Companies Act Case Law Lalita Jalan And Anr Vs Bombay Gas Co. Ltd. And Ors.

CASE NO.:
Appeal (crl.) 574 of 2003

PETITIONER:
LALITA JALAN AND ANR.

RESPONDENT:
BOMBAY GAS CO. LTD. AND ORS.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 16/04/2003

BENCH:
S. RAJENDRA BABU & DR. AR. LAKSHMANAN & G.P. MATHUR

JUDGMENT:
JUDGMENT

2003(3) SCR 589

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by

G.P. MATHUR, J. Leave granted.

This appeal has been preferred against the judgment and order dated January
18, 2002 of High Court of Bombay by which the petition preferred by the
appellants under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and Article 227 of the Constitution
was dismissed. The matter has been referred to a three-Judge Bench in view
of the apparent conflict in the two decisions of this Court in Abhilash
Vinodkumar Jain v. Cox & Kings India Ltd. and Ors., [1995] 3 SCC 732 and
J.K. Bombay Ltd. v. Bharti Matha Mishra and Ors., [2001] 2 SCC 700.

Bombay Gas Co. Ltd. respondent no.l had taken on lease a flat in a building
known as “Hari Bhavan”, 64 Pedder Road, Bombay. Shri N.K. Jalan, in his
capacity as Director of the Company, was allotted the said flat. Ashok
Kumar Jalan (accused no. 1 and respondent no.2 in the present appeal) is
son of Shri N.K. Jalan. Appellant no. 1 Smt. Lalita Jalan (accused no. 2)
is wife of Ashok Kumar Jalan and appellant no.2 Siddharth Jalan (accused
no. 3) is his son. Shri N.K. Jalan died in 1967. The company purchased the
flat and became owner thereof in April, 1991. It fled a criminal complaint
under Section 630 of the Companies Act, 1956 hereinafter referred to as
‘the Act’ against Ashok Kumar Jalan, Smt. Lalita Jalan and Siddharth Jalan
on March 16, 1994. The proceedings of the complaint case were stayed in a
company petition and finally sometime in the year 2001, the learned
Magistrate issued process against the accused. The appellants moved an
application for recall of the process issued against them and for their
discharge, which was rejected by the Metropolitan Magistrate, 14th Court,
Girgaum, Mumbai by order dated December 1, 2001. Thereafter, the appellants
preferred a petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and Article 227 of the
Constitution in the High Court of Bombay, which was dismissed by the
impugned order dated January 18, 2002.

Shri Ashok Desai, learned senior counsel for the appellants, has submitted
that in view of the plain language used in Section 630 of the Act, the said
provision can apply only to an officer or employee of the company. The flat
was given to Shri N.K. Jalan for his residence but he died when he was
still functioning as Director of the company. The appellants, are neither
officers nor employees of the company and, therefore, they cannot be
prosecuted under the aforesaid provision and the complaint filed against
them is an abuse of the process of the Court which is liable to be quashed.
Shri Abhishek Singhvi, learned senior counsel for the respondent, Bombay
Gas Company Ltd., has submitted that the appellants are family members of
Late Shri N.K. Jalan and it is they who are wrongfully withholding the
property of the company. In these circumstances they are fully liable to be
prosecuted under Section 630 of the Act and there is absolutely no ground
for either quashing the complaint or the process issued against them.

In order to examine the contentions raised by learned counsel for the
parties, it will be convenient to set out the provisions of Section 630 of
the Companies Act, 1956, which read as under:

“630. Penalty for wrongful withholding of property-(1) If any officer or
employee of a company-

(a) wrongfully obtains possession of any property of a company; or

(b) having any such property in his possession, wrongfully withholds it
or knowingly applies it to purposes other than those expressed or directed
in the articles and authorised by this Act;

he shall on the complaint of the company or any creditor or contributory
thereof, be punishable with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.

(2) The court trying the offence may also order such officer or employee to
deliver up or refund, within a time to be fixed by the court, any such
property wrongfully obtained or wrongfully withheld or knowingly
misapplied, or in default, to suffer imprisonment for a term which may
extend to two years.”

