1. This is an application in revision, and we have had notice served on the District Magistrate, for whom however there is no appearance. The applicant is a Police Head-Constable with nearly thirty years' service to his credit. He has been convicted by the learned Magistrate under Section 204, Indian Penal Code, and on appeal to the Sessions Judge the conviction has been upheld, though evidently with great reluctance on the part of the learned Judge.
2. Now the facts found are that in the course of a certain investigation in a case of theft, the applicant as a Police Officer had a certain document drawn up and signed by Panch, When, however, he came to look at this document he found it so disfigured by interlineations and scratches that he thought it desirable to have the document fairly written out again. Therefore, employing the same writer and the same Panchas, he had the document re-written intextually the same form as the untidy notes which had first been drawn. This rough document was thereupon destroyed by the applicant and its place was taken by the fair document. The question is whether such action on his part brings him within the operation of Section 204 of the Indian Penal Code which provides for punishment of any person who destroys any document which he may lawfully be compelled to produce as evidence in a Court of Justice, or in any proceeding lawfully held before a public servant as such. We think it may certainly be said that if such action on the applicant's part be exposed to the serious punishment provided by Section 204 that result would be shocking to one's conscience, seeing that there is no suggestion from first to last that the applicant ever had any dishonest or fraudulent or criminal intention. We think, however, that the words of Section 204 do not require the conclusion to which the learned Judge so reluctantly assented. It appears to us that on a true view of the facts, the fair document, which the applicant preserved and ultimately presented to the Court, must be regarded as the only document which he was lawfully compelled to produce as evidence. That, we think, became the original Panchnama in the case, and the former writing must be regarded merely as rough notes designed for the preparation of this fair original document. Upon this view of the case we reverse the conviction and sentence and direct that the applicant be acquitted and discharged. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that so far as this prosecution is concerned no slur or stigma attaches to the applicant's reputation.