Shyamlal Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh
 INSC 35 (13 February 1963)
13/02/1963 IMAM, SYED JAFFER
IMAM, SYED JAFFER SUBBARAO, K.
DAYAL, RAGHUBAR MUDHOLKAR, J.R.
CITATION: 1963 AIR 1511 1964 SCR (2) 61
Criminal Trial--Obstructing railway servant--`In
the discharge of duty', Meaning of--Indian Railways Act, 1890 (9 of 1890), s.
121-Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860), s. 506.
The appellant, a points man, bore grudge for
some time against one C, a railway guard. While C was on -duty as a guard on a
train standing at the platform, the appellant came armed with a scythe, and
waiving it in a menacing way told C that he would cut his neck and hurled
abuses on him.
The appellant was tried and convicted under
s. 121, Indian Railways Act for wilfully obstructing a railway servant in the
discharge of his duties. He contended that no offence unders. 121 was made out.
Held (per Imam, Subba Rao and Mudholkar, JJ.)
that the appellant was rightly convicted under s. 121 of the Indian Railways
Act. The Act of the appellant was actuated by malice on account of the grudge
and was wilful within the meaning of s. 121. Further, C was on duty as a guard
and even when the train was standing he had to discharge multi- farious duties and
during the time the incident took place he was obstructed from discharging
Per Dayal, j.-The appellant was not guilty of
the offence under s. 121, Indian Railways Act, but of the offence under s. 506,
Indian Penal Code. For a conviction under s. 121 it had to be established that
C was obstructed "in the discharge of his duty". The offence under s.
121 is committed only when an accused commits an act with the intention of
preventing a railway servant from discharging his duty and the act does prevent
him from doing so. Even threats of violence would amount to obstruction if the
accused indicates that violence would be used if the railway servant persists
in performing his duties.
Empress v. Badam Singh, (1883) 3 All. W. N.
197; Kishori Lal v. Emperor, A. I. R. 1925 All. 409; Bastable v. Little, 62
 1 K. B. 59 and Betts v. Stevens,  1 K. B. 1, referred to.
Nafar Sardar v. Emperor, (1932) I. L. R. 60,
Cal. 149 and Emperor v. Tohfa, A. I. R. 1953 All. 759, approved.
CRIMINAL APPELATE JURISDICTION : Criminal
Appeal No. 9 of 1962.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated June 30, 1961, of the Allahabad High Court in Criminal Revision No.
971 of 1961.
D. S. Golani and K. L. Mehta, for the
C. P. Lal for the respondent.
1963. February 13. The judgment of Imam,
Subba Rao and Mudholkar jj. was delivered by Imam J. Dayal J. delivered a
IMAM, J.-Appellant Shyamlal was convicted by
the Honorary Railway Bench Magistrate,. Tundla Bench Agra, exercising first
class powers, for an offence punishable under s. 121 of the Indian Railways Act
and was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 6O/- and in case of default in the
payment of fine, to two months' rigorous imprisonment. His appeal to the 11
Additional Sessions judge, Agra was dismissed and his conviction and sentence
were confirmed. He then filed Revision No. 971 of 1961 in the High Court of
judicature at Allahabad, but the same was also rejected by Mr.Justice Brij Lal
Gupta. Against the judgment of the High Court he obtained special leave from
this Court and has filed this appeal.
The appellant Shyamlal was a pointsman at
Achhnera Railway Station. He bore grudge for some time against Hukam Chand
Chaturvedi, P. W. 2, who was a Guard. The latter bad taken in 1955 63 objection
to a bed being carried on a passenger train by the appellant. Hukam Chand had
also detected the appellant taking Railway line sleepers in a compartment, a
portion of which was protruding of the compartment, and made a report against
the appellant, as a result of which he was transferred. It is alleged that on
November 30, 1959, Hukam Chand was on duty as a Guard on 20 Down train standing
at the platform at Achhnera Railway Station at about 4-50 p.
in. Suddenly the appellant came out from
behind a compartment, armed with a scythe, and waiving it in his hand in a
menacing way told Hukam Chand that he would cut his neck, and hurled abuses on
him thereby causing an obstruction in the discharge of his duty.
P. W. 2, Hukam Chand Chaturvedi, narrated the
entire prosecution case and his statement was corroborated in full by P. W. 3
R. L. Pandey, P. W. 4 Chanda Ram, P. W. 8 Maharaj Dutt and P. W. 9 Nisar, who
were all independent witnesses, and there is nothing at all to show that they
are inimical to the appellant. On a careful consideration of the evidence, the
Additional Sessions judge, Agra came to the conclusion that the prosecution
have been successful in establishing its case and the appellant came out from
behind a compartment, abused Hukam Chand and waived the scythe towards him in a
menacing way shouting that he would cut his neck with it.