The question which requires consideration is whether the appellants having
not vacated the flat after the death of Shri N.K. Jalan to whom it was
allotted in his capacity as Director of the Company, come within the ambit
of Section 630 of the Act. The main ingredient of the Section is wrongful
withholding of the property of the company or knowingly applying it to
purposes other than those expressed or directed in the articles and
authorised by the Act. The dictionary meaning of the word “withholding” is
to hold back; to keep back; to restrain or decline to grant. The holding
back or keeping back is not an isolated act but is a continuous process by
which the property is not returned or restored to the company and the
company is deprived of its possession. If the officer or employee of the
company does any such act by which the property given to him is wrongfully
withheld and is not restored back to the company, it will clearly amount to
an offence within the meaning of Section 630 of the Act. The object of
enacting the Section is that property of the company is preserved and is
not used for purposes other than those expressed or directed in the
Articles of Association of the company or as authorised by the provisions
of the Act. On a literal interpretation of Section 630 of the Act the
wrongful withholding of the property of the company by a person who has
ceased to be an officer or employee thereof may not come within the ambit
of the provision as he is no longer an officer or employee of the company.
In Baldev Krishna Sahi v. Shipping Corpn. of India Ltd. and Anr., [1987] 4
SCC 3.61, the Court was called upon to consider the question whether the
words “officer or employee” existing in sub-section (1) of Section 630
should be interpreted to mean not only the present officers and employees
of the company but also to include past officers and employees of the
company. It was held that a narrow construction should not be placed upon
sub-section (1) of Section 630, which would defeat the very purpose and
object with which it had been introduced but should be so construed so as
to make it effective and operative. The Court held as under in para 7 of
the report:

“7. The beneficent provision contained in Section 630 no doubt penal, has
been purposely enacted by the legislature with the object of providing a
summary procedure for retrieving the property of the company (a) where an
officer or employee of a company wrongfully obtains possession of property
of the company, or (b) where having been placed in possession of any such
property during the course of his employment, wrongfully withholds
possession of it after the termination of his employment. It is the duty of
the court to place a broad and liberal construction on the provision in
furtherance of the object and purpose of the legislation which would
suppress the mischief and advance the remedy.”

The Court went on to observe that it is only the present officers and
employees who can secure possession of any property of a company and it is
possible for such an officer or employee to wrongfully take away possession
of any such property after termination of his employment. Therefore, the
function of Clause (a) though it primarily refers to the existing officers
and employees, is to take within its fold an officer or employee who may
have wrongfully obtained possession of any such property during the course
of his employment but wrongfully withholds it after the termination of his
employment. It was further held that Section 630 plainly makes it an
offence if an officer or employee of the company,who was permitted to use
any property of the company during his employment, wrongfully retains or
occupies the same after the termination of his employment and that it is
the wrongful withholding of the property of the company after the
termination of the employment, which is an offence under section 630(1 )(b)
of the Act.

Soon thereafter the same question came up for consideration before a three
Judge Bench of this Court in Amrit Lai Chum v. Devoprasad Dutta Roy, [1988]
2 SCC 269, which reiterated that it is the wrongful withholding of such
property, meaning the property of the company after termination of the
employment, which is an offence under Section 630(1 )(b) of the Act. It was
further held that the construction placed upon the section in Baldev
Krishna Sahi’s case (supra) is the only construction possible and there was
no warrant to give a restrictive meaning to the term “officer or employee”
appearing in sub-section (1) of Section 630 of the Act as meaning only the
existing officers and employees and not those whose employment have been
terminated. The matter was again considered in Atul Mathur v. Atul Kalra
and Anr., [1989] 4 SCC 514, and it was held that the purpose of enacting
Section 630 is to provide speedy relief to a company when its property is
wrongfully obtained or wrongfully withheld by an employee or an ex-employee
and the view taken in Baldev Krishna Sahi’s case supra and Amrit Lai Chum’s
case (supra) that the term “officer or employee of a company” applies not
only to existing officers or employees but also to past officers and
employees, if such officer or employee either (a) wrongfully obtains
possession of any property; or (b) having obtained possession of such
property during his employment’ wrongfully withholds the same after the
termination of his employment.

In Gokak Patel Volkart Ltd. v. Dundayya Gurushiddaiah Hiremath and Ors.,
[1991] 2 SCC 141, the Court following Baldev Krishna Sahi (supra) and Amrit
Lai Chum (supra) held that Section 630 of the Companies Act embraced both
present and past officers and employees within its fold and having regard
to the words “wrongfully withholding the property” observed that the
offence continues until the property so obtained or withheld is delivered
or refunded to the company. It will be useful to reproduce here the
relevant portion of para 26 of the report.

