the doctrine of `guilt by association' which has no place here."

posted 10 Feb 2011, 05:58 by advocatemmmohan Mandagaddi murali mohan
 Similarly,   we   are   of   the   opinion   that   the   provisions   in   various 

statutes   i.e.   3   (5)   of   TADA   or   Section   10   of   the   Unlawful   Activities 

(Prevention) which on their plain language make mere membership of 

a banned organization criminal have to be read down and we have to 

depart from the literal rule of interpretation in such cases, otherwise 

these provisions will become unconstitutional as violative of Articles 

19   and   21   of   the   Constitution.   

 "It is necessary to always bear in mind that fundamental 

     rights  have been considered to be heart  and soul of the 

     Constitution.....Fundamental rights occupy a unique place 

     in the lives of civilized societies and have been described 

     in   judgments   as   "transcendental",   "inalienable",   and 


  It   has   been   submitted   by   the   learned   counsel   for   the 

Government   before   the   TADA   Court   that   under   many   laws   mere 

membership of an organization is illegal e.g. Section 3(5) of Terrorists 

and Disruptive Activities, 1989, Section 10 of the Unlawful Activities 

(Prevention ) Act 1967, etc.  In our opinion these statutory provisions 

cannot be read in isolation, but have to be read in consonance with 

the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by our Constitution.


                      IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                     CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1383 OF 2007

SRI INDRA DAS                                        ..             Appellant (s)


STATE OF ASSAM                                       ..              Respondent(s)

                                  J U D G M E N T


1.       Heard learned counsel for the appellant.   Service of Notice of 

Lodgment of petition of Appeal is complete, but no one has entered 

appearance on behalf of the sole respondent-State.

2.       The facts of the case are similar to the facts in  Arup Bhuyan  

vs.     State   of   Assam  Criminal   Appeal   No.889   of   2007,   which   we 

allowed on 3.2.2011.

3.       As   in   the   case   of  Arup   Bhuyan  (supra),   the   only   evidence 

against the appellant in this case is his alleged confession made to a 

police   officer,   for   which   he   was   charged   under   the   Terrorist   and 

Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (in short `TADA').

4.     The facts of the case are that one Anil Kumar Das went missing 

from   the   evening   of   6.11.1991,   and   his   dead   body   was   recovered 

after two months on 19.1.1992 from the river Dishang.  Five persons 

including   the   appellant   were   charged   for   his   death.     The   appellant 

was not named in the FIR.  No prosecution witness has attributed any 

role to the appellant.   The charge sheet in the case was filed after a 

gap of nine years from the date of the commission of the offence, and 

charges were framed more than four years after filing of the charge 

sheet.     There   is   no   evidence   against   the   appellant   except   the 

confessional statement.

5.     The   alleged   confession   was   subsequently   retracted   by   the 

appellant.  The alleged confession was not corroborated by any other 

material.     We   have   held   in  Arup   Bhuyan's  case   (supra)   that 

confession is a very weak type of evidence, particularly when alleged 

to have been made to the police, and it is not safe to convict on its 

basis unless there is adequate corroborative material.  In the present 

case there is no corroborative material.  

6.     However, the appellant has been convicted under Section 3(5) 

of TADA which makes mere membership of a banned organization a 

criminal act, and sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment and 

Rs.2000/- fine.

7.       In  Arup   Bhuyan's  case  (supra)   we   have   stated   that   mere 

membership   of   a   banned   organization   cannot   incriminate   a   person 

unless   he   is   proved   to   have   resorted   to   acts   of   violence   or   incited 

people   to   imminent   violence,   or   does   an   act   intended   to   create 

disorder   or   disturbance   of   public   peace   by   resort   to   imminent 

violence.  In the present case, even assuming that the appellant was 

a   member   of   ULFA   which   is   a   banned   organization,   there   is   no 

evidence   to   show   that   he   did   acts   of   the   nature   above   mentioned. 

Thus, even if he was a member of ULFA it has not been proved that 

he was an active member and not merely a passive member.  Hence 

the decision in  Arup Bhuyan's  case  (supra) squarely applies in this 


8.       In our judgment in State of Kerala   vs.   Raneef 2011(1) Scale 

8   we   had   referred   to   the   judgment   of   the   U.S.   Supreme   Court   in 

Elfbrandt  vs.  Russell  384 US 17(1966) which rejected the doctrine 

of `guilt by association'.

