The Chief Inspector of Mines & ANR
Vs. Lala Karam Chand Thapar  INSC 44 (10 February 1961)
GUPTA, K.C. DAS SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.(CJ)
AYYANGAR, N. RAJAGOPALA MUDHOLKAR, J.R.
CITATION: 1961 AIR 838 1962 SCR (1) 9
CITATOR INFO :
F 1961 SC 849 (3) F 1961 SC1543 (3) RF 1972
SC2066 (10) F 1976 SC1031 (35) D 1980 SC1858 (19,20) R 1982 SC1413 (18) F 1989
Colliery Company-Violation of Coal Mines
Regulations Prosecution of all directors of company, the managing agents and
the manager of company-Legality-Mines Act Of 1923 repealed and reenacted
Regulations made there under, if continue in force 'Anyone of directors'
meaning of Indian Coal Mines Regulations, 1926-Mines Act, 1923 (4 of 1923), S. 31(4)-Mines
Act, 1952, (35 of 1952), SS. 2(1), 76-General Clauses Act, 1897 (10 of 1897),
S. 24 -constitution of India, Art. 20(1).
The directors of a company, which was the
owner of a colliery, the directors of the managing agents of the company, and
the manager and the agent of colliery were prosecuted for offenses under ss. 73
and 74 Of the Mines Act, 1932, for violation 10 of several regulations out of
the Indian Coal Mines Regulations, 1926. They challenged the validity of the
prosecution on the of grounds, inter alia (1) that as the Indian Coal Mines
Regulations, 1926, framed under the provisions of the Mines Act, 1923, had,
under s. 31(4) of that Act, effect as if enacted in the Act, and as that Act
had been repealed by the Mines Act, 1952, the said Regulations had ceased to
have any legal existence long before the date of the alleged violation, and (2)
that the Regulations of 1926 were only deemed to be regulations under the Mines
Act, 1952, and hence were not laws in force on the date of the alleged
contravention, and, therefore, the prosecution in the present case was a
violation of Art.
20(1) Of the Constitution of India. Two of the directors of the company also raised an objection that the prosecution of
all the directors was not. permitted by the Mines Act, 1952, in view of s. 76
of the Act, which provided that any one of the directors may be prosecuted. The
directors of the managing agents contended that, in any event, as the managing
agents were not the owners of the colliery, they could not be prosecuted.
Held: (1) that in view Of S. 24 Of the General
Clauses Act, 1897, by which when an Act is repealed and reenacted, rules and
regulations framed under the repealed Act shall continue in force and be deemed
to have been made under the provisions so reenacted, s. 31(4) of the Mines Act,
1923, which had been repealed, must be construed in such a way that for the
purpose of the continuity of existence, the Regulations framed under that Act
will not be considered part of the Act. Accordingly, the Indian Coal Mines
Regulations, 1926, continued to be in force at the relevant date and must be
deemed to be regulations made under the Mines Act, 1952.
Institute of Patent Agents and others v.
Joseph Lockwood, A. C. 347 and State v. K. B. Chandra, (r914) I.L.R. 33
Pat. 507, distinguished.
(2) that the Indian Coal Mines Regulations,
1926, though they became Regulations under the Mines Act, 1952, in consequence
of a deeming provision, nonetheless, were "laws in force" within the
meaning of Art. 20(1) of the Constitution.
Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh and another v. The
State of Vindhya Pradesh,  S.C.R. 1188, distinguished.
(3) that the expression "any one of the
directors" in S. 76 of the Mines Act, 1952, means "every one of the
Isle of Wight Railway Co. v. Tahourdin,
(1883) 25 Ch. D. 320, relied on.
(4) that the managing agents or the colliery
company were neither the owner of the mine nor the occupier within the meaning
Of S. 2(1) of the Mines Act, 1952, and, therefore, the prosecution of the
directors of the managing agents was not maintainable.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Criminal
Appeals Nos. 98 to 106 of 1959.
Appeals by special leave from the judgment
and order dated March 3, 1958, of the Patna High Court in M. J. C. Nos. 475,
476, 479 and 480 of 1956, 180 of 1957 and 475 to 478 of 1956.
N. S. Bindra and B. H. Dhebar, for the
appellants in Cr. As. Nos. 98 and 101 of 1959.
G. S. Pathak, S. 0. Banerjee and P. K.
Chatterjee, for the appellants in Cr. As. Nos. 102 to 106 of 1959 and
respondents in Cr. As. Nos. 98 to 100 of 1959.
B. Ganapathy Iyer and R. H. Dhebar, for the
respondents in Cr. As. Nos. 102 to 106 of 1959 and appellants in Cr. As. Nos.
99 and 100 of 1959.
