This was the case of former Chief Minister of A.R. Antulay, who was the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra till 12 Jan, 1982.

While he was yet holding the office of Chief Minister one Ramdas Shrinivas Nayak, an erstwhile Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, professing a keen interest in clean administration and so keeping a watchful eye on centres of power and sources of corruption, filed a complaint against Shri Antulay, in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, 28th Court, Esplanade, Bombay charging him with the commission of offences punishable under ss. 161 (now repealed) and 185 (Illegal purchase or bid for property offered for sale by authority of public servant) of the Indian Penal Code and S of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The learned Metropolitan Magistrate refused to entertain the complaint holding that it was not maintainable without the requisite sanction of the Government under s. 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Against the order of the learned Metropolitan Magistrate, R.S. Nayak presented a Criminal Revision Application to the High Court of Maharashtra. High Court upheld the view that sanction was necessary and dismissed the Revision Application.

While dismissing the application, the Judges noticed that an application had been made to the Governor of Maharashtra for grant of the requisite sanction and observed that the application should not be decided by the Law Minister or any other Minister, but that “it deserved to be decided by the Governor in his individual discretion”.

Case at Supreme Court

The State of Maharashtra though not aggrieved by the dismissal of the Criminal Revision Application, seeks special leave to appeal to Supreme Court under Art. 136 of the Constitution against the judgment of the High Court of Maharashtra in so far as the judgment may be said to have directed the Governor of Maharashtra to exercise his individual discretion in deciding the question whether sanction should or should not be granted to prosecute Shri Antulay.

The Attorney General, who appeared for the State of Maharashtra, raised the contention that it was not for the Court to decide whether in respect of a particular matter, the Governor should act in his discretion or with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers and that under Art. 163(2), if any question arose whether any matter was or was not a matter as respects which the Governor was by or under the Constitution required to act in his discretion, the decision of the Governor in his discretion was final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor was not liable to be called in question on the ground that he ought not to have acted in his discretion.

On this the Supreme Court said that,

“When we drew the attention of the learned Attorney General to the concession made before the High Court, Shri A.K. Sen, who appeared for the State of Maharashtra before the High Court and led the arguments for the respondents there and who appeared for Shri Antulay before us intervened and protested that he never made any such concession and invited us to peruse the written submissions made by him in the High Court.

We are afraid that we cannot launch into an inquiry as to what transpired in the High Court. It is simply not done. Public Policy bars us. Judicial decorum restrains us. Matters of judicial record are unquestionable. They are not open to doubt. Judges cannot be dragged into the arena. “Judgments cannot be treated as mere counters in the game of litigation”[1]. We are bound to accept the statement of the Judges recorded in their judgment, as to what transpired in court.

We cannot allow the statement of the judges to be contradicted by statements at the Bar or by affidavit and other evidence. If the judges say in their judgment that something was done, said or admitted before them, that has to be the last word on the subject. The principle is well settled that statements of fact as to what transpired at the hearing, recorded in the judgment of the court, are conclusive of the facts so stated and no one can contradict such statements by affidavit or other evidence.

If a party thinks that the happenings in court have been wrongly recorded in a judgment, it is incumbent upon the party, while the matter is still fresh in the minds of the judges, to call attention of the very judges who have made the record to the fact that the statement made with regard to his conduct was a statement that had been made in error. [2]

That is the only way to have the record corrected. If no such step is taken, the matter must necessarily end there. Of course a party may resile and an Appellate Court may permit him in rare and appropriate cases to resile from a concession on the ground that the concession was made on a wrong appreciation of the law and had led to gross injustice; but, he may not call in question the very fact of making the concession as recorded in the judgment.”

In Rev. Mellor, 7 Cox. P.C. 454 Martin was reported to have said:

“we must consider the statement of the learned judge as absolute verity and we ought to take his statement precisely as a record and act on it in the same manner as on a record of Court which of itself implies an absolute verity”.

In Ring Emperor v. Barendra Kumar Ghose (34 C.L.J. 302): said,

“.. these proceedings emphasise the importance of rigidly maintaining the rule that a statement by a learned judge as to what took place during the course of a trial before him is final and decisive; it is not to be criticised or circumvented; much less is it to be exposed to animad version”.

In Sarat Chandra v. Bibhabati Debi (34 C.L.J. 302) Sir Asutosh Mookerjee explained what had to be done:

“It is plain that in cases of this character where a litigant feels aggrieved by the statement in a judgment that an admission has been made, the most convenient and satisfactory course to follow, wherever practicable, is to apply to the Judge without delay and ask for rectification or review of the judgment”

The Supreme Court further said in the present case,

“So the judges, record is conclusive. Neither lawyer nor litigant may claim to contradict it, except before the judge himself, but nowhere else. On the invitation of Mr. Sen, we have also perused the written submissions made by him before the High Court. We have two comments to make:

First, oral submissions do not always conform to written submissions. In the course of argument, counsel, often, wisely and fairly, make concessions which may not find a place in the written submissions. Discussion draws out many a concession.

Second, there are some significant sentences in the written submissions which probabilise the concession. They are:

“If in the existing case, the entire Council of Ministers becomes interested in the use of the statutory power one way or the other, the doctrine of necessity will fill up the gap by enabling the Governor by dispensing with the advice of His Council of Ministers and take a decision of his own on the merits of the case. Such a discretion of the Governor must be implied as inherent in his constitutional powers.

The doctrine of necessity will supply the necessary power to the Governor to act without the advice of the Council of Ministers in such a case where the entire Council of Ministers is biased.

In fact, it will be contrary to the Constitution and the principles of democratic Government which it enshrines if the Governor was obliged not to act and to decline to perform his statutory duties because his Ministers had become involved personally. For the interest of democratic Government and its functioning, the Governor must act in such a case on his own. Otherwise, he will become an instrument for serving the personal and selfish interest of his Ministers.”

The statement in the judgment that such a concession was made is conclusive and, if we may say so, the concession was rightly made. In the facts and circumstances of the present case, we have no doubt in our mind that when there is to be a prosecution of the Chief Minister, the Governor would, while determining whether sanction for such prosecution should be granted or not under s. 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, as a matter of propriety, necessarily act in his own discretion and not on the advice of the Council of Ministers.”


State of Maharashtra v. Ramdas Shrinivas Nayak (1982)

[1] Per Lord Atkinson in Somasundaran v. Subramanian, A.I.R 1926 P.C. 136.

[2] Per Lord Buckmaster in Madhusudan v. Chanderwati, A.I.R. 1917 P.C. 30.