Macherla Hanumantha Rao & Ors V.
The State Of Andhra Pradesh  INSC 71 (17 September 1957)
SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.
DAS, SUDHI RANJAN (CJ) AIYYAR, T.L.
VENKATARAMA KAPUR, J.L.
CITATION: 1957 AIR 927 1958 SCR 396
Sessions Trial-Commitment Proceeding
instituted on Police report-Procedure, if makes for inequality before law-Code
of Criminal Procedure (Act V of 1898) as amended by the Code of Criminal
Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1955 (26 of 1955), ss. 207, 207A-Constitution of
India, Art. 14.
The point in controversy in this appeal was
whether SS. 207 and 207A inserted into the Code of Criminal Procedure by the
amending Act 26 of 1955, violated the provision of Art. 14 of the Constitution
and were, therefore, invalid in law.
The appellants were committed for trial to
the Court of Session by the inquiring 397 Magistrate in a proceeding instituted
against them on a Police report and he followed the procedure laid down in s. 207A
of the Code as required by s. 207 Of the Code. The appellants moved the High
Court for quashing the order of commitment on the ground that the provisions of
S. 207A introduced discrimination as against accused persons against whom
proceedings were' instituted on Police report and were unconstitutional in
character. The High Court held against them. The contention was reiterated in
this Court and it was sought to be made out that the provisions Of S. 207A of
the Code, in comparison and contrast to other provisions of Ch. XVIII of the
Code, prescribed a less advantageous procedure for the accused persons in a
proceeding started on Police report than the procedure prescribed for other
cases in the succeeding sections of the chapter.
Held, that ss. 207 and 207A of the Code were
not discriminatory and did not contravene Art. 14 of the Constitution and their
constitutional validity was beyond question.
Although there can be no doubt that the
impugned sections introduced substantial difference in the procedure relating
to commitment proceedings applicable to the two classes of cases, they did not
in any way affect the procedure at the trial, and the true test of the
constitutional validity of the classification they made, was whether it was
reasonable and pertinent to the object the Legislature had in view, namely, a
speedy trial of offences with the least possible delay.
So judged there could be no doubt that the
Legislature in prescribing the two different procedures at the commitment
stage, one for proceedings instituted on Police report and the other for those
that were not, had acted on a consideration that was reasonable and connected
with the object it had in view.
Budhan Choudhry v. The State of Bihar, (1955)
S.C.R. 1045, applied.
Matajog Dobey v. H. C. Bhari, (1955) 2 S.C.R.
925, Chiranjit Lal Chowdhuri v. The Union of India, (1950) S.C.R. 869, The
State of Bombay v. F. N. Balsara, (1951) S.C.R. 682, The State of West Bengal
v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, (1952) S.C.R. 284, Kathi Raning Rawat v. The State of
Saurashtra, (1952) S.C.R. 435, Lachmandas Kewalram Ahuja v. The State of
Bombay, (1952) S.C.R. 710, Qasim Razvi v. The State of Hyderabad, (1953) S.C.R.
581, Habeeb Mohamad v. The State of Hyderabad, (1953) S.C.R. 661 and The State
of Punjab v. Ajaib Singh, (1953) S.C.R. 254, referred to.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 57 of 1957 and Criminal Misc. Petition No. 294 of 1957.
Appeal from the judgment and order dated
September 28, 1956, of the former Andhra High Court at Guntur in Criminal
Revision Case No. 241 of 1956.
398 T. V. Sarma, K. Ramaseshayya Chaudhury
and T. S. Venkataraman, for the appellants.
T. V. R. Tatachari and T. M. Sen, for the
C. K. Daphtary, Solicitor-General of India
and T. M. Sen, for the Intervener (Union of India).
1957. September 17. The following Judgment of
the Court was delivered by SINHA J.-The only question that arises for
determination in this appeal on a certificate granted by the High Court of
Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad, under Art. 134(1)(c) of the Constitution, is the
constitutionality of the provisions of ss. 207 and 207A, Code of Criminal
Procedure (hereinafter referred to as the Code), which, read together, were
introduced into the Code by Act XXVI of 1955. The 26 appellants have been
committed to the Court of Session, Guntur Division, to take their trial for
offences punishable under ss. 147, 148, 323, 324 and 302, read with ss. 34 and
149, Indian Penal Code. They impleaded the State of Andhra Pradesh as the sole
respondent. The Union of India has been allowed to intervene on an application
made in that behalf in view of the fact that the provisions of the Central Act
have been impugned as unconstitutional.