1961. February 10. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by DAs GUPTA, J.-On February 5,1955, there was a tragic accident
in the Amlabad Colliery, in Manbhum District, in the State of Bihar, as a
result of which 52 persons lost their lives and one escaped with injuries. The
court of enquiry which was appointed to hold an inquiry into the causes of the
accident and the circumstances attending the accident submitted its report on
September 26, 1955, holding that the accident was due to negligence and
non-observance of some of the regulations of the Indian Coal Mines Regulations,
1926. This report was duly published under s. 27 of the Mines Act,1 952.
Thereafter, on March 3, 1956, the Government of India informed the manager and
the agent of the colliery that a court of enquiry was being constituted under
cl. (a) of the Regulation 48 to hold an inquiry into their conduct. Criminal
proceedings were also instituted against 14 persons including the manager and
the agent of the colliery, all the directors of the company which was the owner
of the colliery and the directors of the managing agents of that company. The
complaints alleged violation by the 14 accused of several regulations out of
the Indian Coal Mines Regulations, 1926. There were two separate complaints in
respect of the violation of different 12 regulations. It was alleged in one of
the complaints that the accused persons had by the violation of the regulations
mentioned therein committed offenses under s. 73 of the Mines Act, 1952; the
other complaint alleged that by the violation of the regulations mentioned
therein the accused persons had committed offenses under as. 73 and 74 of the Mines
Act, 1952. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate took cognizance of the offenses, and
issued processes against all the 14 persons on May 23, 1956. Six of the accused
persons, Lala Karam Chand Thaper, H. P. Poddar, Jagat Ram Sharma, Kumud Ranjan
Dutt, H. V. Varma and U. Mehta filed applications before the High Court of
Patna for the issue of appropriate writs or orders for quashing the criminal
proceedings. The main ground on which these different applications were based
was that the regulations for the alleged violation of which the complaints were
lodged had ceased to have any legal existence long before the date of the alleged
violation by the repeal of the Mines Act, 1923, under which they had admittedly
been made. Another ground taken by all the applicants was that the prosecution
was in violation of Art. 20(1) of the Constitution. In the application by two
directors of the company owning the mine, Lala Karam Chand Thaper and H. P.
Poddar a further point was taken that the prosecution of all the directors was
not permitted by the Mines Act, 1952. The directors of the managing agents
raised in their applications the point that the managing agents not being
owners of the colliery the directors of the managing agents should not be
The High Court rejected the applicants'
contention that the Regulations framed under a. 29 of the Mines Act, 1923,
ceased to have legal existence after the repeal of that Act.
It however accepted the contention of the
managing agents' directors that they were not liable to prosecution. The High
Court also held on a consideration of the provision of s. 76 of the 1952 Act
that all the directors of the company which owned the colliery could not be
prosecuted and only one to be chosen by the complainant out of all the
directors 13 could be proceeded against. On these findings the High Court
dismissed the applications of the manager, and the agent, and allowed the
applications of the directors of the managing agents. In the two applications
by the two directors of the colliery company (Lals Karam Chand Thaper and H. P.
Poddar) it gave a direction requiring the respondents 2 and 3 before it, that
is, the Chief Inspector of Mines, and the Regional Inspector of Mines, Dhanbad,
"to choose one of the directors of the company for being prosecuted
against and to remove the name of the other directors from the category of the
accused persons". In the two criminal cases the two directors of the
company obtained special leave to appeal against this direction and have,
pursuant thereto, filed the two appeals which are now before us as Criminal
Appeals Nos. 103 and 104 of 1959. The manager and the agent have also filed
appeals against the order rejecting their applications after having obtained
special leave from this Court. These two appeals are now numbered as Cr.
Appeals Nos. 105 and 106 of 1959. The Chief Inspector of Mines and others who
are made respondents in the application under Art. 226 have also filed appeals
on special leave granted by this Court against the High Court's order in the
applications of the directors of the managing agents allowing the same and also
against the High Court's orders in the application of the two directors of the
company asking the Chief Inspector of Mines and the Regional Inspector of Mines
to choose one only of the directors for prosecution; their appeals in the
application of the directors of the managing agents before us have been
numbered as Criminal Appeals Nos. 100 and 101. Their appeals in the
applications of the directors of the colliery company are numbered 98 and 99 of
It will be convenient to refer to the
appellants in these four appeals as government-appellants.
At about the same time these several
applications were made before the High Court, the agent and the manager of the
colliery company also made applications to the High Court of Patna for the
issue of 14 appropriate writs or orders restraining the Commissioner of
Chotanagpur who had been appointed to hold the inquiry under Regulation 48,
from holding that inquiry. The High Court held that no inquiry could be ordered
against the agents. The manager's application was however rejected.
Against that order the manager Shri Kumud
obtained special leave from this Court to
appeal and pursuant thereto has filed the appeal which is now before us as
Appeal No. 102 of 1959.
The Appeals Nos. 100 and 101 need not detain
us long. For whatever be the controversy on other questions as regards the
Regulations of 1926 being in force after the repeal of the Mines Act of 1923
and as regards the alleged violation of Art. 20(1) of the Constitution, there
is no manner of doubt that the High Court is right in holding that the managing
agents of the colliery company are neither the "owner" of the coal
mines nor the "manager" nor "agent" thereof. It was not
even suggested before us that the managing agents are either managers or
agents. "Agent" has been defined in the Act, as the representative of
the owner in respect of the management, control and direction of the mines and
managing agent of the company in no sense falls within this definition.
