John Edge, Kt., C.J.
1. Two men, Imam Ali and Amiruddin, were convicted by the Magistrate of Shahjahanpur Under Section 295, Indian Penal Code, for having on the 30th August 1887, at Tilhar municipality on the side of Muazampur street, destroyed each a cow by the side of a public highway. The Magistrate found that they knew very well that the killing of the cow was considered an insult by their Hindu fellow-subjects, and he fined them Rs. 25 each. The case has come up to us in revision, and the sole question to consider is whether a cow is an ' object ' within the meaning of Section 295, Indian Penal Code. The earlier words of that section are as follows:
Whoever destroys, damages, or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons.
2. If I were to apply the usual principle of construction to this section, I should come to the conclusion that it was intended that the ' object ' should be one ejusdem generis with a 'place of worship,' that is, some inanimate object such as an idol, &c.; In my opinion the intention of the Legislature in passing this, section was to use the term 'object' in that sense, and the Legislature did not intend that the term should apply to animate objects such as cows. If it had been intended that the term 'object ' here should not be construed as relating to something ejusdem generis with the place of worship, but should have a wider meaning, I should have expected to find in the definition clause the word 'object' defined. But there is no such definition. The words 'animal,' man,' woman ' and 'person ' are there defined. It is admitted by the Government Pleader, who appears in support of this application, that the killing of a cow under any circumstances, of course except by accident, would be considered an insult by a strict Hindu. If that be so, any butcher who knew that fact and killed a cow, even in his private slaughter house, or for the matter of that, in a public slaughter house, would be guilty of the offence contemplated by Section 295 of the Penal Code.
3. I, therefore, come to the conclusion that Section 295 of the Penal Code does not apply to this case, and consequently that this conviction must be set aside, and the fines, if realized, be refunded.
4. I entirely concur that a cow is not an object within the meaning of Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code. It seems to me that the words in connection with which it is used, namely, destroys, damages or defiles, preclude the notion that a cow does come within the definition. I think, therefore, that these convictions should be set aside, and the fines, if realized, should be returned.
5. In my opinion the killing of a cow as a sacrifice or otherwise is not an offence punishable Under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code.
6. The words ' destroys' and ' object,' as used in that section, could not, I consider, have been intended by the Legislature to have, under any circumstances, included the killing of a cow. Had it been intended that the killing or maiming or injuring of things animate, such as a cow or a monkey or a peacock or a jay, should have been included as offences punishable Under Section 295, language more appropriate than ' destroys, damages or defiles ' ' any object ' would have been brought into use; and such words as ' or kills, maims or otherwise injures any animal' would have been inserted between the words ' any object' and the words ' held sacred by any class of persons.'
7. The whole construction of the section as it stands shows, I think, that it refers only to inanimate objects such as churches, mosques, temples and marble or stone figures representing gods.
8. Under this view of the law, I would set aside the convictions of Imam Ali and Amiruddin, arid direct that the fines, if realized, be refunded.
9. I concur with the learned Chief Justice.
10. I concur so entirely in the exposition of the law to which the learned Chief Justice and my learned brethren have given expression that I consider it unnecessary to say much upon that aspect of the case. The Section (295 of the Penal Code) which we are called upon to consider occurs in a penal enactment; and according to the well-recognized rules of interpretation of the language of statutes, words importing a doubtful or ambiguous meaning must be construed strictly and in favour of the subject, that is to say, that unless the meaning of the Legislature is perfectly clear, no penalties are to be imposed upon the subjects of the Crown nor are their liberties to be restricted. This canon of construction has been uniformly applied to the interpretation of a vast multiplicity of statutes in England and also in India, and I do not think any doubts have been thrown upon it. There is also another well-recognized rule of construing statutes to which the learned Chief Justice has already referred, namely, that the operation of words of a general signification is restrained ' when they follow closely upon words of a limited meaning, upon words which refer to a particular class of things or persons, or which necessarily excludes such matters as are of higher dignity. In all these cases general words are confined to things and persons ejusdem generis with those enumerated or of inferior quality.' (Wilberforce, p. 179.) Now in this case the words ' any object ' occur in such close proximity to the phrase ' any place of worship,' which phrase again follows upon the words 'destroys, damages or defiles,' that as the learned Chief Justice has pointed out, we cannot extend the meaning of the word ' object ' to animals, and that we must interpret it by the rule of ejusdem generis. This conclusion is further supported by another rule of interpreting statutes, namely, that when words importing; a popular meaning are employed in a statute, they ought to be construed in such a sense, unless the Legislature has defined such words in any other sense. Now the word ' object' no doubt has a technical and extensive meaning in philosophy and would include not only an animal but also a human being, and indeed if we go further, the word would in philosophy include also abstract concepts. But such is not the manner in which the popular mind understands the words, nor can we attach any such meaning to the word in interpreting a penal enactment such as Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code. The Code devotes a whole chapter (II) to the explanation of certain general expressions which it employs, and considering that it defines the words ' animal' (Section 47) as also the words ' man ' and ' woman ' (Section 10), it seems to me that if the word ' object ' as it occurs in Section 295 of that Code were to be interpreted by us to include a cow or any other animal, there would be no logical reason why we should not include a human being within the meaning of that word. I have no doubt therefore that the words ' any object held sacred by any class of persons ' must be understood to be limited to inanimate objects.