“……..we are of the view that the offence under this Section is not such
as can be said to have consummated once for all. Wrongful withholding or
wrongful obtaining possession and wrongful application of the Company’s
property that is, for purposes other than those expressed or directed in
the articles of the company and authorised by the Companies Act, cannot be
said to be terminated by a single act or fact but would subsist for the
period until the property in the offender’s possession is delivered up or
refunded. It is an offence committed over a span of time and the last act
of the offence will control the commencement of the period of limitation
and need be alleged. The offence consists of a course of conduct arising
from a singleness of thought, purpose of refusal to deliver up or refund
which may be deemed a single impulse. Considered from another angle, it
consists of a continuous series of acts which endures after the period of
consummation on refusal to deliver up or refund the property. It is not an
instantaneous offence and limitation begins with the cessation of the
criminal act i.e. with the delivering up or refund of the property. It will
be a recurring or continuing offence until the wrongful possession,
wrongful withholding or wrongful application is vacated or put up an end
to. The offence continues until the property wrongfully obtained or
wrongfully withheld or knowingly misapplied is delivered up or refunded to
the company. For failure to do so sub-section (2) prescribes the
punishment………………………”

The four cases referred to above, considered the question whether a former
or past employee or officer of the company could be prosecuted under
Section 630 of the Act. In Abhilash Vinodkumar Jain v. Cox & Kings India
Ltd and Ors., [1995] 3 SCC 732, the question which arose for consideration
was whether the legal heirs and representatives of the employee or the
officer concerned continuing in occupation of the property of the company,
after the death of the employee or the officer, could also be prosecuted
under Section 630 of the Act. The complaint in the said case had been filed
against the legal heirs of the employee-officer of the company, who died in
harness while serving the company. After noticing the above cited four
decisions and also the fact that the Court had consistently taken the view
and repeatedly emphasized that the provisions of Section 630 of the Act
have to be given purposive and wider interpretation and not a restrictive
interpretation, it was held as under in para 14 of the Report:

“Thus, inescapably it follows that the capacity, right to possession and
the duration of occupation are all features which are integrally blended
with the employment, and the capacity and the corresponding rights are
extinguished with the cessation of employment and an obligation arises to
hand over the allotted property back to the company. Where the property of
the company is held back whether by the employee, past employee or anyone
claiming under them, the retained possession would amount to wrongful
withholding of the property of the company actionable under Section 630 of
the

Act………………………….It is immaterial whether the wrongful
withholding is done by the employee or the officer or the past employee or
the past officer or the heirs of the deceased employee or the officer or
anyone claiming their right of occupancy under such an employee or an
officer. It cannot be ignored that the legal heirs or representative in
possession of the property had acquired the right of occupancy in the
property of the company by virtue of being family members of the employee
or the officer during the employment of the officer or the employee and not
on any independent account.. They, therefore, derive their colour and
content from the employee or the officer only and have no independent or
personal right to hold on to the property of the company. Once the right of
the employee or the officer to retain the possession of the property,
either on account of termination of services, retirement, resignation or
death, gets extinguished, they (persons in occupation) are under an
obligation to return the property back to the company and on their failure
to do so, they render themselves liable to be dealt with under Section 630
of the Act for retrieval of the possession of the property.”