"Manager" is not defined, but s. 17 of the Act provides that every
mine 3hall be under one manager who shall have the prescribed qualifications
and shall be responsible for the control, management, supervision and
directions of the mines, and the owner and agent of every mine shall appoint
himself or some other person having such qualifications to be such manager. In
the Amlabad Colliery Mr. Kumud Ranjan Dutt was admittedly appointed the manager
and it was on that basis that proceedings were commenced against him. The
managing agent of the company was not and could not be the manager of the
Amlabad Colliery. It was urged however that the managing agents of the colliery
company are in occupation of the mines and thus fall within the definition of
the word "owner" in s. 2(1) of the Act. The relevant portion of the
definition of owner in s. 2(1) runs thus: " "Owner" when 15 used
in relation to a mine, means any person who is the immediate proprietor or
lessee or occupier of the(,, mine or of any part thereof". The argument is
that the managing agents exercise, by reason of their being managing agents of
the colliery company, possession over the mine; and so "occupy" the
mine. Though the word "occupier" is not defined in the Act it is
patently absurd to suppose that any and every person exercising possession over
the mine, is an "occupier" and thus an owner of the mine, for the
purpose of the Mines Act. From the very collocation of the words
"immediate proprietor, or lessee or occupier of the mine", it is
abundantly clear that only a person whose occupation is of the same character,
that is, occupation by a proprietor or a lessee-by way of possession on his
behalf and not on behalf of somebody else is meant by the word
"occupier" in the definition. Thus, a trespasser in wrongful
possession to the exclusion of the rightful owner would be an occupier of the
mine, and so be an "owner" for the purposes of the Act. When however
a servant or agent of the proprietor or lessee of a mine is in possession of a
mine, he is in possession on behalf of his master or his principal, and not on
his own behalf. It would be unreasonable to think that the legislature intended
such servants or agents liable and responsible as "owner" of the
mine. possession on behalf of another was sufficient to make a person
"occupier" within the meaning of s. 2(1), every manager would be an
occupier and thus have all the responsibilities of an "owner". Many
"agents" of the proprietors or lessee of the mine would similarly be
"occupier" and therefore "owner". If that had been the
intention of the legislature it would have been unnecessary and indeed
meaningless to mention "agent" and "manager" in addition to
the word "owner" in s. 18 of the Act,.,in the important provision as
to who will be responsible for the proper carrying on of operations in the mine
in regard to the provisions of the Act and Regulations and bye-laws and orders
made there under.
It would have been similarly unnecessary to
mention "agent" and "manager" in addition to the word 16
'Inspector power to give special directions for the removal of certain defects
or in s. 61 providing for the framing of bye-laws. The very fact that in ss.
18,22 and 61 owner, agent and manager have been separately made responsible
clearly shows that the legislature did not think that agent or manager would
come within the definition of "owner" in s.
2(1). That must be because possession on
behalf of somebody else was not in the contemplation of the legislature such
" occupation" as to make the person in possession an
"occupier" within the meaning of s. 2(1). Whatever possession, the
managing agents of a colliery company exercise in and over a mine is exercised
on behalf of the colliery company and not on their own behalf and so such
managing agents are not occupier of the mine within the meaning of s. 2(k).
The managing agent company, not being either
agent or manager, or owner of the mine, no question of contravention by that
company or any of its directors of the Coal Mines Regulations can arise. The
High Court has therefore rightly quashed the criminal proceedings against the
directors of the managing agent company. Appeals Nos. 100 and 101 are
The main controversy common to the other
seven appeals is whether the Mines Regulations, 1926, framed as they were under
a. 29 of the Mines Act, 1923, survived the repeal of the Mines Act, 1923, by
the Mines Act, 1952. For a proper appreciation of the question involved it is
necessary to have regard on the one hand to the provisions of s. 31 of the
Mines Act, 1923, and on the other to the provisions of a. 24 of the General
Clauses Act, 1897. The first sub-section of a. 31 provides that the power to
make regulations and rules conferred by ss. 29, 30 and 30A is subject to the
condition of the regulation and rules being made after previous publication.
The fourth sub-section of that section lays down that regulations and rules
shall be published in the official gazette and on such publication shall have
effect "as if enacted in this Act". The regulations, which are
alleged to have 17 been contravened were all made under s. 29 of the 1923 Act,
and admittedly they were duly published in the official gazette. As a result of
such publication, these regulations from the date of the publication, commenced
having "effect as if enacted" in the Mines Act, 1923. The question we
have to answer is: Did the regulations stand repealed, when the Mines Act,
1923, was repealed? Before endeavoring to answer the question, we have to take
note of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act. The relevant portion of this clause
is in these words:"When any Central Act is after the commencement of this
Act repealed and reenacted with or without modification, then, unless it is
otherwise expressly provided, any rule made or issued under the repealed Act
shall so far as it is not inconsistent with the provisions reenacted, continue
in force, and be deemed to have been made or issued under the provisions so
reenacted unless and until it is superseded by any rule made or issued under
the provisions so reenacted".
It is convenient at this stage to state that
a regulation is indisputably a rule within the meaning of these provisions.
