Ram Ranjan Chatterjee Vs. The State Of
West Bengal  INSC 12 (22 January 1975)
SARKARIA, RANJIT SINGH SARKARIA, RANJIT SINGH
CITATION: 1975 AIR 609 1975 SCR (3) 301 1975
SCC (4) 143
RF 1975 SC 953 (10) R 1983 SC1130 (12) R 1985
SC 18 (11) RF 1987 SC 998 (6) RF 1992 SC 687 (8)
Maintenance of Internal Security Act,
1971--Preventive Detention--Distinction between Public order and Law and Order.
The petitioner challenged the order of his
detention made under section 3 of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act.
The Order was founded on 3 grounds. First,
the petitioner exploded a bomb in which one person died in a thickly populated
area which created panic amongst the local people and he threatened the local
people to see that they did not inform the Police. Secondly, the petitioner and
his associates tried to extort on pain of instant death grocery from a shop
keeper. As a result customers fled away for fear of their lives and all shops in
the bazar closed down immediately. Thirdly bombs were recklessly burled at the
villagers, causing panic and disruption.
The petitioner contended :
(1) That the grounds mentioned in the
detention order are not relevant to public order. They concerned law and order
(2) That the impugned order was passed
mechanically without application of mind.
Dismissing the petition.
HELD : Qualitatively the acts which affect
law and order are not different from the acts which affect public order. It is
the potentiality of the act to disturb the even tempo of the life of the
community which makes it prejudicial to the maintenance of public order. If the
contravention in its effect is confined only to a few individuals. directly
involved as distinguished from a wide spectrum of the public, it would raise a
problem of law and order only. It is the length, magnitude and the intensity of
the terrorwave unleashed but particular eruption of disorder that helps
distinguish it as an act affecting public order from that concerning law and
order. The instances in question were serious enough to cause panic and
disruption of even flow of life in the locality. Counter-affidavit clearly
states that the prosecution against the petitioner could not succeed because
the witnesses were not prepared to give evidence for fear of their lives. [304
D-G] Held further, that the detention order in question was passed after due
consideration of all relevant grounds. [309 G]
ORIGINAL, JURISDICTION : Writ Petition No.
476 of 1974.
(Petition under Article 32 of the
S. K. Sinha A.C., for the Petitioner.
D. N. Mukherjee and G. S. Chatterjee of
Sukumar Basu & Co.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
SARKARIA, J-The petitioner, Ham Raman Chatterjee, challenges the order of his
detention dated 8.12.1973 made under s. 3 of the Maintenance of Internal
Security Act, by the District Magistrate, Purulia. The order states that
"with a view to preventing him from acting S-423SC/75 302 in any manner prejudicial
to the maintenance of public order, it is necessary so to do". It is
founded on three grounds which run as under :
" 1. On 3.6.1973 at about 19.00 hrs. at
village Kotaldi a thickly populated area, under P. S. Santuri, District
Purulia, you with your associates were illegally manufacturing bombs for
unlawful purposes from dangerous explosive in Your possession when an explosion
took place causing fatal injury to one of your associates Gope (s/o Late Chandi
Gope of Kataldi, P. S. Santuri. You and your associates' act of preparing bombs
presumably for criminal operations as given out by you and your associates and
the explosion taking place in a thickly populated area, created panic amongst
the local people on further threatened the local people with dire consequences
even upto causing death, if they informed police of your above said activity.
This act of you and your associates
endangered public safety and tranquility and were prejudicial to the
maintenance of Public Order.
In consequence of your said activity which
comes within the purview of Sec. 6(3) of Indian Explosive Act 1884, (Act No. IV
of 1884) the maintenance of Public Order was disturbed.
2. On 28.6.73 at about 08.00 hrs. you with
your associates armed with daggers and other dangerous weapons suddenly entered
into the 'Grocery' of Shri Narayan Chandra Garai (S/o Harishikesh Garai) at
Kistapur Bazar, P. S. Santuri and demanded commodities from his shop for which
you did not intend to pay. On refusal of the shopkeeper (Shri Narayan Chandra
Garai), you and your associates furiously attacked him (the shopkeeper) with
daggers, threatening him others present with instant death if they protested.
