1. This is an application in revision made by a third party on behalf of two ladies who were convicted of an offence under Section 17 (1), Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908, and sentenced to 'four months' simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 100.
2. The accused were charged with what is usually called picketing. They were stationed in front of a cloth shop which sold foreign cloth, and they were endeavouring to persuade people not to enter the shop and buy foreign cloth, They were not charged under what is called the Picketing Ordinance, but, as I have said, they were charged under Section 17 (1), Criminal Law Amendment Act, with assisting the operations of an unlawful association.
3. The question whether particular acts amount to assisting the operations of an unlawful association within the meaning of the section must always be one of fact to be determined in the circumstances of each case. There must, I think, be some limitation upon the generality of the words. It may be that an unlawful association includes amongst its operations provisions of a perfectly harmless and even beneficent character, for instance, the restriction of the sale of intoxicating liquor, and it would be, I think, impossible to hold that because the suppression or restriction of the sale of intoxicating liquors was one of the objects of an unlawful association, therefore, everybody engaged in advocating temperance was assisting these operations, and hence committing an offence under Section 17 (1) of the Act.
4. I think that the true limitation to be placed upon the section is really this, that there must be such a connexion between the acts of the accused and the operations of the unlawful association that an intention to assist the operations of such association may be properly inferred. It is not necessary that the accused should be members of the unlawful association, or that they should be acting in co-operation with it or under its orders, or anything of that sort. But, I think, as I have said, there must be a sufficient connexion between their acts and the operations of the association to enable the Court to infer an intention to assist in those operations. The mere existence of a common aim between the person accused and the unlawful association is not enough to involve assistance.
5. Now, in this case, the accused did not take part in the proceedings; moreover, we have not got anything like a full record of the evidence, because under Section 362 (4), Criminal Procedure Code, the Chief Presidency Magistrate was not bound to make a record of the evidence, and, I think, we must assume that the facts stated in the learned Magistrate's judgment were properly proved. The accused do not appear even in this Court, and, therefore, it was impossible for the Advocate who appeared on behalf of the person applying in revision to tell us what happened in the lower Court.
6. From the judgment of the learned Magistrate it appears that it is amongst the regular activities of the War Council, which is an unlawful association, to engage in picketing cloth shops in order to persuade people not to buy foreign cloth, and that the methods of picketing employed by the War Council were similar to those employed in this case by the accused. In those circumstances I think that the learned Magistrate was justified in assuming that the accused were in fact assisting the operations of the unlawful association, although there was, I agree, no evidence that they were, in fact, acting under the directions of the association. I think there was, in this case, a sufficient connexion between their acts and the operations of the unlawful association to justify an inference that they were assisting and intending to assist, in its operations.
7. I think, therefore, that the conviction was justified and that the application must be refused.
8. Murphy, J.--The two women concerned in this revision application have been convicted under Section 17 (1), Act XIV of 1908, the grounds of the conviction being that on 18th November last they assisted the operations of the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee or War Council an association which has been notified as unlawful, by picketing some cloth shops in the Mangal-das Market with a view to preventing the sale of foreign cloth. The case was tried summarily and the evidence has not been recorded, as it was not necessary to do this under the Code, and the facts must be gathered from the Magistrate's judgment. It appears that there were three female pickets stationed at these shops. They were observed doing this picketing at 9.30 a. m. and again at 10.30 a. m. They were next seen to accost a customer, on which the Policemen went up to them. One of the three escaped into a shop whose owner closed his door, and the remaining two were arrested. The learned Magistrate has found that the picketing of shops in this manner is one of the main activities of the War Council to enforce its views as to the sale of foreign cloth by this form of coercion, and that by this action the two women in question were assisting, its unlawful operations and were therefore guilty of an offence under the Act.
9. There is no direct evidence to show that the pickets were acting under the orders of the War Council or were otherwise connected with it. The argument has consequently been that the convicted women could not have been within the section, for anyone may hold the opinion that indigenous goods only should be bought, and the sale of imported ones prevented even by resorting to picketing, and may act accordingly without consciously assisting an unlawful association thereby, though in fact such action may afford it indirect assistance, and we have had several examples of such a possibility pressed on our attention. It is, of course, possible that a person intent only on his private concerns may so assist an unlawful association in its operations, but it is really a question of fact. Where such action coincides with the scheme adopted by the unlawful association itself for its operations, the natural inference is that the assistance was not fortuitous but designed, for we have a similarity of time, method and object all pointing to that end. As the current fashion is in such cases, the persons concerned refused to plead and said they did not wish to participate in the proceedings, describing themselves as Desh Sevikas, or servants of the country.
10. I think that in the circumstances we can only conclude that they were deliberately assisting the operations of the War Council and have, therefore, been rightly convicted.