The present is a case, where the Mines Act,
1923, was repealed, and was reenacted with modifications as the Mines Act, 1952:
Section 29 of the 1923 Act empowering the Central Government to make regulations
consistent with the Act for specified purposes was reenacted in the 1952 Act as
regulations were made in 1926 under s. 29 of
the 1923 Act, but at the relevant date, in 1955, no regulations had been made
under S. 57 of the 1952 Act, so that in 1955 the Mines Regulations, 1926, had
not been superseded by any regulations made under there enacted provisions of
s. 57 of the 1952 Act: Therefore if s. 24 of the General Clauses Act is operative
the Mines Regulations, 1926, were in force at the relevant date in-1955, and
shall be deemed to have been made under s. 57 of the 1952 Act, as there is no
provision express or otherwise, in the later Act to the contrary, and the
regulations are not inconsistent with the reenacted provisions.
18 For the management-appellant, Mr. Pathak
contends however that s. 24 of the General Clauses Act can have no operation in
respect of these regulations, as they stood repealed along with the repeal of
the Mines Act, 1923. His argument is simple. Section 31(4) of the 1923 Act
says, these regulations shall have effect as if enacted in that Act.
The consequence of this provision is that the
regulations became part of the Act: the entire Act was repealed by s. 88 of the
1952 Act: the 1926 Regulations as part of the Act thus stood repealed. So, on
the very day the 1952 Act came into force, the Regulations of 1926 ceased to
have legal existence. So, a. 24 of the General Clauses Act had nothing to
The whole foundation of the argument is the
assumption that the necessary consequence of s. 31(4) of the 1923 Act is that
the regulations, on publication, shall have effect as if enacted in the Act is
that the Regulations became part and parcel of the Act. Is that assumption
justified? In attempting to answer this question, it will be profitable to
remember that the purpose of the General Clauses Act is to place in one single
statute different provisions as regards interpretations of words and legal
principles which would otherwise have to be specified separately a many
different acts and regulations. Whatever the General Clauses Act says, whether
as regards the meanings of words or as regards legal principles, has to be read
into every statute to which it applies. The Mines Act, 1923, being a Central
Act, s. 24 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, applies to it, so that we have to
read in the Mines Act, 1923, an additional provision embodying the words of s.
24 of the General Clauses Act. The result is that we have in this Mines Act of 1923
on the one hand the provision that the regulations made under s. 29 of the Act
will have effect as if enacted in the Act and on the other, the further
provision, that regulations made under s. 29 shall continue to remain in force
when this Act is repealed and reenacted and be deemed to have been made under
the reenacted provisions, it is otherwise expressly provided, unless and 19
until superseded by regulations made under the reenacted provisions.
If the words of s. 31(4) are construed to
mean that' the regulations became part of the Act to the extent that when the
Act is repealed, the regulations also stand repealed, a conflict at once arises
between s. 31 (4) and the provisions of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act. In
other words, the Mines Act, 1923, while saying in s. 31(4) that the repeal of
the Act will result in the repeal of the regulations, will be saying, in the
provisions of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act as read into it, that on the
repeal of the Act, when the Act is repealed and reenacted, the regulations will
not stand repeated but will continue in force till superseded by regulations
made under the reenacted Act. To solve this conflict the courts must apply the
rule of harmonious construction. According to Mr. Pathak we have perfect
harmony if it is held that the provisions of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act
will have effect only if the regulations are such as survive the repeal of the
parent Act and at the same time, construe s. 31(4) to mean that the regulations
became for all purposes part and parcel of the Act. To harmonise is not however
to destroy. The so-called harmony on the learned counsel's argument is achieved
by making the provisions of a. 24 of the General Clauses Act nugatory and in
effect destroying them in relation to the Mines Act, 1923. We have to seek
therefore some other means of harmonising the two provisions. The reasonable
way of harmonising that obviously suggests itself is to construe s. 31(4) to
mean that the regulations on publication shall have for some purposes, say, for
example, the purpose of deciding the validity of the regulations, the same
effect as if they were part of the Act, but for the purpose of the continuity
of existence, they will not be considered part of the Act, so that even though
the Act is repealed, the regulations will continue to exist, in accordance with
the provisions of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act. This construction will give
reasonable effect to S. 31(4) of the Mines; Act, 1923 and at the same time not
frustrate the very salutary object of 20 Fs. 24 of the General Clauses Act. One
may pause here to remember that regulations framed under an Act are of the very
greatest importance. Such regulations are framed for the successful operation
of the Act. Without proper regulations, a statute will often be worse than
When an Act is repealed, but reenacted, it is
almost inevitable that there will be some time lag between the reenacted
statute coming into force, and regulations being framed under the reenacted
statute. However efficient the rule making authority may be it is impossible to
avoid some hiatus between the coming into force of the reenacted statute and
the simultaneous repeal of the old Act and the making of regulations. Often,
the time lag would be considerable. Is it conceivable that any legislature, in
providing that regulations made under its statute will have effect as if
enacted in the Act, could have intended by those words to say that if ever the
Act is repealed and reenacted, (as is more than likely to happen sooner or
later), the regulations will have no existence for the purpose of the reenacted
statute, and thus the reenacted statute, for some time at least, will be in
many respects, a dead letter.