Dismayed and overawed the shopkeeper (Shri Narayan Garai) and the customers
fled away from the shop for fear of life. This violent act created
consternation in the area and all the shop in the said bazar were closed down
instantly as a consequence. Your activity jeopardised the normal life and free
movement of the local people injuring public interest.
Your activity thus attract sub-clause (ii) of
Clause (a) of Sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Maintenance of Internal
Security Act 1971 (Act 26 of 1971).
3. On 3.7.73 at about 08.00 hrs. you along
with your associates armed with daggers and bombs surprisedly attacked one
Siddique Sk. (S/o late Mahaffat Sk.) of Veti, P. S. Santuri (District Purulia)
for extorting money from him (Siddique Sk) for your personal expenses putting
him under threat of immediate death.
Apprehending danger Siddique Sk. and other present,
cried out for help when villagers rushed in. Being infuriated, you with your
associates, murderously attacked them hurling recklessly dangerous bombs at
these villagers who got panicky and fled away to save their lives.
This violent act committed by you and your
associates created alarm and anxiety amongst the local people, endangered
security, affected the normal and rightful activities of their lives.
The said activities thus attract Sub Clause
(ii) of Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Maintenance of
Internal Security Act 1971 (Act 26 of 1971)." In response to the Rule
Nisi, the officer who had passed the impugned order has inter alia averred :
"With reference to the incidents
mentioned in the grounds of detention I have been informed by the I.O. of the
case that one criminal case and two G.D. entries were filed against the
petitioner and his associates. Ground No. 1 relates to Santuri P.S. case No. 3
dated 5.6.73 under section 6(3) of the Indian Explosive Act and Ground No. 2
relates to Santuri P.S.G.D. Entry No. 805 dated 29.6.73 and the Ground No. 3
relates to Santuri P.S.G.D.
Entry 76 dated 3.7.73. The detenu was named
in F.I.R. and G.D. Entries and was arrested on 27.9.73 in connection with the
first case as he was absconding and he was put in jail custody (intermediate).
The petitioner was ultimately discharged from the cases on the prayer of the
Police from the said first case on 4.4.74 case not because there was no
evidence against him but because this detenu being a dangerous person witnesses
were afraid to depose against him in open court. The order of detention passed
by me was served on the detenu on 8. 12.73 when he was in jail custody. I say
that the detentu was not illegally detained as alleged, All s tatements
contrary to what has been stated herein before are denied." The first
contention of Mr. K. K. Sinha, learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner as
amicus cutriae, is that the three incidents mentioned in the grounds of
detention are not relevant to the maintenance of "public order".
According to Counsel, these incidents concern
"law and order" only. On these premises, it is urged that the impugned
order is illegal. Support for this contention has been sought from the dictum
of this Court in Dipak Bose v. State of West Ben. gal(1).
The second point pressed into argument is
that in the counter, although something has been said as to why the petitioner
was discharged by the Court in one of the cases, no such explanation has been
given in regard to the other two cases. The impugned order, says the Counsel,
was passed by the detaining authority mechanically without due application of
304 On the other hand Mr. D. N. Mukherjee,
learned Counsel for the State stresses that the criminal acts which are the
foundation of the impugned order were, accompanied by such violence that they
had seriously disturbed public tranquility and the normal flow of life in those
localities. These activities therefore, maintains the Counsel, directly
affected the maintenance of 'public order'. Mr. Mukherjee further submits that
the question whether a particular criminal act raises a problem of 'law and
order' and 'public order' is one of fact. Dipak Bose's case (supra), according
to him turns on its own facts, and is not a precedent for deciding the instant
case having entirely different facts.
Counsel has placed reliance on the recent
decision dated 20.12.74 of this Court in Ram Bali Rajbhar v.' State of West
Bengal" 1) In regard to the second point canvassed on behalf of the
petitioner, Mr. Mukherjee has placed before us a copy of the report or
history-sheet of the detenu whereby the Superintendent of Police had moved the
District Magistrate for the preventive detention of the petitioner.
