05 August 1964
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal (crl.) 24 of 1963






DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/08/1964


CITATION:  1965 AIR  871            1965 SCR  (1)   7  CITATOR INFO :  R          1974 SC1158  (4)  RF         1991 SC1289  (16)

ACT: Delhi  Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 (Act 66 of 1957),  s. 418(1)--Impounding of cattle-Delegation of authority,  scope of-"Abandoned"  meaning  of-Private  defence  under  s.  99, Indian Penal Code, 1860, extent of.

HEADNOTE: The  members  of  a  raiding  party  led  by  the  Licensing Inspector of the Delhi Corporation having taken into custody 25 or 30 stray cattle, were, while taking them to the cattle pound,  belaboured with lathis by the three  appellants  and their friends, as a result of which they received injuries. It was contended on behalf of the appellants that (i)  there was no proper delegation ’of authority to impound cattle  in favour  of  the persons forming the raiding  party,  by  the Commissioner,  whose  personal  presence  to  supervise  the exercise  of  the  delegated authority  was,  in  any  case, required  by the very order delegating the  authority;  (ii) the  cattle  were  not "abandoned" in  the  sense  of  being "ownerless",  and therefore could not be legally  impounded; and (iii) that the injuries were inflicted by the appellants in the lawful exercise of their right of private defence  of property. HELD  : (i) The order of the Commissioner placed before  the Court  along  with  the statement of case  proved  that  the Commissioner had authorised licensing Inspectors to  impound stray  cattle.   Section  418(1)  of  the  Delhi   Municipal Corporation  Act,  1957 (Central Act 66 of  1957),  did  not require that the delegation of power must be to  particular, named,  individuals.  Nor was the personal presence  of  the Commissioner  to  supervise the exercise  of  the  delegated power necessary although according to the terms of the order the delegation was "subject to my supervision’, control  and revision." [11E-F]. (ii) In  the context in which the word "abandoned"  occurred in  section  418(1),  the meaning which  can  reasonably  be attached  to it is "let loose" in the sense of  being  "left unattended"  and certainly not "ownerless".  It is the  duty



of  the Court in construing a statute to give effect to  the intention  of the legislature so as to "advance  the  remedy and  suppress the mischief".  The legislature when  it  used the word "abandoned" in section 418(1) did not intend to say that the cattle must be "ownerless". [12E-G]. Maxwell  on Interpretation of Statutes (11th Edn.) pp.  221- 224 and 266, referred to. (iii)     Section  99 of the Indian Penal Code  specifically says  that there is no right of private defence  against  an act  which  does not reasonably cause  the  apprehension  of death or of grievous hurt, if done, or attempted to be  done by  the direction of a public servant acting in good  faith, tinder colour of his office.  The protection extends even to acts  which will not be strictly justified by law.   In  the present  case  the  act was fully justifiable  by  the  law. There  was  thus no right of private defence that  could  be claimed by the appellants. [13B-C]. 8

JUDGMENT: CRIMINAL  APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal Appeal No. 24  of 1963. Appeal  by special leave from the judgment and  order  dated November 19, 1962, of the Punjab High Court (Circuit  Bench) at Delhi in Criminal Revision No. 337-D of 1962. R.   L. Kohli, for the appellants. H.   R. Khanna and R. N. Sachthey, for the respondent. The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Mudholkar  J.  This is an appeal by special leave  from  the summary   dismissal  of  the  appellants’  application   for revision by the High Court of Punjab. Eight  persons were tried by the Assistant  Sessions  Judge, Delhi,  for  offences  under  s. 148,  S.  333/149,  and  s. 332/149,  Indian Penal Code.  He acquitted five of them  but convicted  the three appellants before us of all  the  three offences and sentenced them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for  one  year  in  respect of the  offence  under  S.  148, rigorous  imprisonment  for  two years  in  respect  of  the offence  under S. 332/149, rigorous imprisonment  for  three years for the offence under S. 333/149 and ordered that  all the   sentences  will  run  concurrently.   In  appeal   the Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, set aside the  convictions and sentences passed on the appellants for offences under S. 148  and S. 333/149, altered the conviction of each  of  the appellants  from one under S. 332/149 to S. 322  simpliciter and  awarded the same sentence in respect of it as had  been awarded  by the Assistant Sessions Judge in respect  of  the offence under s. 332/149. Briefly  stated the prosecution case was that  on  September 16,  1961, Mukhtiar Singh, Licensing Inspector of the  Delhi Municipal Corporation organised a raiding party for catching stray  cattle  within the limits of  the  Corporation.   The party  consisted of Balbir Singh, Enforcement Inspector,  H. K. Bhanot, Sanitary Inspector, Kishan Singh, Head Constable, three  foot constables and five cattle-catchers.  The  party reached the neigbourhood of Mori Gate Chowk at about 5  a.m. and  rounded up about 25 ,or 30 stray cattle  consisting  of buffaloes  and  cows.  While they were taking  them  to  the Nigambodh  Ghat cattle pound via Nicholson Road,  the  three appellants who were carrying lathis with them approached the party  and  threatened them that unless  they  released  the cattle  they would have to face serious  consequences.   The members  of  the party informed them who they were  and  the