The answer must be in the negative. Whatever
the purpose be which induced the, draftsmen to adopt this legislative form as
regards the rules and regulations that they will have effect "case if
enacted in the Act", it will be strange indeed if the result of the
language used, be that by becoming part of the Act, they would stand repealed,
when the Act is repealed. One can be certain that could not have been the
intention of the legislature. It is satisfactory that the words used do not
produce that result,, For, if we apply the rule of harmonious construction, as
has been pointed out above,, s. 31(4) does not stand in the way of the
operation of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act.
The proper construction of a legislative
provision as regards rules or regulations made under an Act having effect as if
enacted in the Act, fell to be considered in several English and Indian
decisions and from one of these-the earliest.. case in which the 21 question
appears to have been considered Mr. Pathak sought assistance. That is the case
of Institute of Patent Agents and others v. Joseph Lockwood (1). There, a
declaration was sought against Lockwood that he was not registered as a patent
agent in pursuance of the Patents, Design and Trade Marks Act, 1888 and was not
entitled to describe himself as a patent agent; and consequential relief was
While the first section of the Act required
such a registration, the Act itself did not provide "for the manner in
which the register is to be formed, who is to be the Registrar, the formalities
requisite for the registration, or any particulars in relation to it". The
Act left to the Board of Trade to make such general rules as were required for
giving effect to the first section. Among the rules made by the Board, was one
requiring certain fee to be paid on first registration, and also an annual fee,
non payment of which shall be a ground for canceling the registration.
The question arose whether the rules with
reference to fees were intra vires or ultra vires. The House of Lords held that
the rules were intra vires; but dealt also with a contention raised on behalf
of the appellants that in view of the provisions in the Act that the rules
"shall be of the same effect as if they were contained in this Act"
the question whether the rules were intra vires or ultra vires could not at all
be canvassed in the courts. Speaking about the effect of the above provisions,
Lord Herschell, L. C., said:-"I own I feel very great difficulty in giving
to this provision that they 'shall have of the same effect as if they were
contained in the Act' any other meaning than this, that you shall for all
purposes of construction, or obligation or otherwise, treat them, as if. they
were in the Act". Mr. Pathak fastens on the phrase "for all purposes
of construction, or obligation or otherwise" and submits that this is a
good authority for holding that for the purpose of deciding whether the rules
were part of the Act, so as to attract the consequence of repeal, along with
the repeal of the Act, the rules should be treated "as if they were in the
Act" and so stood (1)  A-C347.
22 repealed. We are bound however to take
notice of the .fact that the question whether the rules were to be treated as
part of the Act to ascertain the effect on them of the repeal of the Act was
not even remotely. before the House of Lords. The sole question before them was
how far, if at all, the courts could consider the question of validity of 'the
rules, in view of the above provisions as regards their having "the same effect
as if they were contained in the Act". That the Lord Chancellor was not
concerning himself with the effect of this provision in other aspects is
further clear from what he said immediately after the observations quoted
"No doubt", said he, "there might
be some conflict between a rule and a provision-of the Act. Well there is a
conflict sometimes between two sections to be found in the same Act. You have
to try and reconcile them as best as you may. If you cannot, you have to
determine which is the leading provision and which is the subordinate
provision, and which must give way to the other. That would be s o with regard
to enactments and with regard to rules which are to be treated as if within the
enactment. In that case probably the enactment itself would be treated as the
governing consideration and the rule as subordinate to it".
Not only was the question now before us not
for decision in Lockwood's Case (1), but it is quite clear that the learned
Lord Chancellor had no intention of dealing with questions like this, when he
used the words on which Mr. Pathak has tried to rely.
In our opinion, Lockwood'8 Case (1) is no
authority in favour of the construction urged by the learned counsel for
In a later case of Ministry of Health v. The
King (on the, prosecution of Yaffe,) (2) the House of Lords considered the
question how far the principle laid down in Lockwood's Case went. But there
also, the question was as regards the soundness of a plea that the validity of
a scheme which, on confirmation, had effect as if it was contained in the Act,
could not be (1)  A.C. 347.
(2)  A.C. 494.
23 questioned in the courts and the question
now before us did not even remotely come up for consideration.
The question which was considered by the
Patna High Court in State v. K.B. Chandra(1) was also entirely different from
the question now before us. The contention there was that the Mines Creche
Rules and Coal Mines Pithead Bath Rules, 1946-which the respondent Chandra had
been accused of violating should be deemed as part of the Mines Act, 1923, and
any question as to their validity could not be canvassed in the courts. The
contention was rejected, and it was held that whether the rules were consistent
with the Act can be a matter of judicial consideration. In that case
contravention of the rules took place before the Act of 1952 had come into
force, and so the Court was not called upon to consider the question of the
continued existence of the rules after the 1923 Act was repealed.
None of the cases cited at the bar is
therefore of any assistance for the decision of our present question.
The true position appears to be that the
Rules and regulations do not lose their character as rules and regulations,
even though they are to be of the same effect as if contained in the Act. They
continue to be rules subordinate to the Act, and though for certain purposes,
including the purpose of construction, they are to be treated as if contained
in the Act, their true nature as subordinate rule is not lost. Therefore, with
regard to the effect of a repeal of the Act, they continue to be subject to the
operation of s. 24 of the General Clauses Act.