Shri Ashok Desai, learned senior counsel for the appellant has tried to
distinguish Abilash Vinodkumar Jain (supra) on the ground that the same
related to the case of heirs of a deceased employee. It is urged that in
accordance with Hindu Succession Act, Shri Ashok Kumar Jalan, who is the
son of late Shri N.K. Jalan would be his legal heir and not the appellants
and, therefore, the principle laid down in Abilash VinodKumar Jain (supra)
would not be applicable to the case in hand. In support of his submission,
Shri Desai has placed strong reliance upon a decision of this Court
rendered in J.K. Bombay Ltd. v. Bharti Matha Mishra and Ors., [2001] 2 SCC
700 wherein it was observed that the possession of the legal heirs of the
deceased employee cannot be equated with the family members of an erstwhile
employee. In our opinion, this case is clearly distinguishable on facts and
the principle laid down therein cannot be of any assistance to the
appellants. One Mata Harsh Mishra was an employee of the company and he was
given possession of a flat of the company for the purposes of his residence
during the course of his employment which he had to vacate as and when he
ceased to be the employee of the company. Mata Harsh Mishra tendered his
resignation, which was accepted by the company and he was directed to hand
over charge of his work to the Production Manager and to vacate the flat in
his possession. Shri Mishra, however, did not vacate the premises on the
pretext that he had not been paid his dues and, therefore, he had a right
to remain in occupation of the flat. The company then filed the complaint
under Section 630 of the Act against Mata Harsh Mishra, his wife and son
(respondent nos. 1 and 2 in the appeal). The respondent nos.l and 2, viz.,
wife and son, moved an application before the Judicial Magistrate for
recall of the order of process, which was rejected and the revision
preferred by them was also dismissed by the Sessions Judge. Thereafter,
they filed a writ petition which was allowed by the Bombay High Court and
the proceedings against them were quashed and the said decision was
challenged by the company by filing an appeal in this Court. It was urged
on behalf of the company that since in view of Abiliash Viondkumar Jain
(supra) the legal heirs of the erstwhile employee can be prosecuted, the
other family members of such employee living with him, cannot escape their
liability of prosecution. It was in this context that the Bench observed
that penal law cannot be interpreted in a manner to cover within its ambit
such persons who are left out by the legislature and the position of the
legal heirs of a deceased employee cannot be equated with the family
members of an erstwhile employee against whom admittedly the criminal
prosecution has been launched and is pending. After taking note of the
earlier decisions of this Court, which we have referred to above, the Bench
recorded its conclusion in the following manner:

“We are of the firm opinion that all the family members of an alive
“officer” or “employee” of a company cannot be proceeded with and
prosecuted under Section 630 of the Act. The order impugned does not suffer
from any illegality, requiring our interference.”

The ratio of this case clearly is that the position of legal heirs of a
deceased employee who are in possession of the property and are wrongfully
withholding the same is different from that of family members of a former
or past employee, who is alive and against whom prosecution has also been
launched. The view taken is that if a former or erstwhile employee of the
company is in possession of the property and is wrongfully withholding to
deliver the same to the company after cessation of his employment and a
prosecution against him is lanuched under Section 630 of the Act, then his
other family members cannot be prosecuted. This case, in our opinion is not
an authority for the proposition that such family members of a deceased
employee who are not his legal heirs in accordance with the personal law
applicable to him, cannot be prosecuted under Section 630 of the Act for
wrongfully withholding the property.

In interpreting the provision of Section 630 of the Companies Act, 1956,
this Court in Abhilash Vinodkumar Jain (supra) held that the object of the
provisions of Section 630 of the Act is retrieval of the possession of the
property of the company which was in occupation of an employee or an
officer and that such property can be recovered not only from a former
employee or an officer but also his heirs or representatives in possession
of the property who had acquired a right of such member or came to retain
the possession of the property by tracing their possession to such employee
or officer. This Court stated that they have no right independent of the
employee but derive the same from the employee or officer who hold on to
the property of the company and they would also be covered by the
provisions of Section 630 of the Act. In J.K. Bombay Ltd (supra), this
Court took the view that the decision in Abilash Vinodkumar Jain (supra)
should be confined to the legal heirs of the employees and that other
family members cannot be covered by the provision of Section 630 of the Act
inasmuch as the provision is penal in nature and any expansive meaning
attributed to the expression used in Section 630 of the Act will attract
the wrath of Article 21 of the Constitution and this Court also stated that
they are of the firm opinion that all the family members of an alive
‘officer’ or ’employee’ of a company cannot be proceeded with and
prosecuted under Section 630 of the Act.

Shri Desai has strenuously urged that a Statute enacting an offence or
imposing a penalty is to be strictly construed and a clear language is
required to create a crime. Strong reliance was placed upon a Constitution
Bench decision of this Court in Tolaram Relumal and Anr. v. State of
Bombay, [1955] 1 SCR 158, wherein it was held that it is well settled rule
of construction of penal statutes that if two possible and reasonable
constructions can be put upon a penal provision, the Court must lean
towards that construction which exempts the subject from penalty rather
than the one which imposes penalty and it is not competent for the Court to
stretch out the meaning of expression used by the legislature in order to
carry out the intention of the legislature. The contention is that Section
630 of the Act refers to an officer or employee of a company and being a
penal provision, it will be against all canons of interpretation of
Statutes to include family members of a former or deceased employee within
its fold. Learned counsel has also submitted that the fact that an
enactment is a penal provision is in itself reason for hesitating before
ascribing to phrases used in it a meaning broader than that they would
ordinarily bear and the same should be construed strictly. In view of the
contention raised it becomes necessary to examine whether Section 630 of
the Act is really a penal provision.

