1. This case comes before us by way of reference by the District Magistrate. Unfortunately the facts, if they can be dignified by that description, disclose an unparalleled disregard of the principles of proper procedure and an astounding condition of misunderstanding and muddle. No evidence has been taken in the case at all. A plea of 'guilty' by a pleader has been recorded to an offence under a section which does not relate to any offence at all, but only to the penalties to be inflicted for of fences under other sections. If the real offence intended to be charged, and intended to be covered by the plea of 'guilty' was that which has generally been assumed to be the offence, it is clear that the fine inflicted of Rs. 10 was utterly inadequate. The suggestion on behalf of the defence before us to-day, so far as we can understand it, is that the gentleman summoned is of such social standing and public position that he could not be reasonably expected to attend a Court of justice, engaged in private and public work elsewhere, and so long as the Magistrate was willing to inflict a small fine upon him, it did not matter what he had done or to what he had pleaded guilty. If this is the real state of things, it is a travesty of justice.
2. The assumed facts are that a car in which he was sitting, driven by a servant of his, knocked down and killed a boy between Partabgarh and Allahabad, and that in spite of a serious accident of this kind, the gentleman allowed his driver to proceed in the most inhuman way and endeavoured to cover up his tracks and conceal the identity of his car. The answer to this very serious allegation now made before us is that he was not there at all, that he did not hear of the accident until a long time afterwards, and that he pleaded guilty through a pleader either per incuriam, or without knowing what offence he was pleading guilty to. This is obviously a very unsatisfactory state of things. The driver has been identified and tried and convicted for the offence of causing the death of the boy by reckless driving. As his case is under appeal, it is undesirable that we should make further reference to the actual events at the time of the accident, or to the means said to have been taken, either to conceal his identity, or, on the other hand, to establish his identity. These are matters which are sub judice. Nor have we any materials for expressing any opinion as to whether the present defendant to the present summons was in the car or not. One curious feature about the case is that it has been argued before us, on the one hand, by the Assistant Government Advocate representing the Government and, on the other hand, by Mr. Dube representing the accused, without any summons or copy thereof appearing in any shape or form, either on the record, or in the brief of either counsel, and at this moment nobody knows what the summons contained. It must, however, be assumed that everything has proceeded upon the basis of a summons charging the accused with a breach of Section 16, Motor Act, for failing to give notice to the police that the driver had killed a boy. The foregoing passage is extracted from the referring order. Two observations arise upon it. In the first place, there is no such thing as 'an offence under Section 16,' Motor Act, at all and, in the second place, there is no offence, so far as we can discover, in the Motor Vehicles Act, coming within the description given by the Joint Magistrate of failing 'to give notice to the police that your driver has killed a boy.'
3. It becomes necessary, therefore, first to refer to the Motor Vehicles Act. Section 16 is a penalty clause and prescribes the penalties which may be inflicted upon anybody who contravenes any of the provisions of the Act or any rule made under the Act. The sooner the authorities abandon the practice of prosecuting motorists, or indeed any other people, under sections which do not prescribe an offence at all, the better. So far as the alleged facts of this case are concerned, one possible section appropriate is Section 4. Section 4 prescribes that when the person in charge of a motor vehicle knows, or has reason to believe, that an accident has occurred, he shall cause the vehicle to stop and shall also, if required, give his name and address and the name and address of the owner of the motor vehicle. If Kunwar Rananjai Singh Sahib was in the car at the time of the accident, that section would apply to him. The language of the section has been carefully chosen. It has occurred, and it may frequently occur, that a driver who has caused an accident either by excessive speed, or by a bona fide mishap, and refuses to stop, may plead, and rightly plead, that he was acting under the orders of either the owner or the gentleman in charge of the car. The owner may be sitting behind giving direct orders to his driver as to the pace at which he is to travel and he may, in spite of a serious accident, command the driver to pursue his way. Similarly, the owner may be absent, and a person may be in charge of the car, with the consent of the owner, such as a member of the household or a guest, who has an important journey to perform and is permitted by the owner to take charge of the car and the driver. In such cases, it is clear that the person in charge of the car, to whose orders the driver is in fact submitting at the time of the accident or immediately thereafter, is amenable to the section. We are informed-we can say no more-that the summons issued against this gentleman had no relation to this section, but that what he was really summoned for was a breach of some motor rule made under the Act, which neither ourselves nor anybody engaged in this case before us, appears to know anything about, which requires a member of the public to give information to the police, if he knows that his driver has caused a serious accident or death. Under what circumstances that obligation is imposed upon him depends upon the terms of the rule of which we are profoundly ignorant, and to which both the Magistrate who tried the case and the Magistrate who has referred it to us, did not condescend to refer. This fact however, raises a question of importance to Magistrates, and of importance to a growing class of the public who use these vehicles upon the high road.
4. We happen to know, and we take judicial notice of the fact, that summonses are constantly issued from the magisterial Courts in these provinces, purporting to charge motorists, owners or drivers, of offences under the Act without giving the slightest particulars of the offence alleged. This particular case is one of the worst illustrations that it is possible to imagine. The only offence alleged from beginning to end is an offence under the penalty Cl.16, which as we have said, does not create an offence at all. The question, and a very serious question it is, whether this procedure is justified by law.