9.     In  Elfbrandt's   case   (supra)   Mr.   Justice   Douglas,   speaking   for 

the Court observed :

                      "Those   who   join   an   organization   but   do   not 

              share   its   unlawful   purposes   and   who   do   not 

              participate   in   its   unlawful   activities   surely   pose   no 

              threat.  This Act threatens the cherished freedom of 

              association   protected   by   the   First   Amendment, 

              made   applicable   to   the   States   by   the   Fourteenth 

              Amendment.     .........A   law   which   applies   to 

              membership   without   the   `specific   intent'   to   further 

              the   illegal   aims   of   the   organization   infringes 

              unnecessarily   on   protected   freedoms.     It   rests   on 

              the   doctrine   of   `guilt   by   association'   which   has   no 

              place here."   

10.    The  decision  relied on  its earlier  judgments in  Schneiderman 

vs.  U.S.  320   US   118(136)   and  Schware  vs.  Board   of   Bar 

Examiners  353   US   232(246).     The   judgment   in  Elfbrandt's  case 

(supra)   also   referred   to   the   decision   of   the   U.S.   Supreme   Court   in 

Scales    vs.    U.S.  367   US   203   (229)   which   made   a   distinction 

between an active and a passive member of an organization.

11.    In Scales case (supra) Mr. Justice Harlan of the U.S. Supreme 

Court observed :

                      "The clause (in the McCarran Act, 1950) does 

              not   make   criminal   all   associations   with   an 

            organization   which   has   been   shown   to   engage   in 

            illegal advocacy.   There must be clear proof that a 

            defendant   `specifically   intends   to   accomplish   the 

            aims   of   the   organization   by   resort   to   violence'.     A 

            person may be foolish, deluded, or perhaps merely 

            optimistic,   but   he   is   not   by   this   statute   made   a 


                                                        (emphasis supplied)

12.    Elfbrandt's case (supra) also relied on the U.S. Supreme Court 

decisions in  Apthekar  vs.  Secretary of State  378 US 500,  Baggett 

vs. Billit 377 US 360, Cramp vs. Board of Public Instructions 368 

US 278, Gibson vs. Florida 372 US 539, etc.

13.    In  Noto   vs.   U.S.  367 US 290(297-298) Mr. Justice Harlan of 

the U.S. Supreme Court observed :

                    ".........The   mere   teaching   of   Communist 

            theory, including the teaching of the moral propriety 

            or   even   moral   necessity   for   a   resort   to   force   and 

            violence,  is  not  the  same as  preparing  a group  for 

            violent action and steeling it to such action.   There 

            must   be   some   substantial   direct   or   circumstantial 

            evidence   of   a   call   to   violence   now   or   in   the   future 

            which   is   both   sufficiently   strong   and   sufficiently 

            pervasive to lend colour to the otherwise ambiguous 

            theoretical   material   regarding   Communist   Party 


14.    In  Noto's  case (supra) Mr. Justice Hugo Black in a concurring 

judgment wrote :

                     "In 1799, the English Parliament passed a law 

              outlawing   certain   named   societies   on   the   ground 

              that they were engaged in `a traitorous Conspiracy 

              ........... in conjunction with the Persons from Time 

              to   Time   exercising   the   Powers   of   Government   in 

              France   .......'     One   of   the   many   strong   arguments 

              made by those who opposed the enactment of this 

              law   was   stated   by   a   member   of   that   body,   Mr. 

              Tierney :

                     `The remedy proposed goes to the putting an 

              end  to  all   these   societies   together.     I  object  to  the 

              system, of which this is only a branch; for the Right 

              Hon. gentleman has told  us  he  intends  to  propose 

              laws from time to time upon this subject, as cases 

              may   arise   to   require   them.     I   say   these   attempts 

              lead   to   consequences   of   the   most   horrible   kind.     I 

              see that government are acting thus.   Those whom 

              they   cannot   prove   to   be   guilty,   they  will   punish   for 

              their   suspicion.     To   support   this   system,   we   must 

              have a swarm of spies and informers.  They are the 

              very pillars of such a system of government.'

