Balbir Singh & Anr v. The State

CITATION1958 CriLJ 1461
COURTHigh Court of Gauhati
JUDGES/CORAMJustice S. Prosad and Justice G. Mehrotra


The Constitution of India gives much accentuation on the constitutionalism and standard of law. In India the standard of law is viewed as a piece of the fundamental structure of the Constitution and furthermore of common equity. The standard of common equity says that people ought not punished by choices influencing their rights or real desires except if they have been given earlier notice of the bodies of evidence against them, a reasonable chance to answer them, and the chance to show their own cases.


The facts of the case are as follows: This is a revision appeal against the decision of the Sessions Judge, Upper Assam Districts, who confirmed the conviction and sentences passed against the two applicants Balbir Sing and Inderijt Sing by Sri A. Ahmed, Magistrate, 1st Class at Jorhat.

Applicant No. I was convicted under Section 61-A of the East Bengal and Assam Excise Act and Applicant No. 2 was convicted under Section 53(1)(a) of the Act. Each of these two applicants was sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs. 500/- in default to undergo another period ofthree months’ rigorous imprisonment.

The prosecution case was that on 21.11.1954 the Excise Inspector, under the authority of a search warrant, searched one Broadway Hotel and its restaurant, including its kitchen and recovered one bottle of Heyward’s brandy, one kettle containing liquor, one bottle containing about a gram of Heyward’s brandy, one bottle containing traces of Heyward’s whisky, six empty bottles of Heyward’s whisky, rum, brandy, open tumbler with smell of liquor, from the kitchen and from the drawer of the Manager’s secretariat table, one bottle containing about 2 ½ ounces of Heyward’s whisky. On the recovery of these articles, Inderjit Sing (Applicant No. 1, the manager of the hotel) John Games (Assistant Manager) and Baldev Raj (the cook) were arrested. Balbir Sing Bedi Applicant No. 2 later surrendered. The charge was denied by the two applicants. As far as the factum of recovery was concerned, the Court below believed the story given by the Deputy Superintendent of Excise and the Court did not think that in revision it could interfere with that finding. Balbir Sing was said to be the de facto proprietor of the hotel. The license of the hotel stood in the name of his minor son—Jasbir Sing Bedi.

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The main issue in the case was: Whether or not Section 17(3) of the East Bengal and Assam Excise Act was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Summary of court decision and judgment

In the courts opinion Section 17(3) was within the permissible limits of delegation. There was, therefore, no force in the contention of the petitioner.

Indrajit Singh was convicted by the Courts below under Section 53(1)(a) of the Assam Excise Act and was sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 500/-. The sentence, in the High Court’s opinion, was excessive. Additionally, both the lower Courts found him guilty for possessing incriminating article found in the kitchen as he was in constructive possession of the said articles as the manager of the hotel. The High Court did not however think that he could be held liable for the articles recovered from the kitchen. So far as the recovery of the whisky from his office drawer, it was held that he was certainly liable. That was a very small quantity and the Court consequently reduced his sentence of imprisonment to the period already undergone.

In the result, therefore, the petition on behalf of Balbir Singh was allowed, his conviction and sentence were set aside and the petition of Indrajit Singh was dismissed with the modification that the sentence of imprisonment was reduced to the period already undergone and the fine to Rs. 50/-, in default seven days’ rigorous imprisonment.


The Applicant, Indrajit Singh, was present and was actually engaged in the work as the manager of the hotel when the excise party started search. The bottle containing about 2 ½ ounces of Heyward’s whisky was found in a drawer of the applicant’s table. At any rate, therefore, as far as the whisky recovered from his table, it could not be said that he had no knowledge of the fact that it was kept in his drawer within the hotel premises. He was thus rightly held to be in conscious possession of the incriminating article recovered by the excise party.The offence, no doubt, has been wholly established against him.

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Situations where a power has been given to force confinements on the privilege to carry on business or exchange which might be now and again a sensible limitation, in the others, it might be absurd, in such condition if a stripped power is given to the official to force such a confinement on any individual of its decision, it might be said that the arrangements which give such power contain in themselves the germ of separation. Where the limitation is in all cases, having respect to the idea of the business substantial and admissible confinement, any caution given in the matter of its application cannot be said to be oppressive. So therefore Section 17(3) is not hit by the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution and therefore the courts Judgment is completely right in the present case.


Article 14 of the Constitution clarifies that the State will not deny to any individual fairness under the watchful eye of law or the equivalent insurance of the laws inside the domain of India. The point of Article 14 is to guarantee to measure up to equity. The certification of equivalent equity is inane if poor people or unskilled or frail people can’t implement their rights due to their neediness or lack of education or shortcoming.

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