Section 630 of the Act is in two parts. Clause (b) of sub-section (1)
thereof lays down that if any officer or employee of a company having any
property of the company in his possession wrongfully withholds it or
knowingly applies it to purposes other than those expressed or directed in
the articles and authorised by the Act, he shall, on the complaint of the
company or any creditor or contributory thereof, be punishable with fine
which may extend to Rs. 10,000. At this stage no substantive sentence can
be awarded. Sub-section (2) thereof empowers the Court trying the offence
to order such officer or employee to deliver up or refund within time to be
fixed by the Court any such property wrongfully obtained or wrongfully
withheld or knowingly misapplied or in default to suffer imprisonment for a
term which may extend to two years. Sub-Section (1), wherein wrongfully
withholding the property of the company has been made an offence, is
punishable with fine only and it does not provide for imposing any
substantive sentence. It is only where the Court directs the officer or
employee to deliver or refund the property within a fixed period and such
order of the Court is not complied with and the property is not delivered
or refunded that a sentence of two years can be awarded. Therefore, it is
non-compliance or non-observance of the order of the Court regarding
delivery or refund of the property which results in making the person so
directed liable for being awarded a substantive sentence of imprisonment.
In Abhliash Vinodkumar Jain (supra) this has been clearly elaborated in
para 16 of the report and it has been held that it is in the event of the
disobedience of the order of the Court that imprisonment for a term which
may extend to two years has been prescribed. This provision makes the
defaulter, whosoever he may be, who disobeys the order of the Court to hand
back the property to the company within the prescribed time, liable for
punishment.

In Salmond on Jurisprudence (Twelfth Edition page 91) the difference
between civil wrongs and crimes has been explained as under:

“The distinction between crimes and civil wrongs is roughly that crimes are
public wrongs and civil wrongs are private wrongs. As Blackstone says:
“Wrongs are divisible into two sorts or species, private wrongs and public
wrongs. The former are an infringement or privation of the private or civil
rights belonging to individuals, considered as individuals, and are
thereupon frequently termed civil injuries; the latter are a breach and
violation of public rights and duties which affect the whole community
considered as a community; and are distinguished by the harsher appellation
of crimes and misdemeanours”. A crime then is an act deemed by law to be
harmful to society in general, even though its immediate victim is an
individual. Murder injuries primarily the particular victim, but its
blatant disregard of human life puts it beyond a matter of mere
compensation between the murderer and the victim’s family. Those who commit
such acts are proceeded against by the State in order that, if convicted,
they may be punished. Civil wrongs such as breach of contract or trespass
to land are deemed only to infringe the rights of the individual wronged
and not to injure society in general and consequently the law leaves it to
the victim to sue for compensation in the courts.

English law, however, has certain features which prevent us drawing a clear
line between these two kinds of wrong. First, there are some wrongs to the
state and therefore public wrongs, which are nevertheless by law regarded
as civil wrongs. A refusal to pay taxes is an offence against the state,
and is dealt with at the suit of the state, but it is a civil wrong for all
that, just as a refusal to repay the money lent by a private person is a
civil wrong……………..”

The purpose of criminal justice is to award punishment. It is a method of
protecting society by reducing the occurrence of criminal behaviour. K
also acts as a deterrent. Where the punishment is disabling or preventive,
its aim is to prevent a repetition of the offence by rendering the offender
incapable of its commission. The Companies Act is entirely different from
those statutes which basically deal with offences and punishment like
Indian Penal Code, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention Act),
etc. It makes provision for incorporation of the companies, its share
capital and debentures, management and administration, allotment of shares
and debentures, constitution of Board of Directors, prevention of
oppression and mismanagement, winding-up of the company etc. The heading of
part XIII of the Companies Act is “General” and a few provision therein,
namely, Section 628 to 631 create offences and also prescribe penalty for
the same. Having regard to the purpose for which Section 630 has been
enacted viz. to retrieve the property of the company and the salient
features of the statute (Companies Act) it is not possible to hold it as a
penal provision as the normal attributes of crime and punishment are not
present here. It cannot be said to be an offence against the society at
large nor the object of awarding sentence is preventive or reformative. In
such circumstances the principle of interpretation relating to criminal
statutes that the same should be strictly construed will not be applicable.