For the reasons given above, we have no
hesitation in holding that the provisions of s. 31, sub-s. 4, of the Mines Act,
1923, do not stand in the way of the full operation of s. 24 of the General
Clauses Act, 1897, and that in consequence of these provisions the Coal Mines
Regulations, 1926, continued to be in force at the relevant date and have to be
deemed to be regulations; made under the Mines Act, 1952.
Mention has to be made here of an argument
rather (1) (1954) I.L.R. 33 Patna '507.
24 faintly made by Mr. Pathak that even if
the regulations are deemed to be regulations made under the Mines Act of 1952,
s. 73 or s. 74 of that Act can have no application. He pointed out that what
these sections made punishable is a contravention of a provision of the Act or
of any regulations, rules or bye laws or any other order made there under. They
do not, he contends, make punishable contravention of regulations deemed to be
made under the 1952 Act; and so assuming that his clients have contravened the
Mines Regulations, 1926, as alleged no offence under s.
73 or s. 74 has been committed. Learned
Counsel has drawn our attention in this connection to the definition of
"regulations" in a. 2(o) of the 1952 Act according to which
regulations mean "regulations made under this Act". If it was
intended, the argument is, that any contravention of the regulations deemed to
be made under the Act should also be punishable, the legislature would have
defined regulations to include not only regulations made under the Act but
regulations deemed to have been made under the Act. This argument is not even
plausible. The effect of a deeming provision, it need hardly be pointed out, is
to attract to what is deemed to be something all the legal consequences of that
something. In other words, when A is deemed to be B, compliance with A is in
law compliance with B, contravention of A is in law contravention of B. As soon
as we reach the conclusion that in consequence of s. 24 of the General Clauses
Act, the Coal Mines Regulations, 1926, had at the alleged date of
contravention, to be deemed to be regulations made under the Mines Act, 1952,
the conclusion is inevitable that contravention of the Mines Regulations, 1926,
amounted to con. travention of regulations made under the 1952 Act, so that the
contravener was guilty of an offence under s.73, or 74, as the case might be.
Equally untenable is Mr. Pathak's next
contention that the contravention of the Indian Coal Mines Regulations, 1926,
which were at the date of contravention "deemed" to be regulations
under the 1952 Act, was not a violation of a law in force on such date, so that
25, Art. 20(1) is a bar to the conviction of his clients. The relevant portion
of Art. 20(1) lays down that no person shall be convicted of any offence except
for violation of a law in force at the-time of the commission of the act
charged as an offence. The result of this is that if at the date of the
commission of an act, such commission was not prohibited by a law then in
force, no future legislation prohibiting that act with retrospective effect
will justify a conviction for such commission. In other words, if an act is not
an offence at the date of commission, no future law can make it an offence. But
how, on the facts of this case the accused can claim benefit of this principle
embodied in Art. 20(1) it is difficult to see. They are being charged under s.
73 and s. 74 of the Mines Act, 1952, for the contravention of some regulations.
Were these regulations in force on the alleged date of contravention? Certainly,
they were in consequence of the provisions of S. 24 of the General Clauses Act.
The fact that these regulations were deemed to be regulations made under the
1952 Act does not in any way affect the position that they were laws in force
on the alleged date of contravention. The argument that as they were
"regulations" under the 1952 Act in consequence of a deeming
provision, they were not laws in force on the alleged date of contravention is
Equally misconceived is the submission that
this Court's decision in Shiv Bahadur Singh's Case (1) supports the argument.
In that case, dealing with a suggestion that as the Vindhya Pradesh Ordinance
48 of 1949 though enacted on September 11, 1947, i.e., after the alleged
offenses were committed, was in terms made retrospective by a. 2 which says
that the Ordinance shall be deemed to have been in force in Vindhya Pradesh
from August 9,1949, the Ordinance was a law in force on or from August 9, 1949,
this Court said:"This however would be, to import a somewhat technical
meaning into the phrase law in force used (1)  S.C.R. 1188.
26 in Art. 20. Law in force referred to
therein must be taken to relate not to a law "deemed to be in force",
and thus brought into force, but the law factually in operation at the time or
what may be called the then existing law.................. It cannot therefore
be doubted that the phrase "law in force" as used in Art. 20 must be
understood in its natural sense as being the law in fact in existence and in
operation at the time of the commission of the offence as distinct from the law
"deemed" to have become operative by virtue of power of legislature
to pass retrospective laws." As the Court clearly pointed out, it was
considering only the question whether a law made after the alleged act, can by
providing for its retrospective operation, make itself the "law in
force", for the purpose of Art. 20; and it held that this could not be done.
The words "law in force referred to therein must be taken to relate not to
a law 'deemed to be in force"', in this judgment should not be taken apart
from its context. In the words that-immediately follow the Court was saying
that "law in force relates to a law factually in operation at the time, or
what may be called the then existing law". The question to be asked is:
Was the-law said to have been violated in
operation at the alleged date of violation? The answer, in the cases before us,
must be that it was. Art. 20(1) has therefore no application.
No other point has been raised before us in
the appeals by the Manager and the Agent. These appeals (Appeals Nos. 102, 105
and 106) are therefore dismissed.
The other four appeals raise a difficult
question about the interpretation of the word "any one of the
directors" in s.
