SC| Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, 1990 doesn’t prohibit ADM from passing orders

Supreme Court: In the case where it was being contended that the Additional District Magistrate had no jurisdiction to pass order under the Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, 1990, the bench of Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph, JJ held that in the Statutory Scheme of the Adhiniyam, 1990, there is no provision, which prohibit passing an order by an officer lower than the rank of District Magistrate.

Noticing that the Scheme of the Adhiniyam, 1990 clearly contemplate exercise of the power of District Magistrate under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 by an Additional District Magistrate or Sub -Divisional Magistrate, the bench said:

“under Section 13 there is no limitation on the State Government while specially empowering an officer of the State to exercise the power of District Magistrate under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 and further under Section 18, the powers and duties of District Magistrate can be directed to be exercised or performed by Additional District Magistrate or Sub -Divisional Magistrate for such areas as may be specified in the order.”

The Court was hearing the appeal against the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in which it was held that the Additional District Magistrate, Gwalior had no jurisdiction to pass an order externing the respondent for a period of one year from the district concerned. The High Court had relied upon the Constitution Bench verdict in Ajaib Singh Vs. Gurbachan Singh, (1965) 2 SCR 845 , wherein it was held that the order could not have been passed by any authority lower than the rank of District Magistrate.

Holding this reliance to be erroneous, the Court explained that the said case dealt with the Statutory Scheme under the Defence of India Act, 1962 according to which detention order can be passed by the authority empowered by the rules to apprehend or detain with restriction that the authority empowered to detain not being lower in rank than that of a District Magistrate. Hence, in that case the Constitution Bench had held that Additional District Magistrate being not the District Magistrate was incompetent to pass the impugned order.

Considering that in the present case the Adhiniyam, 1990, in fact, empowered the Additional District Magistrate to pass orders, the Court said that the Constitution Bench verdict in Ajaib Singh Case was not applicable and hence, the judgment of the High Court was set aside. [State of Madhya Pradesh v. Dharmendra Rathore, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 93, decided on 29.01.2019]

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