Section 121 of the Indian Railways Act states
"If a person wilfully obstructs or impedes any railway servant in the
discharge of his duty, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which
may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees,
or with both." Mr. D. S. Golani, Counsel for the appellant, contended that
as the prosecution had failed to prove as to what duty was being actually performed
64 by Hukam Chand, the appellant cannot be convicted under s.
121 of the Indian Railways Act. In support of
his contention the counsel relied on Radha Kishan v. Emperor (1), Mohinder
Singh v. The State (2) Jawand Mal v. The Crown, (3), In the matter of Baroda
Kant Pramanik (4) and Emperor v. Popatlal Bhaichand Shah (5). He also relied
upon Rules 113, 114, 115 and 137 of the Rules framed under the Indian Railways
Act. The facts of all these cases were different from those of the present case
and they can be easily distinguished. They have therefore no bearing on the
decision of the present case.
From the facts stated above it is evident
that the act alleged to have been done by the appellant was done by him,
actuated by malice by reason of the fact that Hukam Chand had not spared him in
the past for his lapses. It would follow, therefore, that this act was wilful
within the meaning of s. 121 of the Indian Railways Act. Further, Hukam Chand
was on duty as a guard of train 20 Down, which was then standing at the
platform, and as a Guard he had to discharge multifarious duties at the time
while the train was standing at the platform, e.g. lie had to look after the
loading of the parcels in the luggage van and to see that nothing untoward
happened at the platform. Thus, it is clear, that during the time that the
incident took place, viz., for about 15 minutes, he was obstructed from dis-
charging his duty by this deliberate and wilful act on the part of the
appellant, as it is not only when the train is in motion that a Guard is on
duty, but also while the train is standing at the platform. We are, therefore,
of the opinion that the appellant has wilfully created obstruction in the
discharge of the public duty by Hukam Chand as a Guard.
Rules 93 to 103 of the Rules framed under
certain sections of the Indian Railways Act, 1890, (1) A.I.R. (1923) Lah. 71.
(3) (1925) I.L.R. 5 Lah. 467, (2) A.I.R.
(1953) S.C. 415.
(4) (1896) 1 C.W.N. 74.
(5) (1929) J.L.R. 54 Bom, 326, 65 deal with
the attendance, discipline and equipment of Staff Working Trains. In Rule 95,
it is stated that the Guard shall be in charge of the train in all matters
affecting stopping or movement of the train for traffic purposes. It is,
therefore, clear that Hukam Chand was on duty as a Guard right up to the time
when he was to be the Guard of the train, and the act of the appellant amounted
to wilfully creating obstruction in the discharge of the public duty by Hukam
Chand. The appellant was, therefore, rightly convicted under s. 121 of the Indian
The appeal is accordingly dismissed.
RAGRUBAR DAYAL J.--I am of opinion that the
appellant is not guilty of the offence under s. 121 of the Indian Railways Act,
but is guilty of the offence under s. 506 1. P. C.
The finding of fact about the appellant's
conduct at the time cannot be challenged before us in this appeal by special
leave. The only question to determine is whether he, by his conduct, committed
an offence under s. 121 of the Act which reads :
"If a person wilfully obstructs or
impedes any railway servant in the discharge of his duty he shall be punished
with fine which may extend to one hundred rupees." To establish the
offence it is necessary to prove that the appellant acted wilfully and that his
wilful action obstructed or impeded Hukam Chand in the discharge of his duty.
The expression 'in the discharge of his duty' is not equivalent to the
expression `when on duty.' The obstruction or impediment, caused to the railway
servant in the discharge of his duty, should result in an obstruction or
impediment in the execution of the duty he was performing at 66 the time. There
is nothing on the record to indicate what Hukam Chand was doing at the time
and, consequently there is nothing on the record to show that what he was doing
at the time amounted to his discharging some duty as a guard. The fact that lie
was on the platform about 40 minutes before the departure of the train does not
necessarily lead to the inference that he must have been discharging some duty
which he had to perform as a guard of that train.
In this connection the Magistrate stated :
"....... there is not the least doubt
that his conduct amounted to interference with the duties of the guard who was
ready to go with the train and much of his time was wasted in writing
complaints." The observation is based not on any findings, both with
regard to the duties which were interfered with and with regard to the time
taken in writing complaints. The report which Hukam Chand submitted to the
station master is a brief one. It does not even give the time of the incident.