We would like to mention here that the principle that a statute enacting an
offence or imposing a penalty is strictly construed is not of universal
application which must necessarily be observed in every case. In Murlidhar
Meghraj Loya v. State of Maharashtra, AIR (1976) SC 1929, Krishna Iyer, J,
held that any narrow and pedantic, literal and lexical construction of Food
Laws is likely to leave loopholes for the offender to sneak out of the
meshes of law and should be discouraged and criminal jurisprudence must
depart from old canons defeating criminal statutes calculated to protect
the public health and the nation’s wealth. The same view was taken in
another case under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act in Kisan Trimbak
Kothula and Ors., v. State of Maharashtra, AIR (1977) SC 435. In
Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs to Govt. of West Bengal v.
Abani Maity, AIR (1979) SC 1029, the words “may” occurring in Section 64 of
Bengal Excise Act were interpreted to mean “must” and it was held that the
Magistrate was bound to order confiscation of the conveyance used in
commission of the offence. Similarly, in State of Maharashtra v. Natwarlal
Damodardas Soni, AIR (1980) SC 593 with reference to Section 135 of the
Customs Act and Rule 126-H(2)(d) of Defence of India Rules, the narrow
construction given by the High Court was rejected on the ground that they
will emasculate these provisions and render them ineffective as a weapon
for combating gold smuggling. It was further held that the provisions have
to be specially construed in a manner which will suppress the mischief and
advance the object which the legislature had in view. The contention raised
by learned counsel for the appellant on strict interpretation of the
Section cannot therefore be accepted.

Even otherwise as shown earlier, the wrongful withholding of property of
the company has been made punishable with fine only. A substantive sentence
or imprisonment can be awarded only where there is a non-compliance of the
order of the Court regarding delivery or refund of the property. Obviously,
this order would be passed against a specific person or persons whether an
employee, past employee or a legal heir or family member of such an
employee and only if such named person does not comply with the order of
the Court, he would be liable to be sentenced which may extend to
imprisonment for two years. At this stage, namely, where the Court would
award a substantive sentence of imprisonment for non-compliance of its
order the question of enlarging or widening the language of the Section
cannot arise as the order would be directed against a specifically named
person.

With profound respects we are unable to agree with certain observations
made in J.K. Bombay Ltd., (supra) that prosecution of other family members
of a former employee living with him would violate Article 21 of the
Constitution. The award of sentence by the order of the Court cannot amount
to violation of any of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the
Constitution is now well settled by several authoritative pronouncements of
this Court. A Constitution Bench in Parbhani Transport Cooperative Society
Ltd. v. Regional Transport Authority Aurangabad and Ors., [1960] 3 SCR 177
at 188 has held that no one can complain breach of Article 14 of the
Constitution by a decision of a quasi judicial body and if it has made any
mistake in its decision, there are appropriate remedies available to the
aggrieved party for obtaining relief. In Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar and Ors.
v. State of Maharashtra and Anr., AIR (1967) SC 1, a decision by a bench of
nine Hon’ble judges, Chief Justice Gajendragadkar speaking for the majority
held as under:

“The argument that the impugned order affects the fundamental rights of the
petitioners under Article 19(1), is based on a complete misconception about
the true nature and character of judicial process and of judicial
decisions. When a Judge deals with matters brought before him for his
adjudication, he first decides questions of fact on which the parties are
at issue, and then applies the relevant law to the said facts. Whether the
findings of fact recorded by the Judge are right or wrong, and whether the
conclusion of law drawn by him suffers from any infirmity, can be
considered and decided if the party aggrieved by the decision of the Judge
takes the matter up before the appellate Court. But it is singularly
inappropriate to assume that a judicial decision pronounced by a Judge of
competent jurisdiction in or in relation to a matter brought before him for
adjudication can affect the fundamental rights of the citizens under
Article 19(1). What the judicial decision purports to do is to decide the
controversy between the parties brought before the Court and nothing more.
If this basic and essential aspect of the judicial process is borne in mind
it would be plain that the judicial verdict pronounced by Court in or in
relation to a matter brought before it for its decision cannot be said to
affect the fundamental rights of citizens under Article 19(1).”

