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Report No. 198

5.3 Gurbachan Singh's case (section 27 of the Greater Bombay Police Act, 1902) (1952)

In 1952, in Gurbachan Singh v. State of Bombay (AIR 1952 SC 221) decided by the Supreme Court, the challenge was to an order of externment passed against the appellant (writ petitioner), a resident of Bombay, to the effect that he should shift to Amritsar, (later modified as a shift to Kalyan), so that witnesses may depose freely against him in Bombay.

The order was passed by the Commissioner of Police under section 27 of the Greater Bombay Police Act, 1902 (which is now replaced by the Bombay Police Act, 1951). That section permitted the Commissioner to direct any person to remove himself outside the State or to such place within the State and by such route and within such time as the Commissioner shall prescribe and not to enter the State or, as the case may be, the Greater Bombay, if it appears to the Commissioner:

"(a) that the movements or acts of any person in Greater Bombay are causing or calculated to cause alarm, danger or harm to person or property, or that there are reasonable grounds for believing that such person is engaged or is about to be engaged in the commission of an offence involving force or violence, or an offence punishable under Chapters XII, XVI or XVII of the Indian Penal Code, or in the abetment of any such offence, and where in the opinion of the Commissioner, witnesses are not willing to come forward to give evidence in public against such person by reason of apprehension on their part as regards the safety of their person or property".

One of the contentions of the appellant was that section 27 which permitted the Court to order the accused to be removed outside the State or to another place within the State, imposed an unreasonable restriction on the appellant violating Art. 19(1)(d) of the Constitution of India and was not saved by clause (5) of Art 19. The Supreme Court upheld section 27 and rejected the challenge to its validity, and observed as follows:

"There can be no doubt that the provisions of section 27(1) of the Bombay Act, (conferring on the Commissioner of Police the power to extern), was made in the interest of the general public and to protect them against dangerous and bad characters whose presence in a particular locality may jeopardize the peace and safety of the citizens."

The Supreme Court also held that the procedure in the Act which denied permission to be present when the witness was cross-examined was not unreasonable. The law was an extraordinary one and was made only to deal with exceptional cases where witnesses, for fear of violence to their person or property, were unwilling to depose publicly against bad characters whose presence in certain areas might constitute a menace to the safety of the public residing there.

This object would be wholly defeated if a right to confront or cross examine these witnesses was given to the suspect. The power under section 27 was vested in a high dignitary and was justified. It should be noted that the Court treated the procedure as valid as it was not necessary before Maneka Gandhi's case, to go into the question whether the procedure was 'fair'.



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