                     The   decision   in   this   case,   in   my   judgment, 

              dramatically illustrates  the continuing vitality  of this 


                     The  conviction  of  the  petitioner   here  is  being 

              reversed   because   the   Government   has   failed   to 

              produce   evidence   the   Court   believes   sufficient   to 

              prove   that   the   Communist   Party                   presently 

              advocates   the   overthrow   of   the   Government   by 


                                                              (emphasis supplied) 

15.    In  Communist   Party    vs.    Subversive   Activities   Control 

Board,   367   US   1   (1961)   Mr.   Justice   Hugo   Black   in   his   dissenting 

judgment observed :

                     "The first banning of an association because it 

              advocates   hated   ideas   -   whether   that   association 

              be called a political party or not -- marks a fateful 

              moment   in   the   history   of   a   free   country.     That 

              moment seems to have arrived for this country...... 

              This   whole   Act,   with   its   pains   and   penalties, 

              embarks   this   country,   for   the   first   time,   on   the 

              dangerous   adventure   of   outlawing   groups   that 

              preach doctrines nearly all Americans detest.  When 

              the practice of outlawing parties and various public 

              groups begins, no one can say where it will end.  In 

              most   countries   such   a   practice   once   begun   ends 

              with a one party government."     

16.    In Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee  vs.  McGrath, 341 

US 123, 174 (1951) Mr. Justice Douglas in his concurring judgment 

observed :

                     "In   days   of   great   tension   when   feelings   run 

              high,   it   is   a   temptation   to   take   short   cuts   by 

              borrowing   from   the   totalitarian   techniques   of   our 

              opponents.    But   when   we   do,   we   set   in   motion   a 

              subversive   influence   of   our   own   design   that 

              destroys us from within."

                                                              (emphasis supplied) 

17.    In Keyishian  vs.  Board of Regents of the University of the 

State of New York, 385 US 589, 606 (1967) the U.S. Supreme Court 

struck down a law which authorized the board of regents to prepare a 

list   of   subversive   organizations   and   to   deny   jobs   to   teachers 

belonging to those organizations.   The law made membership in the 

Communist   Party   prima   facie   evidence   for   disqualification   from 

employment.   Mr. Justice Brennan, speaking for the Court held that 

the   law   was   too   sweeping,   penalizing   "mere   knowing   membership 

without a specific intent to further the unlawful aims."

18.    In  Yates   vs.   U.S., 354 US 298 (1957), Mr. Justice Harlan of 

the U.S. Supreme Court observed :

                    "In failing to distinguish between advocacy of 

             forcible   overthrow   as   an   abstract   doctrine   and 

             advocacy   of   action   to   that   end,   the   District   Court 

             appears   to   have   been   led   astray  by  the   holding   in 

             Dennis that advocacy of violent action to be taken at 

             some   future   time   was   enough.     The   District   Court 

             apparently   thought   that   Dennis   obliterated   the 

             traditional   dividing   line   between   advocacy   of 

             abstract doctrine and advocacy of action."

19.    In Brandenburg  vs.  Ohio, 395 US 444(1969), which we have 

referred to in our judgment, the U.S. Supreme Court by a unanimous 

decision reversed its earlier decision in Whitney  vs.  California, 274 

US 357 (1927) and observed :

                    "The Constitutional guarantees of free speech 

             and   free   press   do   not   permit   a   State   to   forbid   or 

             proscribe   advocacy   of   the   use   of   force   or   of   law 

             violation except where such advocacy is directed to 

             inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is 

             likely to incite or produce such action."


20.    In  Whitney   vs.   California  (supra)   Mr.   Justice   Brandeis,   the 

celebrated   Judge   of   the   U.S.   Supreme   Court   in   his   concurring 

judgment (which really reads like a dissent) observed :

                    "Fear   of   serious   injury   cannot   alone   justify 

             suppression   of   free   speech   and   assembly.     Men 

             feared witches and burned women.  It is the function 

             of   free   speech   to   free   men   from   the   bondage   of 

             irrational   fears.     To   justify   suppression   of   free 

             speech   there   must   be   reasonable   ground   to   fear 

             that   serious   evil   will   result   if   free   speech   is 

             practiced.     There   must   be   reasonable   ground   to 

             believe that  the danger apprehended is imminent...