cattle-catcbers showed them their identity cards. 9 They explained to them that it was their duty to catch stray cattle,  to impound them and that the appellants  could  get them  released  by taking the steps provided by  the  rules. This, however, only enraged the appellants who raised shouts asking  their friends to come along with lathis in order  to help them to get the cattle released by force.  Upon hearing the  shouts  the other accused persons arrived at  the  spot with lathis, joined the appellants and all of them assaulted the  members of the party, caused injuries to them  and  got the  cattle released by force.  As a result of the  assault, P.W.  2 Kishan Singh sustained a grievous injury as well  as some  simple  injuries, P.W. 14 Khem, P.W. 20  Padam  Singh, P.W. 10 Iqbal Singh, P.W. 19 Nil Bahadur, P.W. 12 Ram  Mehar sustained  simple  injuries.   The incident was  seen  by  a number  of persons who happened to come to the spot at  that time. Eventually   a   report   was  lodged   with   the   police, investigation was taken up and the appellants and the  other accused  were placed before a First Class  Magistrate,  who, after making a preliminary enquiry, committed them for trial by the Court of Sessions. We are not concerned with the defence of the accused persons who were acquitted.  The defence of the appellants was  that they  were  bringing the cattle after grazing  and  watering them  and that when they approached Mori Gate at about  4.30 a.m.  a  group  of  persons  under  the  employment  of  the Corporation  met them, belaboured them and  eventually  took them in a van to the police station.  The appellants further say  that they had acted in the exercise of their  right  of private  defence of their property.  Their defence has  been rejected ’by the courts below. Before  us  Mr.  Kohli who appears for  the  appellants  has raised  two  points.  The first point is  that  the  raiding party  had no authority to seize and impound the cattle  and the second point is that the appellants who were the  owners of  the  cattle  had a right of  private  defence  of  their property,  that what they did was in exercise of that  right and that, therefore, their conviction under s.    332    was bad in law. The power to impound stray cattle is contained in s.  418(1) of  the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 (66 of  1957), which runs thus :               "If  any  horses, cattle  or  other  quadruped               animals  or birds are kept on any premises  in               contravention  of  the provisions  of  section               417, or are found abandoned               10               and  roaming  or  tethered on  any  street  or               public  place or on any land belonging to  the               Corporation,  the Commissioner or any  officer               empowered by him may seize them and may  cause               them to be impounded or removed to such  place               as  may be appointed by the Government or  the               Corporation  for the purpose and the  cost  of               seizure  of  these  animals or  birds  and  Of               impounding......  or  removing  them  and   of               feeding and watering them shall be recoverable               by  sale  or by auction Of  those  animals  or               birds;"               The   proviso  which  would  be  relevant   in               connection with another point runs thus:               "Provided that any one claiming such animal or               bird  may, within seven days of  the  seizure,



             get  them released on his paying all  expenses               incurred  by  the  Commissioner  in   seizing,               impounding  or  removing and  in  feeding  and               watering such animal or bird, and on his  pro-               ducing a licence for keeping these animals and               birds  issued under the provisions of  section               417." The  power under this section can be delegated by  the  Com- missioner.   But according to Mr. Kohli delegation  of  this power  has  not been established in this case.  It  is  true that  the  Order of the Commissioner  delegating  the  power under  s. 418(1) is not on the record of the case.  It  has, however,  been placed before us along with the statement  of the case.  That order runs thus:               "In exercise of the powers conferred on me  by               section 491 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation               Act,  1957,  1 hereby direct  that  the  power               conferred  on me under section 418(1)  of  the               said  Act  shall subject  to  my  supervision,               control and revision be exercised also by  the               Municipal  employees mentioned in column 3  of               the schedule given below to the extent  stated               in column 4 of the schedule. Sd/- P. R. Nayak, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Delhi.                SCHEDULE - Section   Nature of power     Designation of       Scope                Municipal employees 418(1) Seizure of certain Licensing Inspectors In respect of              animals      Licensing Inspectors stray cattle                                                  only                                                   do 11 Mr. Kohli, however, said that the delegation of power is in- effective  because, according to him, it purports to make  a general  delegation of power and does not specify the  names of persons to whom the power is delegated.  A perusal of the schedule below the order shows that the power of seizure  of certain animals is specifically delegated and it is  clearly indicated in column 4 thereof as follows: "In respect of stray cattle only" In  the  third  column  the  designation  of  the  municipal employees  to  whom  the power is delegated  has  also  been given.   The  section  does not require  the  names  of  the particular  officers in whose favour the delegation is  made to  be  mentioned.   What  it requires  is  to  specify  the officers  to whom the power is delegated.  This  only  means that  the designation of the officers to whom the power  has been  delegated  need only to be mentioned.  That  has  been done.   We may add that s. 491 of the Delhi Corporation  Act permits delegation to any municipal officer or employee and, therefore,   specific   individual  authorisation   is   not necessary. Then  Mr.  Kohli  says  that  the  words  in  the  order  of delegation  shall  subject to my  supervision,  control  and revision  be  exercised  also  by  the  Municipal  employees mentioned  in column 3 of the schedule" would show that  the Commissioner’s actual presence   on the spot was  necessary. It   is  sufficient  to  say  that  "shall  subject  to   my supervision etc.," does not mean "under my supervision etc." All  that the order contemplates is that the  delegation  of power to the municipal employees is not absolute but subject to  the overall authority of the Commissioner.  This  cannot