It could not have taken long. The learned Sessions judge said in his judgment :
"'So far as the question of obstruction
is concerned it may be noted that Shri Hukam Chand was on duty as a Guard on
train 20 Down, which was then standing at the platform. As a guard he had to
discharge multifarious duties at a time while the train was standing at the
platform e.g., he had to look after the loading of the parcels in the luggage
van and to see that nothing untoward happened at the platform. Thus during the
time that the incident took place viz., for about 15 minutes, he was obstructed
from discharging his duty by this 67 deliberate and wilful act on the part of
the appellant." Again, there is no reference to any particular duty which
Hukam Chand was performing at the time. There was, according to Hukam Chand's
deposition, a luggage guard with the train. Ram Lakhan Pandey was the luggage
guard. It would be his duty to look to the loading of the luggage and not of
Hukam Chand, the guard of the train. It is too vague a statement to say that
the guard had to see that nothing untoward happened on the platform. Anyway,
the behaviour of Shyam Lal at the station in no way affected Hukam Chand's not
discharging such a duty. He could go to the Senior Accounts Officer to make
complaint to him and so he could have given effective orders or instructions in
case anything happened at the platform.
Assuming, however, that Hukam Chand was
discharging duty at the time, the question is whether what the accused actually
did amounted to wilfully obstructing him in the discharge of that duty. The
appellant threatened Hukam Chand with a scythe and shouted abuses at him. This
conduct was not intended to cause obstruction to Hukam Chand in the discharge
of his duty. The section contemplates the wilfulness of the alleged culprit to
be with respect to the act of obstruction and not with respect to any other
act. Ordinarily, the acts done would be intentional and therefore wilful. The
intention to do a certain act, in no way directed towards the obstruction of a
railway servant, will not be an act of wilful obstruction of the railway
servant. The appellant's conduct was directed against Hukam Chand personally
and not against his performing any official act, in connection with the
discharge of his duties. He was not threatened in order to prevent him from
carrying out his duties and therefore the appellant cannot be said to have
wilfully obstructed Hukam 68 Chand in the discharge of his duty. Hukam Chand's
conduct on being threatened is irrelevant for considering the nature of the
appellant's wilful i. e., intentional act. What Hukam Chand did by way of'
making complaints to the Senior Accounts officer or to the Station Master -and
which kept him away for a short time from discharging his normal duties as a
guard at the station-cannot be said to be what was intended by the appellant.
I may now refer to some cases whose ratio
decidendi has a bearing on the present case.
In Empress v. Badant Singh (1), the execution
of a sale deed by the judgment debtor was held not to amount to an obstruction
of the sale in execution of the decree since the sale was not obstructed and
did actually take place.
In the present case too, the train did go in
time and there is no reason to suppose that Hukam Chand could not perform any
of his necessary duties preliminary to the departure of the train.
In Kishori Lal v. Emperor (2), the patwari
refused to allow the kanungo to go through his books and check them. He., in
fact, went away with his books. Such a conduct was not held to be an offence
under s. 186 I. P. C. which makes voluntary obstruction to a public servant in
the discharge of his public functions an offence. In that case, the Kanungo
could not perform his duty on account of the conduct of the patwari and even
then the patwari's conduct was held not to amount to a voluntary obstruction of
the kanungo in the discharge of his duties. The rationale of the decision seems
to be that the kanungo intended to perform his duties but was frustrated and
that it was therefore not a case of any obstruction in the discharge of his
(1) (1883) 3 All. W.N. 197. (2) A.I.R. 1925
69 In Bastable v, Little (1), the accused,
who had warned approaching cars about constables having measured certain
distances on the road and being on the watch in order to ascertain the speed at
which cars passed over measured distances with a view to discovering whether
they were proceeding at an illegal rate of speed, was held to be not guilty of
the offence of obstructing the constables when in the execution of their duty,
within the meaning of s. 2 of the Prevention of Crimes Amendment Act, 1885.
Lord Alverstone, C. J., said at p. 62 :
"I think that the section points to
something done in regard to the duty which the constable is performing..."
Ridley J., said :
"I think that in order to constitute an
offence under the section there must be some interference with the constable
himself by physical force or threats. He must be either physically obstructed
in doing his duty or -,it least throats must be used to prevent him from doing
it." In Betts v. Stevens (2), the accused who had done what the accused in
Bestable's Case (1), had done, was held to be guilty of the offence under s. 2
of the Prevention of Crimies Amendment Act, .1885, as the warning had been
given to cars which were actually proceeding at an excessive speed at the time
the warning was given and who were expected to cover the measured distance at
some excessive speed. Lord Alverstone, C..J, said at p. 6 :
"In my opinion a man who, finding that a
car is breaking the law, warns the driver, so that the speed of the car is
slackened, and the police arc thereby prevented from ascertaining the speed so
are prevented from obtaining the (1)  1 K.B. 59. (2)  1 K.B. 1.