             .....   The   wide   difference   between   advocacy   and 

             incitement,   between   preparation   and   attempt, 

             between assembling and conspiracy, must be borne 

             in mind."

                                                             (emphasis supplied) 

21.    Mr. Justice Brandeis in the same judgment went on to observe :

                    "Those   who   won   our   independence   by 

             revolution   were   not   cowards.     They   did   not   fear 

             political change.  They did not exalt order at the cost 

             of   liberty.     To   courageous,   self-reliant   men,   with 

             confidence   in   the   power   of   free   and   fearless 

             reasoning applied through the processes of popular 

             government, no danger flowing from speech can be 

             deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of 

              the   evil   apprehended   is   so   imminent   that   it   may 

              befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. 

              If   there   be   time   to   expose   through   discussion   the 

              falsehood   and   fallacies,   to   avert   the   evil   by   the 

              process   of   education,   the   remedy   to   be   applied   is 

              more speech, not enforced silence."

 22.    In  Gitlow    vs.    New   York,   268   US   652   (1925)   Mr.   Justice 

Holmes   of   the   U.S.   Supreme   Court   (with   whom   Justice   Brandeis 

joined) in his dissenting judgment observed :

                     ..........."If   what   I   think   the   correct   test   is 

              applied,   it   is   manifest   that   there   was   no   present 

              danger of an attempt  to overthrow the government 

              by force on the part of the admittedly small minority 

              who   shared   the   defendant's   views.     It   is   said   that 

              this  Manifesto  was more than a theory,  that  it was 

              an incitement.  Every idea is an incitement.  It offers 

              itself for belief, and, if believed, it is acted on unless 

              some   other   belief   outweighs   it,   or   some   failure   of 

              energy   stifles   the   movement   at   its   birth.     The   only 

              difference   between   the   expression   of   an   opinion 

              and   an   incitement   in   the   narrower   sense   is   the 

              speaker's enthusiasm for the result.  Eloquence my 

              set fire to reason.   But whatever may be thought of 

              the redundant discourse before us, it had no chance 

              of   starting   a   present   conflagration.     If,   in   the   long 

              run, the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship 

              are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces 

              of the community, the only meaning of free speech 

              is that they should be given their chance and have 

              their way. 

                     If   the   publication   of   this   document   had   been 

              laid   as   an   attempt   to   induce   an   uprising   against 

              government at once, and not at some indefinite time 

              in   the   future,   it   would   have   presented   a   different 

              question.     The   object   would   have   been   one   with 

              which   the   law   might   deal,   subject   to   the   doubt 

              whether   there   was   any  danger   that   the   publication 

              could   produce   any   result;   or,   in   other   words, 

              whether   it   was   not   futile   and   too   remote   from 

              possible consequences.   But the indictment alleges 

              the publication and nothing more."

23.    In  Terminiello    vs.    Chicago,   337   US   1   (1949)   Mr.   Justice 

Douglas   of   the   U.S.   Supreme   Court   speaking   for   the   majority 

observed :

              "....[A] function of free speech under our system of 

              government is to invite dispute.   It may indeed best 

              serve  its high purpose  when  it induces  a condition 

              of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as 

              they are, or even stirs people to anger.   Speech is 

              often provocative and challenging.   It may strike at 

              prejudices   and   preconceptions   and   have   profound 

              unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an 

              idea.     That   is   why   freedom   of   speech,   though   not 

              absolute,   nevertheless   protected   against 

              censorship   or   punishment,   unless   shown   likely   to 

              produce   a   clear   and   present   danger   of   a   serious 

              substantive   evil   that   rises   far   above   public 

              inconvenience,   annoyance   or   unrest....There   is   no 

              room   under   our   Constitution   for   a   more   restrictive 

              view.        For   the   alternative   would   lead   to 

              standardization   of   ideas   either   by   legislatures, 

              courts, or dominant political or community groups." 

