1. The accused Kantilal Maganlal Patel of Ahmedabad was charged with having committed offences under Section 465 read with Section 471 of the Penal Code and Section 36(g), Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953. If, was the case for the prosecution that the accused was given a registration certificate under the Bombay Sales Tax Act and was doing business in the name of Shobha Engineering Works at Ahmedabad. The accused sent quarterly statements ending 30-6-1949 and was called upon to verify the same with his accounts.
At that time the accused produced his account books and on inspection of those books it was found that the accused had prepared a bill for Rs. 212-8-0 showing that certain goods were sold in the Bombay State to a registered party though in fact the goods had been sent outside the State. The accused produced the forged bill before the Sales Tax Inspector, Ahmedabad.
On these facts sanction was obtained from the Sales Tax Collector and the accused was prosecuted. At the trial the accused admitted his guilt. He stated that he pleaded guilty and pleaded for mercy. The learned trial Magistrate accepted the plea of guilty and thought that it was a case in which the accused should be given a chance to improve and, therefore, a lenient punishment would serve the purpose of justice.
Accordingly the learned trial Magistrate sentenced the accused for the offence under Section 465 read with Section 471 of the Penal Code to pay a fine of Rs. 20/- and in default of payment of fine to suffer simple imprisonment for seven days, and for the offence under Section 36(g), Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, to pay a fine of Rs. 10/- and in default of payment of fine to suffer simple imprisonment for three days.
2. Evidently an offence under Section 465 read with Section 471, Penal Code, is a very serious offence, and it is difficult to appreciate why the learned trial Magistrate should have dealt with the accused so leniently. Even the offence under Section 36 (g), Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953 is an offence which is punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to six months simple imprisonment or a fine not exceeding Rs. 2,000/-.
The accused with a view to defraud the State of its legitimate dues maintained false accounts and went to the extent of fabricating false bills. That would show depravity of character, and in my view the learned trial Magistrate was not justified in dealing with the accused leniently. It is true that the amount of which the State was defrauded by this devise of fabrication of false books of account and the bill was small.
But the gravity of the offence cannot necessarily be related to the amount which was saved by the accused. The accused was a businessman of about 27 years of age at the time when he had committed the offence. If with a view to save a small amount the accused was prepared to commit what must be regarded as a serious and grave offence, I do not think that a mere sentence of fine would be regarded as proper penalty for the commission of the offence.
3. There is, however, a difficulty in maintaining the conviction of the accused under Section 465 read with Section 471, Penal Code. The documents alleged to have been fabricated by the accused were produced before the Sales Tax Officer. This Court in a recent case has taken the view that Sales Tax Officer is a 'Court' within the meaning of Section 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and an offence mentioned in that section cannot be tried by a Court unless a complaint is filed by the Court before which the document has been produced.
The conviction of the accused under Section 465 read with Section 471 of the Penal Code must, therefore be set aside as the learned trial Magistrate had no jurisdiction to try that offence. The fine paid by the accused for that offence must be remitted. But the conviction of the accused under Section 36(g) of the Sales Tax Act of 1953 must be upheld.
In lieu of the sentence of fine passed uponthe accused, the sentence of one month's simpleimprisonment is imposed upon him. I accordingly direct that the sentence of fine passed uponthe accused for the offence under Section 36(g) of theSales Tax Act, 1953, be remitted and in lieuthereof the accused is sentenced to suffer simpleimprisonment for one month. Warrant to issuefor the arrest of the accused.
4. Order accordingly.