,  S.C.R. 88.
3. State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar,  S.C.R. 284.
4. Tinger v. Texas, 310 U.S. 141.
5. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356.
6. Jack Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535.
7. King Emperor v. Benoarilal Sarma, 72 I.A. 57.
8. Rule of Queen v. Burah 3 App. Cas. 889.
9. Chiranjit Lal Choudhury v. The Union of India,  S.C.R. 869.
10. State of Bombay v. F. N. Balsara, AIR 1951 SC 318.
 S.C.R. 284