24.    In  DeJonge    vs.    Oregon,   299   US   353   (1937)   Chief   Justice 

Hughes   of   the   U.S.   Supreme   Court   wrote   that   the   State   could   not 

punish a person making a lawful speech simply because the speech 

was sponsored by a subversive organization.

25.    In Abrams  vs.  U.S., 250 US 616 (1919) Mr. Justice Holmes of 

the U.S. Supreme Court in his dissenting judgment wrote :

                     "Persecution   for   the   expression   of   opinions 

              seems to me perfectly logical.  If you have no doubt 

              of your premises or your power and want a certain 

              result with all your heart you naturally express your 

              wishes   in   law   and   sweep   away   all   opposition.     To 

              allow   opposition   by   speech   seems   to   indicate   that 

              you think the speech impotent, as when a man says 

              that   he   has   squared   the   circle,   or   that   you   do   not 

              care   whole-heartedly   for   the   result,   or   that   you 

              doubt   either   your   power   or   your   premises.     But 

              when men have realized that  time has upset many 

              fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more 

              then they believe the very foundations of their own 

              conduct   that   the   ultimate   good   desired   is   better 

              reached by free trade in ideas, --  that the best test 

              of   truth   is   the   power   of   the   thought   to   get   itself 

              accepted in the competition of the market; and that 

              truth   is   the   only   ground   upon   which   their   wishes 

              safely can be carried out.   That, at any rate, is the 

              theory of our Constitution.  It is an experiment, as all 

              life is an experiment.   Every year, if not every day, 

              we   have   to   wager   our   salvation   upon   some 

              prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge.   While 

              that experiment is part of our system I think that we 

              should   be   eternally   vigilant   against   attempts   to 

              check the expression of opinions that we loathe and 

               believe   to   be   fraught   with   death,   unless   they   so 

               imminently threaten immediate interference with the 

               lawful   and   pressing   purposes   of   the   law   that   an 

               immediate check is required to save the country.   I 

               wholly   disagree   with   the   argument   of   the 

               government   that   the   1st  Amendment   left   the 

               common   law   as   to   seditious   libel   in   force.     History 

               seems to me against the notion."

                                                                (emphasis supplied) 

26.    It   has   been   submitted   by   the   learned   counsel   for   the 

Government   before   the   TADA   Court   that   under   many   laws   mere 

membership of an organization is illegal e.g. Section 3(5) of Terrorists 

and Disruptive Activities, 1989, Section 10 of the Unlawful Activities 

(Prevention ) Act 1967, etc.  In our opinion these statutory provisions 

cannot be read in isolation, but have to be read in consonance with 

the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

27.    The  Constitution  is  the  highest  law of  the  land  and  no  statute 

can violate it.  If there is a statute which appears to violate it we can 

either   declare   it   unconstitutional   or   we   can   read   it   down   to   make   it 

constitutional.   The first attempt of the Court should be try to sustain 

the validity of the statute by reading it down.   This aspect has been 

discussed   in   great   detail   by   this   Court   in  Government   of   Andhra 

Pradesh  vs.  P. Laxmi Devi 2008(4) SCC 720.

28.    In   this   connection,   we   may   refer   to   the   Constitution   Bench 

decision in Kedar Nath Singh  vs.  State of Bihar  AIR 1962 SC 955 

where the Supreme Court was dealing with the challenge made to the 

Constitutional validity of Section 124A IPC (the law against sedition).

29.    In Kedar Nath Singh's case this Court observed(vide para 26):

             ............."If, on the other hand, we were to hold that 

             even   without   any   tendency   to   disorder   or   intention 

             to create disturbance of law and order, by the use of 

             words   written   or   spoken   which   merely   create 

             disaffection   or   feelings   of   enmity   against   the 

             Government,   the   offence   of   sedition   is   complete, 

             then   such   an   interpretation   of   the   sections   would 

             make   them   unconstitutional   in   view   of   Article 

             19(1)(a) read with clause (2).  It is well settled that if 

             certain   provisions   of   law   construed   in   one   way 

             would   make   them   consistent   with   the   Constitution, 

             and   another   interpretation   would   render   them 

             unconstitutional,   the   Court   would   lean   in   favour   of 

             the   former   construction.   The   provisions   of   the 

             sections   read   as   a   whole,   along   with   the 

             explanations,   make   it   reasonably   clear   that   the 

             sections aim at rendering penal  only such activities 

             as would be intended, or have a tendency, to create 

             disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to 


30.    Section   124A   which   was   enacted   in   1870   was   subsequently 

amended   on   several   occasions.     This   Court   observed   in  Kedar 

Nath's  case (supra) observed that now that we have a Constitution 

having Fundamental Rights all statutory provisions including Section 

124A   IPC   have   to   be   read   in   a   manner   so   as   to   make   them   in 