76 Section 76 is in these words:"Determination
of owner in certain cases: Where the owner of a mine is a firm or other
association of individuals, any one of the partners or members thereof or where
the owner of a mine is a public company, any one of the directors thereof, or
where the owner of a mine is a private company, any one of the shareholders
thereof, may be prosecuted and 27 punished under this Act for any offence for
which the owner of a mine is punishable: Provided that where a firm,
association or company has given notice in writing to the Chief Inspector that
it has nominated, (a) in the case of a firm, any of its partners, (b) in the
case of an association, any of its members, (c) in the case of a public
company, any of its directors, or (d) in the case of a, private company, any of
its shareholders, who is resident in each case in any place to which this Act
extends to assume the responsibilities of the owner of the mine for the
purposes of this Act, such partner, member, director or shareholder as the case
may be, shall so long as he continues to be the owner of the mine for the
purpose of this Act, unless notice in writing canceling his nomination or
stating that he has ceased to be a partner, member, director or shareholder, as
the case may be, is received by the Chief Inspector".
It is on the basis of this section, that
prosecution has been launched against all the directors. If "any one"
in the section is interpreted to mean "every one" as was
unsuccessfully contended on behalf of the Government appellant in the High
Court-the section justifies the prosecution of all the directors. If however,
"any one of the directors" must be interpreted to mean "one only
of the directors, it does not matter which one" as was contended by the
appellants in Appeals Nos. 103 and 104, the two directors-and as held by the
High Court, it would be necessary to consider their further contention that the
section contravenes Art. 14 of the Constitution, and is therefore void, so that
the High Court's order directing the Inspector of Mines to select one of the
directors for the prosecution cannot be sustained. For, on the interpretation
that "any one of the directors", means "only one of the directors"
the authorities have got the right to proceed against one of the directors, out
of the several and it might be argued that the exercise of 28 this discretion
is wholly unfettered and unguided and Of the High Court could not in law, ask
the authorities to exercise this discriminatory provision of law. The important
question that arises for decision therefore is how the words "any one of
the directors" should be interpreted.
It is quite clear and indeed not disputed
that in some contexts, "any one" means "one only it matters not
which one"; the phrase "any of the directors" is therefore quite
capable of meaning "one only of the directors, it does not matter which
one". Is the phrase however capable of no other meaning? If it is not, the
courts cannot look further, and must interpret these words in that meaning
only, irrespective of what the intention of the legislature might be believed
to have been. If however the phrase is capable of another meaning, as
suggested, viz., "every one of the directors" it will be necessary to
decide which of the two meanings was intended by the legislature.
If one examines the use of the words
"any one" in common conversation or literature, there can be no doubt
that they are not infrequently used to. mean "everyone"-not one, but
all. Thus we say "any one can see that this is wrong", to mean
"everyone can see that this is wrong". "Any one may enter"
does not mean that "only one person may enter", but that all may
enter. It is permissible and indeed profitable to turn in this connection to
the Oxford English Dictionary, at p. 378 of which, we find the meaning of
"any" given thus:
"In affirmative sentences, it asserts,
concerning a being or thing of the sort named, without limitation as to which,
and thus collectively of every one of them". One of the illustration given
is"I challenge anyone to contradict my assertions." Certainly, this
does not mean that one only is challenged; but that all are challenged. It is
abundantly clear therefore that "any one" is not infrequently used to
mean "every one".
But, argues Mr. Pathak, granting that this is
so, it must be held that when the phrase "any one" is used with the
preposition "of", followed by a word denoting a number of persons, it
never means "every one".
29 The extract from the Oxford Dictionary, it
is interesting to notice, speaks of an assertion "concerning a being or
thing of the sort named"; it is not unreasonable to say that, the word
"of" followed by a word denoting a number of persons or things is just
such " naming of a sort" as mentioned there.
Suppose, the illustration "I challenge
any one to contradict my assertions" was changed to "I challenge any
one of my opponents to contradict my assertion." "Any one of my
opponents" here would mean "all my opponents"-not one only of
While the phrase "any one of them"
or any similar phrase consisting of "any one", followed by "of
which is followed in its turn by words denoting a number of persons or things,
does not appear to have fallen for judicial construction, in our courts or in
England-the phrase "any of the present directors" had to be
interpreted in an old English case, Isle of Wight Railway Co. v. Tahourdin (1).
A number of shareholders required the directors to call a meeting of the
company for two objects. One of the objects was mentioned as "To remove,
if deemed necessary or expedient any of the present directors, and to elect
directors, to fill any vacancy on the Board". The directors issued a
notice to convene a meeting for the other object and held the meeting.
Then the shareholders, under the Companies
Clauses Act, 1845, issued a notice of their own convening a meeting for both
the objects in the original requisition. In an action by the directors to
restrain the requisitionists, from holding the meeting, the Court of Appeal
held that a notice to. remove "any of the present directors" would
justify a resolution for removing all who are directors at the present time.
"Any", Cotton, L. J., pointed out, would involve "all".
It is true that the language there was
"any of the present directors" and not "any one of the present
directors" and it is urged that the word "one", in the latter
phrase makes all the difference. We think it will be wrong to put too much
emphasis on the word "one" here. It may be pointed out in this
connection (1) (1883) 25 Ch. D. 320.
