State of Maharashtra vs Vishnu Ramchandra by Bishal Basak


Respondent was a culprit who was pronounced guilty on 16th November 1949 under S.380 (Theft in tepee house – Chapter XVII) and section 114 (Coadjutor present when the offence was executed – Chapter V) of IPC. The deputy commissioner of police licensed under section 57 of the Police Act which came into force on 11th October 1951, made an order on 15th October 1957 to banished the Respondent outside the local limits of Greater Bombay, the Respondent was exiled on 10th July 1958 in conformity with the order of the Deputy Police Commissioner. The Appellant’s case (Prosecution Case) is because the Respondent who had been exiled out of Greater Bombay perpetuated a breach of an expulsion order by returning to Greater Bombay on 24th August 1958, hence he was prosecuted under section142 of the Police Act before the Presidency Magistrate.

A review application was filed by the Respondent in the High Court which repealed the persuasion under section 142 of the Police Act to order dated 30th September, 1958 on the ground that section 57 of the Police Act applies imminently after this the Appellant favoured an appeal against the order passed by the single judge of the High Court by alluring to the Supreme Court.


If section 57 of the Police Act can be applied retrospectively?


Three major grounds were set up by the Appellant against the Respondents.

  • As section 57 of the Police Act does not create or foresee a new crime (offence) to be created nor makes an act performed in the past as punishable, the said law only seeks to protect society against the acts of the jeopardizing elements of the society hence the Police Act has not been given a retroactive effect.
  • A person who has been convicted, his actions and conduct can be hindered by the legislature by approving legislation that contemplates the previous acts of the culprit (i.e., Respondent).
  • After reading the Police Act as a whole, the words “has been” is a past participle and can be elucidated as “shall have been” or “shall be”, but after perusal of the whole statute it must be elucidated as “shall have been”, therefore it is congruous to interpret “has been” to describe past actions or persuasions.


There were two crucial refutations by the Respondent to the grounds set up by the Appellant, which are as follows:

  • As per section 57 of the Police was to be applied proactively although the Respondent had been proclaim guilty before the Police Act came into potency therefore the Police Act was ad rem unto the Respondent had he been convicted for theft after the Police Act came into force in 1951.
  • The words “has been”is a present participle and not past participle this means that the legislative object was that the Police Act should have a prospective effect, therefore can judgement taking place after the Police Act came into vigour therein the Deputy Police Commissioner could use his authority under section 57.


The Hon’ble Court did not investigate the question of fact wherein it did not examine whether the Deputy Police Commissioner made the order in good faith but as far as the question of law is concerned the Court had investigated many precedents and gave three reasons for its decision to give an answer to this issue and thereby decide the case conclusively.

  1. The Hon’ble Court accorded that the crimes executed by the Respondent in the past, and the sequel of his persuasion in a theft-related case falling under Chapter XVII of IPC did not to endow a right in the favour of a convict (i.e. Respondent as per the present case), wherein no law shall take into deliberation for his past actions, since section 57 of the Police did not create a new criminal liability on the previous action of the Respondent wherefore to secure the public from disobedient components of the society so that such components do not grab into frequent criminal activities for which they have been punished an order under section 57 passed against the felon was absolutely justified.
  2. The Hon’ble Court considered that a person declared guilty of an offence may be punished in accordance with the determined law, but this punishment does not obstruct the legislature from making a law that imposes restrictions upon the precluded persons by contemplating their previous criminal behaviour, therefore such legislation which synchronizes the conduct of convicted criminals is said to have been applied retroactively because the legislative goal is clear.
  3. The Hon’ble Court when elucidating section 57 of the Police Act took a divergent line of reckoning in that way it said that the words “has been” initiate in the present perfect tense and not in past tense because it foresee a precise proposal without taking into account the time frame, hence after reading section 57 and the punishment alluded  in section 141 of the Police Act, the word “has been” is necessarily read as shall have been whereby the section 57 is being applied retroactively and the High Court executed  a grave error when elucidating section 57 of the Police Act.

Based on these reasons the Hon’ble Court concluded that the High Court took the inaccurate elucidation in exonerating the Respondent on the ground that section 57 of the Police Act was to be applied on conviction of the Respondent after the Police Act coming into force. Consequently, the Hon’ble Court reversed the order of the High Court exonerating the Respondent and incarcerated the case back to the High Court for clear consideration.


Ex post facto operation of statutes- 

  • General Principle – Nova constitutio futuris formam imponere debet non praeteritis means new law shouldn’t be concerned with the past it should affect the future.
  • If a provision can be impartially elucidated either retroactively or predictably, then the explication which gives the said provision a prognostic effect should be favoured because a new law should affect the future and not the past, until and unless a conflicting legislative purpose appears in the legislation.
  • No citizen or physical person has an intrinsic right bestowed on his or her past crimes and their retribution will not bar future legislation from taking into consideration the past crimes of such a citizen.
  • The principle laid down in the present case:

The Hon’ble Court deviating from the general rule iterated that even though a provision of legislation had two interpretations, a prospective and a retrospective interpretation, but since the legislation was to protect the public from harmful characters of the society hence a deviation from the general rule was permitted and the provision may be interpreted retrospectively.


A final and conclusive judgement was submitted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court during this case on the 18th October 1961, this is a mostly a law-related judgement delivered by Justice Hidayatullah where the major issue was about the retroactive application of S.57 of the Bombay Police Act, 1957. The judgement (present case) focused on various sections of the Bombay Police Act, 1957 & Indian Penal Code, 1860 hereby laid down the ratio regarding the elucidation of statutes and application of an equivalent in cases just like the present case.

In this case, the Court analyzed the facts and law, comprehensively and extensively, thereby reversing the judgement of the Bombay High Court, the Hon’ble Court mentioned a nexus of case laws to succeed in the ultimate conclusive and operating a part of the judgement wherein the Hon’ble Court gave many reasons to the conclusion reached by it by frequently analyzing the disputes made by both the parties present before it.


While concluding and reviewing upon the Vishnu Ramchandra Case it is suitable to take a note of this case which sheds a light on the reciprocity between late actions and retroactivity  of legislations taking into account the said past action, it is my own perspective that when a statue whose object is to protect public interest consists of words with two elucidations an awaited  one and a retroactive one, any arbitrating court should always diverge from the general insolence against retroactivity and give a retroactive  effect to the cryptic words in order to secure public interest therefore the provided elucidations  should be marshalled  with the legislative intent behind that specific piece of legislation.


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