For the purposes of this appeal, it is only
necessary to state the following relevant facts. The local police took
cognizance of a serious occurrence of rioting with murder on December 22, 1955.
The local police investigated the case, and after recording such evidence as it
could collect in respect of the occurrence, submitted a charge-sheet under the
aforesaid sections of the Indian Penal Code, to the magistrate having
jurisdiction to entertain the case. The magistrate, following the procedure
laid down in s. 207 A of the Code committed the persons shown in the
chargesheet as the accused persons, to take their trial before the Court of
Session. A number of applications in revision, under ss. 435 and 439 of the
Code, were made on behalf of the accused persons, to the High Court of 399
Andhra Pradesh, to quash the order of commitment, chiefly on the ground that
the said order having been passed under the provisions of s. 207A of the Code(
was void, as those provisions were unconstitutional for the reason that they
introduced discrimination as against accused persons in respect of whom a
police charge-sheet had been submitted.
The revisional applications were heard by
Krishna Rao J. who dismissed them, holding that the provisions impugned were
not unconstitutional and that, therefore, the order of commitment was valid in
law. The appellants applied for and obtained the necessary certificate under
Art. 134(1)(c) of the Constitution that the case was a fit one for appeal to
The arguments addressed to the High Court
have been repeated in this Court and are to the effect that ss. 207 and 207A,
as they now stand, provide for two separate procedures in the committing court,
namely, (1) in respect of a case instituted on a police report for which the
procedure specified in s. 207 A is prescribed, and (2) in respect of any other
proceeding, the procedure laid down in other provisions of Chapter XV111 is
prescribed. The argument is that a comparison and contrast of the two different
procedures prescribed in respect of the two classes of cases, when examined in
their details, show that the procedure in respect of a case instituted on a
police report is less advantageous to the accused than the other procedure.
Thus, it is further argued, in the sections following s. 207A in Chapter XVIII
of the Code, the accused have been granted facilities which are not available
to them in the procedure laid down in s. 207A. By way of illustration, it was
urged that under s. 208(3), it is open to an accused person to apply to the
magistrate to issue process to compel the attendance of any witness or the
production of any document, but sub-s. (2) of s. 207A, which corresponds to the
provisions of s. 208(3), speaks only of the prosecution and not of the accused.
Again, it is pointed out that sub-s. (4) of s. 207A, makes reference only to
the prosecution evidence, whereas the corresponding s. 208(1) makes reference
to the evidence that may be produced in 200 support of the prosecution or on
behalf of the accused.
Similarly, it has been pointed out that there
are no 'provisions in s. 207A corresponding to those of s. 209(2), and s.
213(2), empowering the magistrate to discharge the accused; nor is there any
provision in the impugned s. 207A corresponding to s. 215 relating to quashing
Further, it was pointed out that whereas s.
209(1) contains the words " not sufficient grounds for committing the
accused person", sub-s. (6) of s. 207A has the words " no grounds for
committing the accused". It has further been argued that in the new
procedure adopted in the impugned s.
207A, the accused person has been deprived of
the benefits under ss. 162 and 215 of the Code, and under ss. 27, 101 to 106
and 114-1ll. (g) of the Evidence Act. It has, thus, been sought to be made out
that the procedure laid down in s. 207A in the matter of commitment is less
advantageous to the accused persons than the one prescribed in the succeeding
sections of Chapter XVIII.
We shall assume for the purpose of examining
the constitutionality of the impugned provisions of the amended Code that there
are differences in the two kinds of procedure envisaged in Chapter XVIII of the
Code, relating to commitment proceedings, but it is by no means clear that the
changes introduced by the amending Act XXVI of 1955 are always to the
disadvantage or prejudice of an accused person. It is a well-known fact that
the amending Act aforesaid introduced changes into the old Code with a view to
simplifying and expediting procedure relating to trial of offences and to
inquiries preceding such trials. It has also to be remembered that the Code has
always prescribed different procedures for trial of offences varying with the
gravity of the offences charged, or with the power of the court before which an
accused person is placed on trial.