conformity with  the Fundamental Rights.   Although according to the 

literal   rule   of   interpretation   we   have   to   go   by   the   plain   and   simple 

language   of   a   provision   while  construing   it,   we   may  have   to   depart 

from   the   plain   meaning   if   such   plain   meaning   makes   the   provision 


31.    Similarly,   we   are   of   the   opinion   that   the   provisions   in   various 

statutes   i.e.   3   (5)   of   TADA   or   Section   10   of   the   Unlawful   Activities 

(Prevention) which on their plain language make mere membership of 

a banned organization criminal have to be read down and we have to 

depart from the literal rule of interpretation in such cases, otherwise 

these provisions will become unconstitutional as violative of Articles 

19   and   21   of   the   Constitution.     It   is   true   that   ordinarily   we   should 

follow   the   literal   rule   of   interpretation   while   construing   a   statutory 

provision,   but   if   the   literal   interpretation   makes   the   provision 

unconstitutional we can depart from it so that the provision becomes 


32.    As observed by this Court in Government of Andhra Pradesh 

vs.  P. Laxmi Devi (supra) every effort should be made by the Court 

to try to uphold the validity of the statute, as invalidating a statute is a 

grave step. Hence we may sometimes have to read down a statute in 

order to make it constitutional.  

33.    This   principle   was   examined   in   some   detail   by   the   Federal 

Court in In re Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, AIR 1941 F.C 12 

in   considering   the   validity   of   the   Hindu   Women's   Right   to   Property 

Act, 1937.   The Act, which was passed by the Council of State after 

commencement   of   Part   III   of   the   Government   of   India   Act,   1935, 

when   the   subject   of   devolution   of   agricultural   land   had   been 

committed   exclusively   to   Provincial   Legislatures,   dealt   in   quite 

general   terms   with   the   `Property'   or   `separate   property'   of   a   Hindu 

dying   intestate   or   his   `interest   in   joint   family   property'.     A   question, 

therefore, arose whether the Act was  ultra vires of the powers of the 

Central   Legislature.     The   Federal   Court   held   the   Act  intra   vires  by 

construing   the   word   `property'   as   meaning   `property   other   than 

agricultural land'.  In the aforesaid decision Gwyer, CJ. observed : "If 

that word (property) necessarily and inevitably comprises all forms of 

property, including agricultural land, then clearly the Act went beyond 

the powers of the Legislature; but when a Legislature with limited and 

restricted   powers   makes   use   of   a   word   of   such   wide   and   general 

import,   the   presumption   must   surely   be   that   it   is   using   it   with 

reference to that kind of property with respect to which it is competent 

to   legislate   and   to   no   other."   The   learned   Chief   Justice   further 

observed:   "There   is   a   general   presumption   that   a   Legislature   does 

not intend to exceed its jurisdiction, and there is ample authority for 

the   proposition   that   general   words   in   a   statute   are   to   be   construed 

with reference to the powers of the Legislature with enacts it."

34.    The   rule   was   applied   by   the   Supreme   Court   in  Kedar   Nath 

Singh  vs.  State of Bihar (we have already referred to this decision 

earlier) in its construction of Section 124A of the IPC.   The Section 

which   relates to the offence  of sedition  makes a  person  punishable 

who   `by   words,   either   spoken   or   written   or   by   sign   or   visible 

representations, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred 

or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the 

Government established by law'.   The Section, as construed by the 

Privy Council in  Bal Gangadhar Tilak  vs.   Queen Empress  ILR 22 

Bom 528 (PC); Annie Besant vs.   A-G of Madras AIR 1919 PC 31; 

and Emperor vs.  Sadasiv Narain AIR 1947 PC 84;  did not make it 

essential   for   an   activity   to   come   within   its   mischief   that   the   same 

should involve intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance 

of   law   and   order   or   incitement   to   violence.     The   Federal   Court   in 

