In Gangaram S/o Shri Kanha Ji vs. Indore Division & others (Writ Petition No.9213 of 2021), the Madhya Pradesh High Court recently ruled that the nature of the case, not the number of cases, should be considered while beginning externment proceedings against a person. Understanding that the goal of externment proceedings is to prevent a person from committing another offence soon, Justice Subodh Abhyankar said that the order of externment must be given soon after the petitioner’s crimes.
Brief Facts Of The Case: The bench was hearing a petition contesting a December 2020 externment decision against Gangaram by the District Magistrate (Collector) of Burhanpur. Both the DM’s ruling and the Indore Division Commissioner’s order were contested in the High Court case. The externment decision was based on a complaint brought against the petitioner and nine others in September 2018 under Section 26 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and Sections 3 and 7 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. It was stated that the accused were cutting trees and tiling forest land.
In this context, the petitioner argued that it was a violation of natural justice because the show cause notice was not provided for the petitioner’s second offence. Therefore, the District Magistrate’s and the Commissioner of Indore Division’s orders were challenged.
Judgement: The Court noted that even though the order had been passed by the District Magistrate of Burhanpur, a district under the territorial jurisdiction of the Principal Seat of the HC at Jabalpur, the order had been affirmed in appeal by the Commissioner, Indore Division, which falls under the jurisdiction of Indore bench.
Further, coming to the facts of the case, the Court noted that the Divisional Forest Officer’s recommendation (to extern the petitioner) was made after two years of the case being registered against him and the order was passed after two years, two months and thirteen days. Therefore, the Court opined that the purpose of initiating externment proceedings is to restrain a person from committing another offence in the near future and in such circumstances the order of exclusion was not justified.
Also, regarding the reference of the second criminal case in the impugned order (and not in the show cause notice), the Court noted that the impugned orders had come to an end by the time this order was passed by the HC, but the Court did observe that its order would give the petitioner satisfaction that in the future, the instant externment proceedings (now set aside) shall not be taken into account when judging his credentials. With this, the petition was allowed and the impugned orders were set aside.
JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY PRAKIRTI JENA