Generally speaking, minor offences have been
made triable summarily, or the same accused person in respect of an offence
triable summarily, may be so tried by a magistrate specially empowered in that
behalf, or may be tried according to the ordinary procedure by a magistrate not
so 401 empowered. Less serious offences are triable by magistrates and more
serious offences are triable by a Court of Session or by a High Court after
there has been a preliminary inquiry and investigation by a police officer, or
an inquiry by a magistrate, commonly described as commitment proceedings, or,
after inquiry by a Civil or Revenue Court, in connection with certain specified
offences committed in the course of or in relation to judicial proceedings or
in' respect of proceedings affecting the administration of justice. The Code
has further classified offences triable by magistrates of any class or by
magistrates of higher classes. There is, again, a cross-division of cases into
warrant cases and summons cases. With reference to the powers of police
officers, offences have been classified as cognizable offences and
non-cognizable offences. Thus, the principle of classification of offences and
of different categories of cases relating to the trial of offences is a
well-established rule of criminal procedure. It is true that for the first
time, the impugned sections have prescribed two different procedures in respect
of commitment proceedings as already indicated, but we have to remember that
there is absolutely no difference in the procedure at the trial in
contra-distinction to the procedure relating to the enquiry leading up to
commitment of an accused person to a Court of Session or a High Court in cases
triable exclusively by such a Court. It must also be remembered that every case
involving a serious offence comes under the category of 'cognizable case' in
respect of which a police officer may arrest a person named as an accused
person without warrant and investigate the case without any order of a
magistrate in that behalf Hence, ordinarily speaking, as soon as information of
the commission of a cognizable offence has been laid before a police officer
in-charge of a police station, it becomes his duty to record the first
information; and even in the absence of such a first information if such an
officer receives information reading to a suspicion that a cognizable offence
has been committed, he has to investigate the case and take all steps necessary
for the apprehension and 402 arrest of the persons alleged to have been
concerned with the crime. Even in cases which are not, in the first instance,
of cognizable nature, it becomes the duty of a police officer to investigate
such a case if he is so ordered by a competent magistrate, taking cognizance of
the offence under s. 190 of the Code. In all such cases, it becomes the duty of
a police officer in-charge of a police station, or of a superior officer if
deputed to investigate a case, to follow the procedure laid down .in Chapter
XIV of the Code. Under s. 169 of the Code, if, as a result of the investigation
under Chapter XIV, the police officer making the investigation, comes to the
conclusion that there is no sufficient evidence or reasonable ground of
suspicion to justify the forwarding of the accused to a magistrate, he has to
release the accused person if in custody. If, on the other hand, on such an
investigation, it appears to the investigating officer that there is sufficient
evidence or reasonable ground of suspicion, it becomes his duty to forward the
accused to a competent magistrate to try the accused or to commit him for
trial. Section 173 of the Code requires the investigation to be concluded
without any unnecessary delay and the submission of a report containing the
result of the investigation, to a competent magistrate.
After the submission of the police report,
the police officer in-charge of a police station, before the commencement of
the inquiry or trial by a magistrate, has to furnish to the accused, free of
cost, a copy of the report aforesaid, of the first information report and of
all other documents or relevant extracts thereof, on which prosecution proposes
to rely, including statements and confessions, if any, recorded under s. 164,
and the statements recorded under sub-s. 3 of s. 161, of all persons whom the
prosecution proposes to examine as witnesses.
On receipt of the police report and the
documents aforesaid, under s. 173 of the Code, the magistrate concerned has to
make up his mind whether the case has to be tried by him or by some other
competent magistrate or by a Court of Session or a High Court. If the magistrate
finds that the case is triable exclusively by a Court of Session or a High
Court, he has 403 to follow the new procedure laid down in s. 207A At the
commencement of the inquiry before the magistrate, when the accused appears
before him, the magistrate has to satisfy himself that the documents referred
to in s. 173 have been furnished to the accused and to have them furnished if
the police officer has not done his duty. The magistrate then has to record the
evidence of such witnesses as figure as eyewitnesses to the occurrence and are
produced before him. 'He has also the power, in the interest of justice, to
record such other evidence of the prosecution as he may think necessary, but he
is not obliged to 'record any evidence. Without recording any evidence but
after considering all the documents referred to in s. 173 and after examining
the accused person and after hearing the parties, it is open to the magistrate
to discharge the accused person after recording his reasons that no ground for
committing the accused for trial has been made out, unless he decides to try
the accused himself or to send him for trial by another magistrate. If, on the
other hand, he finds that the accused should be committed for trial,, he is
required to frame a charge disclosing the offence with which the accused is
charged. The accused is then required to submit a list of persons whom he
wishes to be summoned, to give evidence at his trial. After all this, the case
is placed before the Court of Session or the High Court for trial in accordance
with the procedure laid down by the Code.