mean that whenever a delegated power is being exercised   by the  municipal employees the Commissioner shall be  required to be present. Mr. Kohli strenuously contended that the cattle could not be said to have been "abandoned" because the appellants who are their  owners  were actually present near the  animals  when they  were rounded up.  But this contention is  contrary  to the  finding  of each of the courts below which  is  to  the effect that the rounding up operation took half an hour  and that it was after the cattle were rounded up and were  being taken  to the cattle pound that the appellants  appeared  on the scene.  This finding cannot be allowed to be challenged. A  more  serious contention of Mr. Kohli, however,  is  that under  s.  418, cattle, which the Corporation  can  impound, must be ownerless or tethered on any street or public  place or land 12 belonging  to  the Corporation.  Admittedly  the  cattle  in question were not tethered on any such place and, therefore, Mr.  Kohli contends that their seizure was not  permissible. In  support of his contention that "abandoned"  implies  the complete  leaving of a thing as a final rejection  of  one’s responsibilities so that the thing becomes "ownerless",  Mr. Kohli  has  referred  us  to  the  Law  Lexicon  and  Oxford Dictionary.  The meanings relied on by him are as follows:               "A  thing banned or denounced as forfeited  or               lost, whence to abandon, desert, or forsake as               lost and gone." Wharton’s Law Lexicon.               "To let go, give up, renounce, leave off ;  to               cease  to hold, use or practise."  The  Oxford               English Dictionary, Vol.  1. In  the Oxford Dictionary the word is also said to mean  "to let  loose;  to  set  free;  to  liberate".   Several  other meanings of the word have been given both in that dictionary as well as in Wharton’s Law Lexicon.  In the latter as  also in   Jowitt’s   The   Dictionary  of   English   Law   under ’abandonment’  are  given cases from which it  would  appear that different meanings have been given to ’abandonment’  in different statutes. It will thus be seen that the meaning to be attached to  the word  ’abandoned’ would depend upon the context in which  it is used. in the context in which it occurs in S. 418(1), the meaning  which  can  reasonably  be  attached  to  the  word "abandoned"  is  ’let  loose’ in the sense  of  being  ’left unattended’  and certainly not ’ownerless’.  It is the  duty of  the court in construing a statute to give effect to  the intention  of  the  legislature.  If,  therefore,  giving  a literal   meaning   to  a  word  used  by   the   draftsman, particularly in a penal statute, would defeat the object  of the legislature, which is to suppress a mischief, the  court can  depart from the dictionary meaning or even the  popular meaning of the word and instead give it a meaning which will ’advance the remedy and suppress the mischief’. (see Maxwell on  Interpretation  of Statutes, 11th edn. pp.  221-224  and 266).   In the Act before us when the legislature  used  the word  "abandoned" it did not intend to say that  the  cattle must be ownerless.  This is implicit in the proviso to  sub- s.  (1)  of  S. 418 which says that any  one  ’claiming’  an animal which has been impounded under that sub-section  can, within  7  days of seizure, get it  released  on  fulfilling certain conditions.  Such a claim could only be made by 13 a person who is the owner of the animal impounded or who has at  least the custody of the animal.  We cannot,  therefore, accept the first point raised by Mr. Kohli.



Upon the finding that the raiding party was entitled in  law to impound the cattle no question of private defence arises. For,  S. 99 of the lndan Penal Code specifically  says  that there  is no right of private defence against an  act  which does  not reasonably cause the apprehension of death  or  of previous  hurt,,  if done, or attempted to be  done  by  the direction  of  a public servant acting in good  faith  under colour  of his office.  ’Me protection extends even to  acts which will not be strictly justifiable by law.  But here the act  was  fully justisiable by the law.  There  is  thus  no substance in the second point either. The appeal is dismissed. Appeal dismissed. p./64 -- 2 14