Niharendra   Dutta  vs.    Emperor  AIR   1942   FC   22   had,   however, 

taken   a   different   view.     In   the   Supreme   Court   when   the   question 

came   up   as   to   the   Constitutional   validity   of   the   Section,   the   Court 

differing   from   the   Privy   Council   adopted   the   construction   placed   by 

the   Federal   Court   and   held   that   on   a   correct   construction,   the 

provisions   of   the   Section   are   limited   in   their   application   "to   acts 

involving   intention   or   tendency   to   create   disorder   or   disturbance   of 

law and order or incitement to violence; and one of the reasons for 

adopting   this   construction   was   to   avoid   the   result   of 

unconstitutionality   in   view   of   Articles   19(1)(a)   and   19(2)   of   the 


35.      In  Sunil Batra  vs.   Delhi Administration  AIR 1978 SC 1675 

the Supreme Court upheld the validity of Section 30(2) of the Prisons 

Act, 1894, which provides for solitary confinement of a prisoner under 

sentence   of   death   in   a   cell   and   Section   56   of   the   same   Act,   which 

provides   for   the   confinement   of   a   prisoner   in   irons   for   his   safe 

custody,   by   construing   them   narrowly   so   as   to   avoid   their   being 

declared  invalid   on  the  ground  that   they were   violative  of  the  rights 

guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.  

36.    In  New   India   Sugar   Mills  vs.    Commissioner   of   Sales   Tax 

AIR  1963 SC 1207,  a wide  definition of the word  `sale' in the Bihar 

Sales   Tax   Act,   1947,   was   restricted   by   construction   to   exclude 

transactions,   in   which   property   was   transferred   from   one   person   to 

another   without   any   previous   contract   of   sale   since   a   wider 

construction would have resulted in attributing to the Bihar Legislature 

an intention to legislate beyond its competence.

37.    In   Section   6(a)   of   the   Hindu   Minority   and   Guardianship   Act, 

1956 which provides that the natural guardian of a minor's person or 

property will be `the father and after him, the mother', the words `after 

him' were construed not to mean `only after the lifetime of the father' 

but   to   mean   `in   the   absence   of',   as   the   former   construction   would 

have   made   the   section   unconstitutional   being   violative   of   the 

constitutional   provision   against   sex   discrimination   vide  Githa 

Hariharan vs.  Reserve Bank of India AIR 1999 SC 1149.

38.    In  Govindlalji    vs.    State   of   Rajasthan  AIR   1963   SC   1638, 

where   a   question   arose   as   to   the   Constitutional   validity   of   the 

Rajasthan  Nathdwara   Temple   Act   (13   of   1959),   the   words'affairs   of 

the temple' occurring in Section 16 of the said Act were construed as 

restricted   to   secular   affairs   as   on   a   wider   construction   the   Section 

would have violated Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

39.    This Court in R.L. Arora vs.   State of U.P. AIR 1964 SC 1230 

applied the same principle in construing Section 40(1), clause (aa) of 

the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, as amended by Act 31 of 1962 so as 

to confine its application to such `building or work' which will subserve 

the public purpose of the industry or work in which the company, for 

which   acquisition   is   made,   is   engaged.   A   wider   and   a   literal 

construction of the clause would have brought it in conflict with Article 

31(2) of the Constitution and would have rendered it unconstitutional. 

40.    In  Indian   Oil   Corporation  vs.    Municipal   Corporation  AIR 

1993 SC 844 Section 123 of the Punjab Municipal Corporation  Act, 

1976 which empowered the Corporation to levy octroi on articles and 

animals `imported into the city' was read down to mean articles and 

animals   `imported   into   the   municipal   limits   for   purposes   of 

consumption,   use   or   sale'   only,   as   a   wide   construction   would   have 

made the provision unconstitutional being in excess of the power of 

the State Legislature conferred by Entry 52 of List II of Schedule VII 

of the Constitution.

