CITIZENS AND PERSONS

When I was dictating the article learned author referred to, this was not an issue and hence I didn’t analyze the issue. Probably at that point of time my emotional mind prevailed over my legal mind. Further the differentiation of the term “person” and “citizen” is so basic that not much legal enlightenment is required. Nevertheless, the learned author has decided to agree to disagree, it becomes my duty to explain my point of view. Such a duty becomes more important for the Article has come from NACEN, the pious place where I learnt my a-b-c of Custom and Excise law.

Section 6 of the Right to Information Act provides that any “person” can seek information. The term person has not been defined in the Act. However the term has been defined in the General Clauses Act, 1897. Section 2(42) of the General Clauses Act, 1897 reads as,

“Person” shall include any company or association or a body of individuals, whether incorporated or not.”

The definition is self explanatory. The definition become more clear when we see the various judgment delivered by the Hon’ble Courts.

Persons are divided by law into either natural persons, or artificial. Natural persons are such as the God of nature formed us; artificial are such as are created and divided by human laws for the purposes of society and government, which are called corporations or bodies politic. The expression person includes natural as well as artificial persons. The Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner are persons. The word person means not only a natural person, but also a jurisdic or artificial persons. Prima facie the word person includes a corporation as well as a natural person. “Person” in a technical or legal sense can be a natural person like a human being or an artificial person like holder of an office or corporation.

A partnership firm is a person. The term person includes the state. The term person includes a municipality. The word person includes the “Crown”. The word person includes a club registered under the Society registration Act. The person in Rule 126-D includes a dealer. Person includes a corporate body. The term person includes a “dead body” of a human being. The word person includes a joint family. The word person includes an individual coparcenor as distinct from the Hindu undivided Family. The person includes an artificial family. A person includes a joint stock company. A person includes a secretary of state. A “deity” is a person. Guru Granth Saheb is a person.

Prima facie a person includes almost everything. It is a term of widest amplitude. It may further be noted that the purpose of using the word “person” in Section 6 of the Right to Information Act is to make the provisions available to everybody, natural persons or artificial persons. It is not necessary that a person seeking information should be a citizen of the country.

It is clear from these judgments, opinion of the legal authority that any person can ask for the information. He need not be a citizen of this country. He need not be a natural person.

The learned author raised another interesting point, use of the term “person” in Central Excise Act. If we take the definition of person as suggested by the learned author, as including only citizens, then no demand can be raised for duty against a company under Section 11A as demand can be raised only against a person. If demand cannot be raised duty cannot be recovered or penalty cannot be imposed. Notice can be given only to person, if notice cannot be given; no duty, no penalty, no recovery-see principles of natural justice. We may note that recovery of duty can be done only from a person (section 11), penalty under Section 11AC can only be imposed on a person. Let me assure that similar result will follow in Custom law if we try to define person as citizen. So, let the department decide the exact meaning of “person”. Corporations must be smiling somewhere.

(Views expressed are personal views of the author.)

Written by:- Advocate Rajesh Kumar. The author can be contacted on The author can be contacted on custom.excise@gmail.com , Web: www.rajeshkumar.co.in

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