5. In our opinion it is not, and it is our opinion that the whole of these proceedings and similar proceedings in which similar summonses are issued are illegal. It is true that the chapter of the Criminal Procedure Code dealing with the processes to compel appearance does not define what a summons is to contain. It is true that magisterial Courts may have drifted into a habit of issuing vague and general summonses, and that in certain cases the persons summoned have appeared without raising any objections, and that evidence has been subsequently taken and a charge framed, so that the person accused had no complaint and fully understood what he was called upon to meet. It is true also that in motor cases it has occurred that summonses have been issued to motorists and that they have saved themselves and the Court trouble by pleading guilty generally and sending some fine to the Court, without even appearing or without the necessity of any hearing but these shipshod methods are unknown to the law and like all bad habits are apt to breed somewhat rapidly and sooner or later to cause trouble. Section 68, Criminal P.C., in our view, incorporates the form of summons, which is a statutory form contained in Schedule 5 of the Act, which summons is to be issued to accused persons. There appears to be no authority of this Court as to what such summonses should contain, if authority were needed. There is an old case relating to a summons issued to a witness which has no bearing on this particular form of summons. But the statutory form contained in the Act provides that the summons should give as part of the requirement to the accused person to attend at the specified time and place to answer a charge, particulars of the offence charged. This seems but reasonable and in accordance with commonsense.
6. It is an elementary observation to point out that it is not reasonable to summon a person to answer a charge, unless you, at the same time inform him of the charge he is summoned to answer. The form says: 'State shortly the offence charged.' That statutory requirement cannot be satisfied by a reference to a general omnibus clause, which may include a variety of charges, nor does it justify the omission of the place where, the date when, and the precise nature of the offence which the accused person is supposed to have committed. These observations are elementary. It is surprising that it should be necessary at this time of the day to make them at all. We should have thought that no authority on the subject was necessary, but if any authority is required, we have no hesitation in saying that a summons issued by a Magisterial Court which does not contain in the form prescribed by the statute particulars of the place where, the time when, and the nature of the offence charged, may be disregarded by the person summoned, and proceedings taken thereon, if objected to, must necessarily be invalid. In a case of this kind, or any case under the Motor Act, where there are a variety of offences included either in one section, or in a code of rules, it is essential both for the purpose of the proper conduct of the Court's business itself, as well as for the protection of a respectable class of people summoned for sometimes trivial and sometimes serious offences, that it should be known from the first what it is which the Court has in fact to deal with. It is unlikely, if not in the highest decree improbable, that if that necessary and obligatory procedure had been followed in this case, the muddle which we now have to deal with would have occurred at all. What happened at the hearing is sufficiently bewildering. The person summoned was anxious not to appear before the Court for reasons of personal convenience. He filed a petition through a pleader, asking, to be excused on the ground, as we have said, of his private and public business. He went on to say that he is well known to the people residing at or near Fyzabad Allahabad road, a distance we believe to be something like 100 miles, which is equivalent to saying that he must be a very conspicuous person, and he added that owing to his appearance and dress and custom, he could be easily identified. He then went on to make a mysterious statement to the Court, namely, that he waived his right of being identified. What he meant, or what anybody else understood by this statement, must remain a mystery. But the mystery does not end there.
7. The document was filed by his pleader under Section 18 of the Act which enables the Local Government to cancel or suspend any license granted by the Act, and having filed this petition asking that the person summoned might be exempted from personal attendance, his pleader proceeded to plead guilty to what he was pleased to describe as the charge under Section 18, which he himself had, for the first time, introduced into this 'complicated controversy. The Magistrate detected this further error and accepting the plea of guilty and inflicting the fine of Rs. 10, altered the conviction to one under Section 16, but what he meant when he did that neither we ourselves, nor anybody else seems to have any notion. It can hardly be believed that he seriously thought that a case of a person of position-which seems to us merely to aggravate the offence-who endeavoured to conceal his person or to deny his presence, or to refuse to render the authorities any assistance in the case of such a serious offence of inflicting fatal injuries upon a boy by reckless driving, was adequately dealt with by a fine of Rs. 10. If he really thought so and that was in substance the matter with which the Court was dealing, we should have been compelled to interfere by way of enhancement, but having regard to the irregular proceedings throughout this case from first to last, we do not feel ourselves able to treat the plea of guilty, in the circumstances in which it was given, as either an estoppel to the defendant, or as an admission that he had really bean guilty of such inhuman conduct. The whole thing seems to have ended in an unfortunate misunderstanding. We have no alternative, but to set aside the whole proceeding and to direct either a fresh summons or an amended summons to be issued against Kunwar Rananjai Singh, specifying the offence under the Act or rules, which he is alleged to have committed, and the place where and the time when he is said to have committed it. We think it better that the Magistrate, although he should not delay issuing the fresh or amended summons, should postpone the hearing on the merits until after the disposal of the appeal which, we understand, the driver has filed, but that, after that has been disposed of it should be heard with the least possible delay. On the other hand, although we have no jurisdiction to pass any order in the matter, we think it right to say that we do not consider it a case in which, especially if he claims that he was not present, the person summoned ought to ask for exemption from his presence in Court, that is to say, we think he ought to attend the Court.