Karnataka HC Warns Legal Publishers to be Cautious or Face Contempt & Perjury Charges

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The court acknowledged the intervention of the learned counsel appearing for the appellant and said, "we would have been swayed away by the mistaken version of the KLJ Publications, Bengaluru, to the enormous detriment of citizens", while emphasising the need for caution by publishers 

The Karnataka High Court has issued a stern warning to publishers of law books, emphasising the critical need for caution in printing and publishing statutes and statutory instruments to avoid the risk of facing charges of contempt of court, perjury, and similar offences.

The court, presided over by Chief Justice N. V. Anjaria and Justice Krishna S. Dixit, said, “It goes without saying that if for the ‘mistake of law’, none should suffer, none should suffer for the ‘mistake of Law Publisher’ too. It is high time to state that those who print & publish statutes and statutory instruments should be extra cautious, or else, they run the risk of being hauled up for the contempt of court, perjury & the like offences, in addition to being black-listed from public tenders for the supply of books of their publication.”

The court made the observation while deciding a petition filed by Fr. Fernandes, seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the respondents, the State of Karnataka and the Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada District, to grant him land by issuing a Grant Certificate/Saguvali Chit. This petition stemmed from a previous order by the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal in Appeal of 1994, which directed the determination of the amount payable for the land but did not annul the lease granted.

The Single Judge, in a ruling dated 7th November 2023, directed Fr. Fernandes to approach the jurisdictional Assistant Commissioner for redressal of his grievance, citing an amendment made to Rule 23. However, Fr. Fernandes, represented by Advocate Keshava Bhat A., contested this decision, arguing that the tribunal’s order affirmed the grant, leaving only the question of payment for the land.

The Additional Government Advocate (AGA) Niloufer Akbar argued that the amount payable for the grant should be determined based on the 2023 Amendment Rules, asserting that the amendment constitutes a substitution. The AGA directed the Court's attention to the Karnataka Land Grant Rules, 1969, as per the KLJ Publications, 2019, 5th Edition. Notably, footnote 1 at page 48 of the publication states: "Substituted for the words 'on payment of fifty per cent of the market value' by Notification No. RD 09 LGP 2015(P), dated 19-9-2015 and shall be deemed to have come into force w.e.f. 9-6-2015.”

Upon closer examination, the court found it apparent that the notification in question did not explicitly indicate that the amendment should be construed as a 'substitution', as correctly highlighted by the learned counsel representing the appellant. The Court acknowledged the crucial intervention of the appellant's counsel, noting that without it, they may have been misled by the erroneous version provided by KLJ Publications, Bengaluru.

After thoroughly considering the arguments presented by the respective counsels and examining the documents, the High Court expressed its inclination to grant leniency in the matter, largely concurring with the assertions made by the appellant's counsel.

The Court noted the existence of a Grant Order, which was upheld in the appellant's appeal by the Appellate Tribunal. It emphasised that the only remaining consideration for the authorities was the matter of payment concerning the subject grant.

The Court deemed it unjustifiable to relegate the appellant to the Assistant Commissioner for seeking a fresh grant, stating that, “When there is statutory Tribunal’s order, relegating the appellant to the Assistant Commissioner for seeking a fresh grant is not justified.”

Consequently, the appeal succeeded, and the Court issued a writ of mandamus directing the Deputy Commissioner, Dakshina Kannada District, Manglore (second respondent) to formalise the land grant in favour of Fr. Fernandes in accordance with extant rules, with charges applicable under the pre-amendment Rules of 2023.


Cause Title: FR. Valerian Fernandes v. State of Karnataka [WA 1561 of 2023]