John Beaumont, Kt., C.J.
1. This is a reference by the Sessions Judge of Belgaum of a revision application preferred before him by the father of a girl, who was accused No. 2, in an offence charged under the Defence of India Rules.
2. In the case in question three girls and five boys were charged under Rule 56(4) of the Defence of India Rules, 1939, with taking out a procession without the permission of the District Magistrate. Two of the girls and one of the boys apologised, and they were dealt with under Section 562 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898. Four of the boys, who were accused Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 8, were convicted and sentenced to one and a half years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 100. The other girl, accused No. 2, to whom this reference relates, was sentenced to one year's simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 100. One of the boys, accused No. 8, appealed to the Sessions Court of Belgaum, and the learned Sessions Judge reduced his sentence to two months' rigorous imprisonment, and set aside the fine. Then the father of accused No. 2 made an application in revision. There are a good many instances in which applications in revision, made on behalf of a party who has not appealed, have been entertained, and we are prepared to entertain the application, although accused No. 2 has not appealed.
3. The learned Sessions Judge in dealing with the appeal of accused No. 8 discussed at considerable length the principles on which trial Courts should act in imposing sentences, and on which Appeal Courts should act in modifying those sentences, and, in the result, as I have mentioned, he very drastically reduced the sentence on the appellant before him. We sent for his judgment, and I am not in agreement by any means with all the views of the learned Sessions Judge expressed in that judgment, nor do I agree with the action which he took.
4. It is to be noticed that in this case all the accused were young. Accused No. 2, to whom this reference relates, is aged 17; accused No. 4, 16; accused No. 5, 17; accused No. 6, 17; and accused No. 8, 19. The offence of which they were convicted was what is called a political offence, that is to say, it was not an offence which involved any moral turpitude and, no doubt, it is difficult in those cases to determine what sentence should be imposed. Actions which are made punishable by the Defence of India Rules are so made punishable for the protection of the public, and it is manifestly necessary in imposing sentences to bear in mind that fact. It also has to be remembered that the Court on whom is imposed the duty of determining the sentence is in the first instance the trial Court, which knows local conditions, and an appellate Court ought not to interfere with the sentence unless it thinks that the trial Court has proceeded on some wrong basis.
5. The learned Sessions Judge in dealing with the case of accused No. 8 considered that the Magistrate had not taken sufficient account of the youth of the accused, and he also considered that a fine was an inappropriate form of sentence, because it would almost certainly have to be paid by the parent of the accused, and there was nothing to show that the parent had in any way connived at the offence. I am disposed to agree that the learned trial Magistrate did not attach sufficient importance to the youth of the accused. At the same time one has got to remember that offences of this nature, taking out processions, holding meetings and so forth, are calculated to lead to breaches of the peace. It is not so much the actual procession or meeting which matters, as the consequences which may follow from it. That is why these activities are made illegal, and they are just as likely to lead to breaches of the peace if committed by people of an irresponsible age, as if committed by older persons. Mere youth is not a sufficient excuse for indulging in these activities, but at the same time, in imposing sentence, the Court should not ignore the youth of the offender. In my opinion, so drastic a reduction of the sentence in the case of accused No. 8 was not justified. The learned Sessions Judge really reduced the sentence to little more than a nominal one, and that, I think, was wrong. If it becomes known that such offences are going to be lightly dealt with, very serious mischief may result. Experience shows that loss of life, great damage to property, and coercion of those who are anxious to pursue their normal activities are likely to follow from the sort of action in which these accused indulged. I think myself that, having regard to the age of the accused, and the nature of the offence committed, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for six months on the boys and four months simple imprisonment on the girl would have been appropriate.
6. With regard to the fine, I entirely disagree with the learned Sessions Judge in thinking that a fine was an inappropriate sentence. No doubt, the fine will probably have to be paid by the parent, but after all parents may reasonably be expected to restrain the activities of their children when those activities conflict with the law. The effect of imposing a fine is to give the parent the option of keeping the child out of jail by a moderate payment. I see no reason for setting aside the fine on accused No. 2.
7. But as accused No. 2 has already undergone about six months' imprisonment, I think we ought to reduce the sentence of imprisonment to the period already undergone which is, as I have said, rather more than I should have imposed myself in the first instance, if I had been trying the case. But we leave the fine, and imprisonment in default, standing.
8. In the case of the other accused, we have the record before us, and they are on the same footing as accused No. 8, and we have already expressed the view that a sentence of six months' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 100 would have been an appropriate punishment in his case. Accused Nos. 4, 5 and 6 have been in jail for a little over six months, so we reduce the sentence of imprisonment to the period already served, retaining the sentence of fine and the sentence of imprisonment in default. .
9. I agree.