In Triveniben v. State of Gujarat [1989] 1 SCC 678, a Constitution Bench
while considering the validity of death sentence, held that it is well
settled that a judgment of Court can never be challenged under Article 14
or 21 of the Constitution and, therefore, a judgment of the Court awarding
the sentence of death is not open to challenge as violating Articles 14 and
21 of the Constitution and the only jurisdiction which could be sought to
be exercised by a prisoner for infringement of his rights can be to
challenge the subsequent events after the final judicial verdict is
pronounced and it is because of this that on the ground of long or
inordinate delay, the condemned petitioner could approach the Court. The
statement of law made in J.K. (Bombay) Ltd. (supra) to the effect that
prosecution of the legal heirs and family members living with an erstwhile
or former employee would violate Article 21 of the Constitution is
therefore not correct.

The view expressed in J.K. (Bombay) Ltd. (supra) runs counter to the view
expressed in Abilash Vinodkumar Jain (supra) wherein it has been clearly
held that the object of Section 630 of the Act is to retrieve the property
of the company where wrongful holding of the property is done by an
employee, present or past, or heirs of the deceased employees or officer or
anyone claiming the occupancy through such employee or officer. The view
expressed in Abilash Vinodkumar Jain (supra) clearly subserves the object
of the Act which is to the effect of recovering the possession of the
property belonging to the company. If it is held that other members of the
family of the employee or officer or any person not connected with the
family who came into possession through such employee would not be covered
by Section 630 of the Act, such a view will defeat the quick and
expeditious remedy provided therein. The basic objections to this view is
that the aforesaid provision contained in Section 630 of the Act is penal
in nature and must be strictly construed and therefore the actual words
used should not be given any expansive meaning. A provision of this nature
is for the purpose of recovery of the property and if, in spite of demand
or subsequent order of the court, the possession of the property is not
returned to the company, the question of imposing penalty will arise.
Similar provisions are available even under the Code of Civil Procedure. In
execution of a decree for recovery of money or enforcement of an
injunction, the judgment-debtor can be committed to a prison. Such a
provision by itself will not convert the civil proceeding into a criminal
one. Even assuming that the said provision is criminal in nature, the
penalty will be attracted in the event of not complying with the demand of
the recovery of the possession or pursuant to an order made thereof. The
possession of the property by an employee or anyone claiming through him of
such property is unlawful and recovery of the same on the pain of being
committed to a prison or payment of fine cannot be stated to be
unreasonable or irrational or unfair so as to attract the rigour of Article
21 of the Constitution. If the object of the provision of Section 630 of
the Act is borne in mind, the expansive meaning given to the expression
’employee or anyone claiming through him’ will not be unrelated to the
object of the provision nor is it so far fetched as to become
unconstitutional. Therefore, with profound respects the view expressed in
J.K. (Bombay) Ltd. (supra) in our opinion is not correct and the view
expressed in Abilash Vinodkumar Jain (supra) is justified and should be
accepted in interpreting the provision of Section 630 of the Act.

If an erstwhile or former employee is prosecuted under Section 630 of the
Act on account of the fact that he has not vacated the premises and
continues to remain in occupation of the same even after termination of his
employment, in normal circumstances it may not be very proper to prosecute
his wife and dependent children also as they are bound to stay with him in
the same premises. The position will be different where the erstwhile or
former employee is himself not in occupation of the premises either on
account of the fact that he is dead or he is living elsewhere. In such
cases all those who have come in possession of the premises with the
express or implied consent of the employee and have not vacated the
premises would be withholding the delivery of the property to the company
and, therefore, they are liable to be prosecuted under Section 630 of the
Act. This will include anyone else who has been inducted in possession of
the property by such persons who continue to withhold the possession of the
premises as such person is equally responsible for withholding and non-
delivery of the property of the company.

In view of the discussions made above, we are of the opinion that the plea
taken by the appellants for recall of the process issued against them has
no substance. The fact that the appellant no.2 Siddharth Jalan was born
subsequent to the death of N.K. Jalan, would make no difference as his
occupation of the flat in question clearly amounts to withholding of the
property of the company. The appeal is accordingly dismissed.’

 

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