70 only evidence upon which, according to our
experience, Courts will act with confidence, is obstructing the police in the
execution of their duty. This is exactly the kind of case that I had in my mind
when the case of Bastable v.
Little (1907 1 K. B. 59) was before us, and
which led me, after Ridley J., had, as I thought, put too narrow a construction
on the word obstruct, to say that I could not agree in the view that physical
obstruction or threats were the only kinds of acts that would come within the
However, nothing that I now say must be
construed to mean that the mere giving of a warning to a passing car that the
driver must look out as there is a police trap ahead will amount to an
obstruction of the police in the execution of their duty in the absence of
evidence that the car was going at an illegal speed at the time of the warning
given; but where it is found, as in this case, that the cars were already
breaking the law at the time of the warning, and that the act of the person.
giving the warning prevented the police from getting the only evidence which
would be required for the purposes of the case, there I think the warning does
amount to obstruction." Darling, J., said at p. 8 "The appellant in
effect advised the drivers of those cars which were proceeding at an unlawful
speed not to go on committing an unlawful act. If that advice were given simply
with a view to prevent the continuance of the unlawful act and procure observance
of the law, I should say that there would not be an obstruction of the police
in the execution of their duty of collecting evidence beyond the point at which
the appellant intervened. The gist of 71 the offence to my mind lies in the
intention with which the thing is done." It is not necessary for me to say
how far the view expressed in this case about the commission of the offence is
I have made reference to these observations
to indicate that a necessary element of a person's wilfully obstructing a
public servant in the discharge of his duties is that person's actual intention
in doing the act which is alleged to constitute the offence and the intention
must be to prevent the public servant from discharging his duty. The result of
the act should be that the public servant is actually obstructed in the
discharge of his duty, i. e., the public servant is not able to perform his
duty. I am therefore of opinion that an offence under s. 121 of the Act is
committed only when an accused commits an act with the intention of preventing
the public servant from discharging his duty and the act does prevent him from
It has been further urged for the appellant
that threats of violence cannot amount to Obstructing Hukam Chand in the
discharge of his duty. The appellant merely uttered threats and therefore
committed no offence under s. 121 of the Act.
I am of opinion that threats of violence can
amount to obstructing a public servant in the discharge of his duty, if the
attitude of the person holding out the threats indicates that violence would be
used if the public servant persisted in performing his duty, and approve of
what was said by Costello, J., in Nafar Sardar v. Emperor (1), and was approved
in Emperor v. Tohfa (2) whose facts were similar.
In Nafar Sardar v. Emperor (1), the naib
nazir deputed to execute the decree against the accused by attachment of their
moveable property, proceeded to enter their house in order to attach the
moveables. A number of persons collected and some of them, (1) (1932) I.L.R.
60. Cal. 149, 160, (2) A.1,R, 1933 All.
759, 72 including the accused', declared that
they would kill or break the head of anybody coming into their house to attach
the moveables. Due to such attitude, no attachment could be effected. In holding
the accused guilty of the offence tinder s. 186 1. P. C. Costello, J., said
" 'No doubt, in some instances, mere threats may not of themselves be
sufficient. The real question is whether the action or attitude on the part of
the persons alleged to have obstructed a public servant in the performance of
his functions was of such a nature as to obstruct, that is to say, to stand in
the way so as to prevent him in carrying out the duties which he had to
discharge. Where it is solely a matter of threats, they must be of such a
nature as so to affect the public servant concerned as to cause him to abstain
from proceeding with the execution of his duties.
It seems to me obvious that threats of
violence, made in such a way as to prevent a public servant from carrying out
his duty, would easily amount to an obstruction of the public servant,
particularly if such threats are coupled with an aggressive or menacing
attitude on the part of the persons uttering the threats and still more so if
they are accompanied by the flourishing or even the exhibition of some kind of
weapon capable of inflicting physical injury.
Threats made by a person holding an Offensive
weapon in his hand must be taken to be just as much an obstruction as that
caused by a pet-son actually blocking a gateway or handling, a public servant
in a manner calculated to prevent him from executing his duty," In view of
the facts of the present case, the appellant's conduct in giving threats to
Hukam Chand, the guard, at the station does not amount to an 73 offence under
s. 121 of the Act but makes out an offence under s. 506 I.P.C. I would
therefore alter the conviction of the appellant for an offence under s. 121 of
the Act to one under s. 506 1. P. C., and maintain the sentence of Rs.
60/- fine in default of payment of which he
would undergo rigorous imprisonment for two months.