We will deal with the contentions ad
It may be remembered that qualitatively, the
acts which affect 'law and order' are not different from the acts which affect
'public order'. Indeed, a state of peace of orderly tranquility which prevails
as a result of the observance of enforcement of internal laws and regulations
by the Government, is a feature common to the concepts of 'law and order' and
'public order'. Every kind of disorder or contravention of law affects that
orderly tranquility. The distinction between the areas of 'law and order' and
'public order' as pointed by this Court in Arun Ghost v. State of West
Bengal(2), ,,is one of degree and extent of the reach of the act in question on
society". It is the potentiality of the act to disturb the even tempo of
the 'life of the community which makes it prejudicial to the maintenance of
public order. If the contravention in its effect is confined only to a few
individuals directly involved as distinguished from 'a wide spectrum of the
public, it would raise a problem of law and order only. These concentric
concepts of 'law and order' and 'public order' may have a common 'epicentre',
but it is the length, magnitude and intensity of the terror-wave unleashed by a
particular eruption OF disorder that helps distinguish it as an act affection
'public order' from that concerning 'law and order'.
Considered in the light of the above
principles, it is clear that in the instant case the three grounds of detention
conveyed to the detenu had a direct nexus with public order.
The first incident relates to a bomb
explosion in which one person died in a thickly populated area. It created
panic amongst the local people who were threatened by the detenu, and were
restrained under pain of death, from informing the police. The second incident
took place on 28. 6. 73 in Kistapura Bazar at 8 p.m. The petitioner and his
associate,, tried to extort under pain of instant death, grocery from the
shopkeeper. Custo(1) Writ Petition No. 322 of 1974.
(2)  3 S.C.R. 288.
305 mers fied away for fear of their lives.
Consternation prevailed in the area and all shops in the Bazar closed down
immediately. Thus the normal pursuits of life by the people of the locality was
thrown out of gear, and the public tranquility in the area was seriously
disturbed. In the third incident bombs were recklessly hurled at the villagers
causing panic and disruption of even flow of life in the locality.
Dipak Bose's case (supra) stands on its own
facts. There was no allegation in the grounds of detention that the detenu
therein or his associates had exploded bombs to cause terror in the locality;
while in the instant case the criminal acts in question actually disturbed the
normal pursuits of life by the people of the localities concerned.
The terror-tremors generated by these acts
prejudicially affected the general people of the localities. Thus the grounds
of detention had a direct nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the
The second contention, although attractive,
does not stand a close examination. The counter-affidavit is no doubt unhappily
worded. At one place the word 'case' is used in a singular and at another the
same word is used in plural.
This has afforded some tenuous ground for
But a perusal of the report, dated 8.12.1973,
which was submitted by the Superintendent of Police, Purilia (a copy of which
has been placed on record) to the District Magistrate makes the matter clear.
This report discloses several other instances of murder and dacoity in which,
according to it, the petitioner was concerned. Those instances have not been
made the basis of the impugned order obviously because they were relatively not
proximate in point of time. The recent instances of his violent activities
given in it, are the same which constitute the ground of detention. It has been
specifically stated with regard to each of these incidents that the prosecution
for those crimes against the petitioner could not succeed because for fear of
their lives, witnesses were not prepared to give evidence against the
petitioner in court.
There is thus no reason to doubt the sworn
word of the detaining authority that although charges against the petitioner
were true, his prosecution in court, could not be pursued because the terror
stricken witnesses were not prepared to depose against him in open court.
The Superintendent of Police made the report
to the District Magistrate on 8-12-1973. The impugned order was passed on that
very day. There was no delay.
We are satisfied, in the circumstances of the
case, that the detention order in question was passed after due consideration
on relevant grounds. We uphold the same, dismiss the petition and discharge the
Before we part with this judgment, we would
like to place on record our appreciation of the valuable assistance rendered by
the Counsel on both sides particularly the amicus curiae.