Gajjan Singh v Union of India and Others

Date11 November 1955
CourtJudicial Commissioner's Court (India)
India, Judicial Commissioner's Court of Himachal Pradesh.

(Ramabhadran J.C.)

Gajjan Singh
Union of India and Others.

States — Establishment of — India — Former Indian States.

State Succession — Succession to Obligations — Respect for Private Rights —“Act of State”— Whether Available against Citizens — Former Indian States — Merger with Dominion (Union) of India — Change of Sovereignty — Impact on Private Rights — The Republican Constitution of India.

The Facts.—The plaintiff and one of the defendants, the former Ruler of the Baghat State, had prior to the independence of India concluded certain transactions and had mutual claims originating from them. It was agreed between the plaintiff and the Ruler that they should render accounts to each other and settle them. After independence, the administration of the State of Baghat was transferred to the State of Himachal Pradesh and that State became, in 1948, part of the Dominion (Union) of India. The plaintiff, in order to obtain the payment of his claims, instituted two suits against the Union of India as the successor to the Ruler of Baghat. The two further defendants in the case were the State of Himachal Pradesh and the Ruler. The actions were considered by a District Judge, who dismissed them, and the case came on appeal before the Judicial Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh. The contention of the defendants was, inter alia, that the Union of India and the State of Himachal Pradesh could not be sued in a municipal court in respect of a claim relating to the former Baghat State and that neither the District Judge nor the Court of Appeal could take cognizance of the suits as they were barred by an Act of State. The appellant (plaintiff) argued that no cession or annexation of territory had taken place when the Baghat State was taken over by the Union of India. Moreover, sovereignty (it was maintained) was abandoned by the Dominion of India and by the States and surrendered to the Constituent Assembly, which passed the new Republican Constitution according to which all were citizens in a new order. The plaintiff as well as the Ruler became subjects of independent India from the very beginning and thus “there can be no Act of State against the citizen”.

Held: that the Court was not debarred from taking cognizance of suits arising out of obligations of Rulers of former Indian States and that on that ground the appeal would be allowed. The plaintiff was an Indian citizen...

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