Sarjoo Prosad, C.J.
1. This is a reference made by Mr. C.S. Booth, Deputy Commissioner, United Khasi-Jaintia Hills District, Under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, for enhancement of sentence. The facts giving rise to this reference are as follows ;
2. On 15-12-1955, the Police submitted a report for the prosecution of the three accused persons — (1) U Pius Lyngdoh Rina, proprietor of Rina Press, Shillong, (2) U Kwell Singh Shallam, and (3) U Kro-shon Thangkhiew, Manager of Rina Press, Under Section 11(2) of The Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous Districts) Act, 1953 (Act 16 of 1953), for publishing and printing certain documents which contained material which tended to excite or infant feelings of hostility and were intended or likely to undermine the security of the State. On receipt of this report, the accused persons were tried by a Magistrate with first class powers at Shillong. A charge was framed against them which read as follows :
That you, on or about the 1st day of September, 1955, at Shillong, being Manager and owner, Rina Press, and publisher of Naga Voluntary Plebiscite, published the Naga Voluntary Plebiscite and other documents, which are prejudicial to the public safety, and thereby committed an offence punishable Under Section 11(2) of the Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous Districts) Act, 1953, and within my cognizance. And I hereby direct that you be tried on the said charge.
The accused pleaded guilty to the charge and the Magistrate convicted them under the above charge by virtue of Section 251A, Sub-section (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and sentenced them each to pay a fine of Rs. 10/- in default, to undergo simple imprisonment for ten days.
3. A petition was then filed before the Deputy Commissioner complaining against the inadequacy of the sentence imposed upon the accused. The sentence for an offence of the nature contained in Section 11 of the Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous Districts) Act, 1953, may extend to two years imprisonment, with fine, or both. The Deputy Commissioner sent for the records, anil after hearing the parties, made a reference to this Court recommending that the sentence imposed was much too inadequate, and that the Magistrate was guilty of various errors of record in imposing the nominal sentence.
The Deputy Commissioner held that all the printed offending documents contained frivolous allegations of a highly prejudicial nature which would undermine public safety and could easily incite feelings of hatred in general against the State and affect the security thereof. He also pointed out that there was nothing to justify the observation made by the Magistrate that the accused were young boys of schools and colleges. In that view of the matter, and as the records stand, there was ample justification for the recommendation made by the Deputy Commissioner that the sentence imposed on the accused should be enhanced.
4. On behalf of the accused who were asked to show cause why the sentence should not be enhanced, it has been urged that their conviction Under Section 11 of (he said Act, in view of the charge, was altogether illegal. An attempt was made to argue before us that the pamphlet did not come within the meaning of 'prejudicial net' at all. In other words, it was suggested that a perusal of the documents in question would not go to show that they were intended to undermine or were likely to .undermine or would effect the security of the State,
We have seen the documents ourselves and we have no doubt that they are full of highly objectionable matter likely to inflame the passions of the readers thereof and cause hatred and contempt against the Government and affect the security of the public and the State. The Authorities, therefore, woud have been justified in taking a very serious view of the matter and in imposing appropriate punishment upon the accused for the publication and distribution of the pamphlets in question.
5. We are, however, faced with a technical difficulty in this case, which would affect the very legality of the conviction. Mr. Lahiri has contended before us that originally Section 8B of the Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1947 (Act 5 of 1947) provided that 'no person shall, without lawful authority or excuse, (a) do any prejudicial act; or (b) make, print, publish, distribute or exhibit any document containing, or spread by any other means whatsoever, any prejudicial report. If the Section stood as it was, then the conduct of the accused would constitute an offence under Clause (b) above. In the meantime however, in 1951 came The Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951 (Act 56 of 1951).
Section 37 of this Act is very relevant. It provided that the Acts specified in the First Schedule were repealed. In Sub-section (2) of the said Section, it further provided that any provision contained in any of the Provincial or State Acts specified in the Second Schedule, in so far as it imposed any restrictions on the printing, publication or distribution of any newspaper, news-sheet, book or other document, whether by providing for the pre-censorship thereof, or for the demand of security from the printer or publisher, or in any other manner, should cease to have effect.
The Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act, S1947, as amended, was one of those Acts. It is, therefore, clear that the provisions relating to any restriction of printing, publication or distribution of any news-sheet or book or document as contained in the Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1947, stood repealed by virtue of Section 37 of the Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951 Act LV1 of 1951. The Assam Act (Act V of 1947) was, therefore, brought in line with the Press Act, and by an amendment, Clause (b) of Section 8(B) thereof was deleted. That being so, it is rightly contended by Mr. Lahiri that the charge against the petitioners could not be sustained Under Section 11 of the Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous Districts) Act, 1953 (Act 16 of 1953).
On behalf of the State, it has been contended that the words 'do any prejudicial act' in that Section are comprehensive enough to coyer even the distribution or dissemination of objectionable press matter. We are, however, unable to accept this wide interpretation of the words 'do any prejudicial act' with reference to acts relating to the printing, publication or distribution of news-sheets or pamphlets by the owner or publisher of a press, because of the provisions of tile Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951, and the historical background of the legislation discussed earlier.
We have got to assume that the words 'do any prejudicial act' have no specific reference now, to; view of the change in the Jaw, to matters of this nature which affect the Press; and the proper procedure for the authorities should have been to take appropriate action under the Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951, which we understand, has also got application to the area. The contention, therefore, must prevail. In our opinion, the conviction Under Section 11 of the Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous Districts) Act, 1953 is illegal and cannot be sustained,
6. The reference is accordingly discharged. The petitioners are acquitted. The fine, if paid, is directed to be refunded.
7. I agree.