R v Governor of Pentonville Prison, ex parte Narang

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeViscount Dilhorne,Lord Morris of Borth-Y-Gest,Lord Edmund-Davies,Lord Fraser of Tullybelton,Lord Keith of Kinkel
Judgment Date23 March 1977
Judgment citation (vLex)[1977] UKHL J0323-1
Date23 March 1977

[1977] UKHL J0323-1

House of Lords

Viscount Dilhorne

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

Lord Edmund-Davies

Lord Fraser of Tullybelton

Lord Keith of Kinkel

The Union of India
(Appellants)
and
Omprakash Narang (Otherwise OMI Narang) and Another
(Respondents)
(on Appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division)
The Union of India
(Appellants)
and
Manohar Lal Naran (Otherwise Manu Narang) and Another
(Respondents)
(on Appeal from a Divisional Court of The Queen's Bench Division)

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause The Union of India against Manohar Lal Narang (otherwise Manu Narang) and another (on Appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division), That the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Monday the 21st, as on Tuesday the 22d, Wednesday the 23d and Thursday the 24th, days of February last, upon the Petition and Appeal of The Union of India of New Delhi, India, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice of the 29th of November 1976 providing that the Respondent be released from custody, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; and Counsel having been heard on behalf of Manohar Lal Narang (otherwise Manu Narang) and the Governor of Her Majesty's Prison at Pentonville, the Respondents to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Order of a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice, of the 29th day of November 1976, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby, Revoked: And it is further Ordered, That the Respondent do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellants the Costs incurred by them in the Courts below, and also the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeal to this House, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause The Union of India against Om Prakash Narang (otherwise Omi Narang) and another (on Appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division), That the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Monday the 21st, as on Tuesday the 22d, Wednesday the 23d and Thursday the 24th, days of February last, upon the Petition and Appeal of The Union of India of New Delhi, India, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice of the 26th of November 1976 providing that the Respondent be released from custody, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; and Counsel having been heard on behalf of Om Prakash Narang (otherwise Omi Narang) and the Governor of Her Majesty's Prison at Pentonville, the Respondents to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Order of a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice, of the 26th day of November 1976, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby, Revoked: And it is further Ordered, That the Respondent do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellants the Costs incurred by them in the Courts below, and also the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeal to this House, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Viscount Dilhorne

My Lords,

1

At Amin a village in India there were at a temple two sandstone pillars of great antiquity and great value. They were stolen between the 31st March and the 1st April, 1967 but were recovered and lodged at a police station. On the 1st March, 1968 one Malik applied to the magistrate for the release of the pillars to him from police custody on the pretext that they were required for archaeological study for a temporary period. With the assistance of one Mehra, then a Chief Judicial Magistrate, he obtained them and had them in his custody from that date.

2

On the 27th May, 1968 two pillars were delivered by Malik to the court and after the proceedings against those who had stolen the pillars from the temple were concluded, the two pillars lodged at the court were taken to Amin. On the 28th February, 1970 it was found that they were not the original pillars which had been stolen, but copies, and criminal proceedings, which have not yet been concluded, were consequently commenced against Malik and Mehra.

3

The original pillars were found in London in the possession, according to the prosecution but disputed by him, of Manohar Lal Narang, hereinafter referred to as Manu. It was not until the first week of May 1976 that the involvement of Manu and of his brother Om Prakash Narang, hereafter referred to as Omi, was discovered.

4

On the 13th May, 1976 an information report was filed by the Indian police alleging their involvement and that of a third brother Rama.

5

On the 26th June, 1976 Malik lodged a petition for a pardon. In that petition he stated that he had learnt that Manu had been arrested in London and that the original pillars had been recovered. He made a full confession and said that it was at the instigation of Manu that he approached Mehra to obtain the release of the original pillars from the police station with a view to having replicas made of them and returning, not the originals, but copies to the court; that the originals released were taken in a truck to Rama's house, and that about a fortnight later he went to Rama and Manu's house, saw the original pillars in their backyard and two men engaged in making replicas of them. He said that two months later, the originals were moved to the Narang brothers' factory and that the replicas were there completed.

6

Malik was granted a conditional pardon, and he later made a statement giving details of the parts played by Manu and Omi.

7

The information report referred to stated that the two artisans who made the replicas had testified that they had made three sets of replicas at the instance of the Narang brothers, that one set of replicas was intercepted while being taken out of India in a clandestine fashion, and that 70,000 rupees had been paid by Omi to Malik in cash.

8

A warrant for the arrest of Manu was issued by the Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi on the 20th July, 1976 on a number of serious charges, and a similar warrant was issued for the arrest of Omi on the same day.

9

Requests having been made for the return of Manu and Omi from England to India, authority to proceed was given in accordance with section 5 of the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 by the Secretary of State to the Chief Magistrate at Bow Street on three charges of conspiracy, one of aiding and abetting, and one of dishonestly receiving and handling the two genuine pillars, knowing them to be stolen property. On the 5th October, 1976 the Chief Magistrate committed them to the custody of the Governor of Brixton Prison, being satisfied that the evidence given before him would be sufficient to warrant their trial for these offences if they had been committed in the Inner London area.

10

In addition to the charges relating to the pillars, the return of Manu was also requested so that he might be tried for conspiring between January 1963 and October 1965 to commit or cause to be committed forgery of entries on shipping bills relating to the export of antiques from India. The Chief Magistrate also committed Manu to the custody of the Governor for his return to India to face these charges.

11

Applications were then made to the Divisional Court on behalf of Manu and Omi for writs of habeas corpus and on the 29th November, 1976 that court ordered that they should be discharged from custody, holding that by reason of the passage of time, it would, having regard to all the circumstances, be unjust or oppressive to return them. The court further ordered that they should not be released except on bail until the determination of a petition to this House by the Government of India for leave to appeal and if leave was granted, pending the determination of the appeal. Leave to appeal was granted.

12

In this House, the Government of India did not seek to challenge the Divisional Court's conclusion that it would by the reason of the passage of time be unjust or oppressive to return Manu to India to face the forgery charges. They sought only to challenge that court's conclusion so far as it related to the charges concerning the pillars.

13

Section 8(3) of the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 reads as follows:

"(3) On any such application" (for habeas corpus) the High Court … "may, without prejudice to any other jurisdiction of the court, order the person committed to be discharged from custody if it appears to the court that:—

( a) by reason of the trivial nature of the offence of which he is accused or was convicted; or

( b) by reason of the passage of time since he is alleged to have committed it or to have become unlawfully at large, as the case may...

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