30 that the Permanent Edition of the Words
and Phrases (1), mentions an American case Front & Hintingdon Building
& Loan Association v. Berzinski, where the words "any of them"
were held to be the equivalent of "any one of them".
After giving the matter full and anxious
consideration, we have come to the conclusion that the words "any one of
the directors" is ambiguous; in some contexts, it means "only one of
the directors, does not matter which one", but in other contexts, it is
capable of meaning "every one of the directors". Which of these two
meanings was intended by the legislature in any particular statutory phrase has
to be decided by the courts on a consideration of the context in which the
words appear, and in particular, the scheme and object of the legislation.
The plain object of s. 76 of the Mines Act is
to ensure that no lacuna remains in the application of the provisions in the
Act to owners of mines, in the cases where the mine is owned not by an
individual, but by a firm or other association of individuals, or a public
company or a private company. It provides that where the owner of the mine is a
firm or other association of individuals, any one of the partners or members
thereof may be punished; where the owner is a private company, any one of the
shareholders may be prosecuted and punished and where the owner is a public
company not "any one of the shareholders" but any one of the
directors may be prosecuted and punished. There is a proviso under which on
notice being given of nomination of "any" of the partners of the
firm, or in' the case of association any of the members; in the case of the
public company any of its directors, and in the case of a private company any
of its shareholders, the ownership of the mine shall be determined only in
accordance with the nomination.
There can be no question that where a mine is
owned by one individual A-the one and complete owner-would be liable to all
penalties which ownership entails. When the legislature thought it desirable to
make special provision where the mine (1) Vol. 3A.
31 is owned by a firm, or an association of
individuals, or a company, it does not stand to reason that it of would
ordinarily permit all the partners except one, all the members of the
association except one, all the shareholders of the private company except one
and all the directors of the public company except one to escape the penalties.
The purpose of the Act is to secure safety and proper conditions of work for
labour. To enforce the provisions of the Act and the rules, regulations and
bye-laws under it, designed to achieve this purpose, the legislature, makes in
its 18th section' the manager, the agent, and the owner, responsible for their
proper observance. Contravention is made punishable by fine or imprisonment. In
this scheme of things, it is reasonable to expect that the legislature, would
take particular care to see that everybody performing the function which an
individual owner is expected to perform, would be treated in the same way as an
individual owner. In the case of a firm this position is filled by all the
partners; in the case of other association of individuals this position is filled
by all the members; in the case of a private company this position is filled by
all the shareholders thereof while in the case of a public company the position
is filled by all the directors together. It is to be expected therefore that
all the partners in the case of a firm, all the shareholders in the case of a
private company and all the directors in the case of a public company should be
subjected to prosecution and punishment in the same way as an individual owner
of a mine.
When we find in this background the
legislature using the words "any one of the directors, any one of the
partners, any one of the members, any one of the shareholders..................
may be prosecuted and punished", 'words which are capable of meaning
"all the directors, all the members, all the shareholders and all the
partners, as also the other meaning "only one of the directors, only one
of the partners", only one of the members, only one of the
shareholders," we have no doubt at all that the legislature used the words
in the former and not in the latter sense.
32 But, argues Mr. Pathak, you must not
forget the Of special rule of interpretation for "penal statute" that
if the language is ambiguous, the interpretation in favour of the accused
should ordinarily be adopted. If you interpret "any one" in the sense
suggested by him, the legislation he suggests is void and so the accused
escapes. One of the two possible constructions, thus being in favour of the
accused, should therefore be adopted. In our opinion, there is no sub. stance
in this contention. The rule of strict interpretation of penal statutes in
favour of the accused is not of universal application, and must be considered
along with other will established rules of interpretation. We have already seen
that the scheme and object of the statute makes it reasonable to think that the
legislature intended to subject all the directors of a company owning coal
mines to prosecution and penalties, and not one only of the directors. In the
face of these considerations there is no scope here of the application of the
rule for strict interpretation of penal statutes in favour of the accused.
The High Court appears to have been greatly
impressed by the fact that in other statutes where the legislature wanted to
make every one out of a group or a class of persons liable it used clear
language expressing the intention; and that the phrase "any one" has
not been used in any other statute in this country to express "every
one". It will be unreasonable, in our opinion, to attach too much weight
to this circumstance; and as for the reasons mentioned above, we think the
phrase "any one of the directors" is capable of meaning "every
one of the directors", the fact that in other statutes, different words
were used to express a similar meaning is not of any significance.
We have, on all these considerations come to
the conclusion that the words "any one of the directors" has been
used in s. 76 to mean "every one of the directors", and that the
contrary interpretation given by the High Court is not correct.
On the interpretation that "any one of
the directors" means "every one of the director,%", no question
of violation of Art. 14 of the Constitution arises.
33 We, therefore, allow the Appeals Nos. 98
and 99, set aside the orders of the High Court in Writ Petitions Nos. 475 and
476 of 1956 and order that these writ petitions be rejected.
Appeals Nos. 103 and 104 are dismissed.
Appeals Nos. 98 and 99 allowed.
Appeals Nos. 100 to 106 dismissed.