Harla vs The State Of Rajasthan, 1951 AIR 467

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Harla vs The State Of Rajasthan, 1951 AIR 467

Before the Supreme Court of India

Decided on: 24 September 1951

Bench: Justice Vivian Bose

Appearing Counsel:

  1. J. Umrigar for the appellant.
  2. C. Mathur for the respondent.

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Brief Facts and Procedural History:

It is conceded that the Rulers of Jaipur had full powers of government including those of legislation. On the 7th of September, 1922, the late Maharaja died and at the time of his death his successor, the present Maharaja, was a minor. Accordingly,-the Crown Representative appointed a Council of Ministers to look after the government and administration of the State during the Maharaja’s minority.

About the same time (that is to say, in the year 1923) the same Council enacted the Jaipur Laws Act, 1923. Section 3(b) of this Act provided as follows:-

“3. Subject to the prerogative of the Ruler the law to be administered by the Court of Jaipur State shall be as follows:

(b) All the regulations now in force within the said territories, and the enactments and regulations that may hereafter be passed from time to time by the State and published in the Official Gazette.”

This law came into force on the 1st of November, 1924. It is admitted that the Jaipur Opium Act was never published in the Gazette either before or after the 1st of November, 1924. But it is contended that was not necessary because it was a “regulation” already in force on that date.

The only other fact of consequence is that on the 19th of May, 1938, section 1 of the Jaipur Opium Act was amended by the addition of subsection (c) which ran as follows: “(c) It shall come into force on the 1st of September, 1924.”

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Whether the mere passing of the Resolution without promulgation or publication in the Gazette or other means to make the Act known to the public, was sufficient to make it law.


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Dealing first with the last of these Acts, namely the one of the 19th of May, 1938, the court held that, unless the Opium Act was valid when made, the mere addition of a clause stating that it shall come into force at a date fourteen years earlier would be useless. In the year 1938, there was a law which required all enactments after the 1st of November, 1924, to be published in the Gazette.

Therefore, if the Opium Act was not a valid Act at that date, it could not be validated by the publication of only one section of it in the Gazette fourteen years later. The Jaipur Laws Act of 1923 required the whole of the enactment to be published; therefore publication of only one section would not validate it if it was not already valid.

In the absence of any special law or custom, we are of opinion that it would be against the principles of natural justice to permit the subjects of a State to be punished or penalised by laws of which they had no knowledge and of which they could not even with the exercise of reasonable diligence have acquired any knowledge.

Natural justice requires that before a law can become operative it must be promulgated or published. It must be broadcast in some recognisable way so that all men may know what it is; or, at the very least, there must be some special rule or regulation or customary channel by or through which such knowledge can be acquired through the exercise of due and reasonable diligence. The thought that a decision reached in the secret recesses of a chamber to which the public have no access and to which even their accredited representatives have no access and of which they can normally know nothing, can nevertheless affect their lives, liberty and property by the mere passing of a Resolution without anything more is abhorrent to civilised man.

In the absence therefore of any law, rule, regulation or custom, the court held that a law cannot come into being in this way. Promulgation or publication of some reasonable sort is essential. In England the rule is that Acts of Parliament become law from the first moment of the day on which they receive the Royal assent, but Royal Proclamations only when actually published in the official Gazette. It is clear therefore that the mere enacting or signing of a Royal Proclamation is not enough. There must be publication before it can become law, and in England the nature of the publication has to be prescribed by an Act of Parliament.

The Council of Ministers which passed the Jaipur Opium Act was not a sovereign body nor did it function of its own right.


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The court held that, in the absence of some specific law or custom to the contrary, a mere resolution of a Council of Ministers in the Jaipur State without further publication or promulgation would not be sufficient to make a law operative.

The appeal succeeded. The conviction and sentence were set aside. The fine, if paid, was ordered to be refunded.



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