41.    A   further   illustration,   where   general   words   were  read   down   to 

keep   the   legislation   within   permissible   constitutional   limits,   is 

furnished in the construction of Section 5 of the Lotteries (Regulation) 

Act,   1998   which   reads:   `A   State   Government   may,   within   the   State 

prohibit   the   sale   of   tickets   of   a   lottery   organized   conducted   or 

promoted by every other State'.   To avoid the vice of discrimination 

and excessive delegation, the Section was construed to mean that a 

State   can   only   ban   lotteries   of   other   States,   when   it   decides   as   a 

policy to ban its own lotteries, or in other words, when it decides to 

make the State a lottery free zone vide BR Enterprises vs.  State of 

U.P. AIR 1999 SC 1867.

42.    It   may   be   mentioned   that   there   were   Constitutions   in   our 

country   even   under   British   Rule   e.g.   the   Government   of   India   Act, 

1935, and the earlier Government of India Acts.  These Constitutions, 

however, did not have fundamental right guaranteed to the people.  In 

sharp   contrast   to   these   is   the   Constitution   of   1950   which   has 

fundamental  rights in Part III.    These fundamental  rights are largely 

on the pattern of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. 

43.    Had there been no Constitution having Fundamental Rights in it 

then of course a plain and literal meaning could be given to Section 3 

(5) of TADA or Section 10 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. 

But   since   there   is   a   Constitution   in   our   country   providing   for 

democracy and Fundamental Rights we cannot give these statutory 

provisions such a meaning as that would make them unconstitutional. 

44.   In  State   of   of   Maharashtra   &   Ors.    Vs.  Bhaurao   Punjabrao 

Gawande, (2008) 3 SCC 613 (para 23) this Court observed :

       "...Personal liberty is a precious right. So did the Founding 

       Fathers   believe   because,   while   their   first   object   was   to 

       give   unto   the   people   a   Constitution   whereby   a 

       government was established, their second object, equally 

       important,       was   to   protect   the   people   against   the 

       government.     That   is   why,   while   conferring   extensive 

       powers   on   the   government   like   the   power   to   declare   an 

     emergency,   the   power   to   suspend   the   enforcement   of 

     fundamental rights or the the power to issue ordinances, 

     they assured to the people a Bill of Rights by Part III of the 

     Constitution,   protecting   against   executive   and   legislative 

     despotism   those   human   rights   which   they   regarded   as 

     fundamental.   The   imperative   necessity   to   protect   these 

     rights   is   a   lesson   taught   by   all   history   and   all   human 

     experience.   Our   Constitution   makers   had   lived   through 

     bitter years and seen an alien Government trample upon 

     human   rights   which   the   country   had   fought   hard   to 

     preserve.     They   believed   like   Jefferson   that   "an   elective 

     despotism was not the Government we fought for".   And, 

     therefore, while arming the Government with large powers 

     to prevent anarchy from within and conquest from without, 

     they   took   care   to   ensure   that   those   powers   were   not 

     abused   to   mutilate   the   liberties   of   the   people.   (vide   A.K. 

     Roy  Vs.  Union of India (1982) 1 SCC 271,  and Attorney 

     General   for   India       Vs.   Amratlal   Prajivandas,     (1994)   5 

     SCC 54."   [emphasis supplied]

     In  M.   Nagaraj   &   Ors.  Vs.    Union   of   India   &Ors.  (2006)   8 

SCC 212, (para 20) this Court observed :

     "It is a fallacy to regard fundamental rights as a gift from 

     the State to its citizens.  Individuals possess basic human 

     rights independently of any Constitution by reason of the 

     basic fact that they are members of the human race."

     In I.R. Coelho (dead) By LRs.  Vs.  State of T.N., (2007) 

2 SCC 1 (vide paragraphs 109 and 49), this Court observed : 

     "It is necessary to always bear in mind that fundamental 

     rights  have been considered to be heart  and soul of the 

     Constitution.....Fundamental rights occupy a unique place 

     in the lives of civilized societies and have been described 

     in   judgments   as   "transcendental",   "inalienable",   and 


45.    The   appeal   is   consequently   allowed   and   the   impugned 

judgment is set aside.          


                                           (MARKANDEY KATJU)


                                           (GYAN SUDHA MISRA)


FEBRUARY 10, 2011.