But if the investigating police officer,
instead of submitting a charge-sheet as required by a. 173, submits what is
popularly called the "final report" to the effect that there was no
evidence in support of the prosecution case and that it was not a fit case for
a trial either by a magistrate or by a Court of Session or High Court, the
matter may not end there. It is open to the first informant or any other person
interested in prosecuting the accused person, to make a regular petition of
complaint before a competent magistrate under s. 190 of the Code. The
magistrate, upon taking cognizance under that section, may start an inquiry of
his own, notwithstanding the fact that the police 52 404 has refused to
prosecute the case. The magistrate, in a case triable exclusively by a Court of
Session or by a High Court, has to follow the procedure laid down in s. 208 and
subsequent sections of Chapter XVIII. The magistrate naturally has to make a
record of the evidence given by the complainant and such other witnesses as may
have been produced in support of the prosecution or on behalf of the accused if
the accused chooses to adduce any evidence at that stage. Ordinarily, an
accused person does not choose to do so for the fear that he might disclose his
defence too early. After recording the evidence adduced on behalf of the
prosecution as also on behalf of the accused, if adduced, and examining the
accused for the purpose of enabling him to explain any circumstances appearing
in the evidence against him, the magistrate may either discharge the accused
person if he finds that there is no sufficient ground for committing him for
trial after recording his reasons, or direct him to be tried by himself or some
The order of discharge may be made by the
magistrate even at an earlier stage if he records the reasons for considering
the charge to be groundless, or, he may commit the accused for trial after
framing a charge declaring the offence with which the accused has been charged.
It is also open to an accused person, if the magistrate in his discretion
allows him to do so, to examine more witnesses. If after examining those
additional witnesses, the magistrate is satisfied that there are no sufficient
grounds for committing the accused, he may cancel the charge and discharge the
It will, thus, be seen that where the
magistrate conducts commitment proceeding as on a complaint, the accused has
the advantage of three stages at which he may be discharged. It has,
therefore,. been contended on behalf of the appellants that the procedure under
s. 207A is less advantageous to the accused than the other procedure. The
answer to this contention is that the Legislature, in its wisdom, has proceeded
on the basis that it is primarily the function of the State through its police
officers who are charged with the 405 duty of preventing the commission of
crime and of bringing offenders to justice, to prosecute criminals or alleged
criminals' in serious cases, that is to say, cases involving not only personal
injury to the complainant but also public peace and order. Such police officers
have been enjoined by law to see to it that all persons alleged to have been
concerned in a crime of that character, should be speedily brought to justice.
Chapter XIV of the Code, as stated above, lays down the procedure which police
officers have to follow. Hence, the Code has provided that all cases involving
public peace and order, should be investigated by public servants who are
expected to be vigilant in bringing all offenders to justice without any
avoidable delay. If the police have not thought it necessary or feasible to do
so after following the procedure laid down in Chapter XIV, the private party
may figure before the magistrate as complainant The magistrate has got,
therefore, to be more vigilant in seeing that private vendetta and
considerations other than those of vindicating justice, are not allowed to
interfere with the administration of public justice. Hence, the procedure laid
down in section 208 and the sections following that section, naturally gives
greater facilities to persons accused of an offence, to vindicate their
As indicated above, there is no doubt that
there are material differences in the two procedures relating to commitment
according as the case has been investigated by a competent police officer who
has submitted a charge-sheet and a report under section 173 of the Code, or, a
competent magistrate has taken cognizance of an offence on a complaint. In the
latter case, the procedure before the committing magistrate is more elaborate.
But is it always to the advantage of an accused person that there should be an
elaborate procedure before such a magistrate and not a summary one? It is the
avowed policy of the Legislature and there can be no doubt that it is in the
general interest of administration of justice, that crimes should be
investigated and criminals brought to justice as expeditiously as circumstances
of the case would 406 permit. That must also be in the interest of an accused
person himself if he claims not to be guilty of any offence.
Generally speaking, therefore, only a real
offender would be interested in prolonging the inquiry or trial so as to
postpone the Day of Judgment. If a person has been falsely or wrongly accused
of an offence, it is in his interest that he should get himself declared
innocent by a competent court as early as possible. In view of these
considerations, there cannot be the least doubt that the Legislature has been
well-advised to amend the procedure relating to commitment proceedings in cases
which have been investigated by a competent police officer. The Legislature has
rightly retained the old elaborate .procedure only in those cases which have
not been investigated by such a public officer, or, after investigation, have
been declared not to be fit to be proceeded with in public interest.
Having found that there are substantial
differences introduced by the impugned provisions, we have to consider the
question of the constitutionality of those provisions. At the threshold, it is
pertinent to observe that these provisions have not in any way affected the
procedure at the trial. After a case has been committed to a Court of Session,
the procedure for the trial of offences in either class of cases, remains the
same. Hence, all those cases which came up to this Court in which it was laid
down that the law introduced substantial changes in the procedure at the trial,
to the disadvantage of an accused person, have absolutely no relevance to the
present case. The main attack on the constitutionality of those provisions is
based on Art. 14 of the Constitution. This Court had to consider the provisions
of that article in a series of cases, namely, Chiranjit Lal Chowdhuri v. The
Union of India (1), The State of Bombay v. F. N. Balsara (2), The, State of
West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar (3), Kathi Raning Rawat v. The State of
Saurashtra(4), Lachmandas (1)  S.C.R. 869. (3)  S.C.R. 284.
(2) S.C.R. 682. (4)  S.C.R. 435.
407 Kewalram Ahuja v. The State of Bombay
(1), Qasim Razvi v. The State of Hyderabad(2), Habeeb Mohamad v. The State of
Hyderabad(3) The State of Punjab v. Ajaib Singh(4), which were all referred to
in the case of Budhan Choudhry v. The State of Bihar(5), which is the nearest
case to the case now before us, with this distinction that in that case, there
was a difference at the trial stage itself. In that case, the same accused
person in respect of the same offence, could be tried under section 30 of the
Code by a magistrate empowered under that section, and by a Court of Session,
if the offence happened to have taken place in a jurisdiction to which section
30 had not been applied. In that case, this Court upheld the constitutionality
of that section of the Code, and repelled the Contention that the provisions of
that section infringed the fundamental right to equality guaranteed by art. 14
of the Constitution. In the course of his judgment, Das J. (as he then was)
made the following observations which apply to the case in hand with full force
"......... It is now well-established
that while article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable
classification for the purposes of legislation. In order, however, to pass the
test of permissible classification two conditions must be fulfilled, namely,
(1) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia
which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others
left out of the group and (II) that that differentia must have a rational
relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question. The
classification may be founded on different basis; namely, geographical, or according
to objects or occupations or the like. What is necessary is that there must be
a nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the Act under
consideration. It is also well-established by the decisions of this Court that
article 14 condemns (1)  S.C.R..710.
(2) [I953] S.C.R. 581.
(3) S.C.R. 661.
(4)  S.C.R. 254.
(5)  1 S.C. R. 1045, 1049.
408 discrimination not only by a substantive
law but also by a law of procedure." The later case before this Court dealing
with. the question of discrimination in respect of provisions of the Code is
the one reported in Matajog Dobey v. H.C. Bhari(1). In that case, the
constitutionality of section 197 of the Code, was questioned. The contention
raised in that case was that the section vested arbitrary power in the
Government to grant or withhold sanction which could be withheld or granted at
the sweet will of the Executive. This Court overruled that contention and held
that a discretionary power is not necessarily discriminatory.
Applying the principles laid down by this
Court to the case in hand to judge whether or not there has been objectionable
discrimination, there could not be the least doubt that the Legislature has
provided for a clear classification between the two kinds of proceedings at the
commitment stage based upon a very relevant consideration, namely, whether or
not there has been a previous inquiry by a responsible public servant whose
duty it is to discover crime and to bring criminals to speedy justice. This
basis of classification is clearly connected with the underlying principle of
administration of justice that an alleged criminal should be placed on his
trial as soon after the commission of the crime as circumstances of the case
would permit. This classification cannot be said to be unreasonable and not to
have any relation to the object of the legislation, namely, a more speedy trial
of offences without any avoidable delay.
For the reasons given above, it must be held
that there is no discrimination and that the provisions of Art. 14 of the
Constitution have not been contravened. The provisions of the Code, impugned in
this case, must, therefore, be held to be constitutional. The appeal is,
(1) 1955] 2 S.C.R. 925.