11. But there is another aspect of this case in respect of which I wish to give expression to my views consistently with the rule of judicial etiquette which requires that Judges should abstain from taking part in matters of a purely political character. Facts similar to those out of which this prosecution has arisen are not of unfrequent occurrence, and sometimes cause breach of the peace, of which I as one of Her Majesty's Judges feel myself entitled to take notice. As my brother Brodhurst has pointed out, the bovine species is not the only class of animals held sacred by the Hindu population of India, and indeed I may add that even trees, such as the pipal, are included among the objects of worship or veneration by that section of the community-a state of things which only shows how serious, in connection with such matters, is the task of those who as Judges are bound to administer justice in conformity with the laws of the land.
12. I think it is not beyond my province as a Judge of this Court to take judicial notice of the religious history of the Hindus as also of the Muhammadan ecclesiastical law in so far as they bear upon the facts of this case. So far as I am aware it appears to me that in the ancient times of the Hindu history just as aswamedha, or the sacrifice of a horse, was allowed as a symbol of imperial domination, so upon other occasions of ritual ceremonies gaumedha, or cow sacrifice, was permitted and almost enjoined by the ancient sages of the Hindu religion. No doubt, with the progress of time, the advance of civilization and the development of utilitarian ideas among the people, both these sacrifices fell into disuse, and the cow as the furnisher of milk and the mother of the bovine species (so universally employed in this country for purposes of agriculture) rose from being an object of utility to the footing of sanctity. The law, however, in dealing with such matters is not concerned with facts as they were in ancient times, but with living facts of modern times, and we as Judges cannot ignore the fact that among the Hindus of the present day the cow is regarded as perhaps the most sacred animal, though this circumstance would not, for the reasons which I have already mentioned, affect the interpretation of the word 'object' as it occurs in Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code. I also know that under the Muhammadan ecclesiastical law, on the Id-ul-Zuha (or Id-e-kurban) as the anniversary of the great pilgrimage of Mecca, the sacrifice of a camel, a buffalo, a cow, a sheep, or any other quadruped, whose meat is lawful food to the Muslim is enjoined. I am equally aware of the fact that so far as the poorer sections of the Muhammadan population are concerned the only chance which they practically have of eating meat is to rely upon the cheapness of beef in comparison to mutton or meat of any other kind. It may or may not be so that until somewhat recent times the Hindus and the Muhammadans living as close neighbours were accustomed to be considerate to each other, and respecting each other's feelings, did not recklessly hurt the religious prejudices of each other in such matters. But from the number of cases which come up to this Court in the exercise of its criminal jurisdiction as the highest tribunal in the land, I cannot but conclude that with the change of the times a most unsatisfactory and reprehensible state of things has come into existence which it is the duty of those entrusted with the administration of justice, in the impartial and even-handed form which the law of British India enjoins, to recognise and deal with. Speaking for myself I have had before now considerable difficulty in deciding how Courts of justice are to deal with such matters, how the law stands with reference to cases in which in the most offensive manner the slaughter of a cow is accomplished by a Muhammadan before the eyes of a Hindu fellow-subject, or cases in which a Hindu procession is carried with offensive demonstration in front of a Muhammadan mosque. Similar difficulty I have felt in connection with the bearings of the law in cases where the Hindu procession of the Ram Lila takes place on the same occasion as the Muhammadan procession of the Moharram. The one is a day of rejoicing with the Hindus as the anniversary of the greatest victory in their history ;' the other is the anniversary of what has been called ' the darkest day of Islam,' and as such the occasion of deepest mourning. It may be that on such occasions (as I am afraid is often the case) events may occur which would constitute the corpus delicti of one or other of the various offences relating to religion dealt within Chapter XV of the Indian Penal Code, and indeed it may be that those events require the application of even severer sections of that Code. There can scarcely be any doubt that the difficulties with which Courts of justice have to deal in such matters arise from the fact that Her Majesty's subjects in India having long been accustomed before the advent of the British rule to oppressive methods, cannot easily accommodate themselves to the new state of things ushered into existence by the British Government, under which religious toleration and individual liberty of the citizen is recognized to an extent which, according to some deep thinkers, was too much in advance of the stage of civilization which the country had attained. Quite recently in Crim. Rev. No. 629 of 1887, Queen-Empress v. Sheodin, ante, p. 115, I had to deal with a somewhat similar matter. There the dispute was not between Hindus and Muhammadans, but between two sections of the Hindu community, that is, between the Vaishnavas and the Saraogis in connection with a religious procession of the latter to which the former objected. Similarly quarrels arise between the two sections of the Muhammadan community-the Sunnis and the Shiahs-in connection with the uttering of certain words which are most offensive to the religious feelings of the Sunni Muhammadans, and which words might in some circumstances fall under the purview of Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code. I have no doubt that the Legislature in framing Chapter XV of the Indian Penal Code has made a great advance in the direction of the religious toleration which civilized methods of thoughts enjoin, and if difficulties arise in connection with such matters, they are due not to any defect of the law but to the inconsiderate and reckless behaviour of the various sections of a population which does not fully appreciate the blessings of religious toleration and individual liberty which the British rule by framing wise laws has accorded to the people of this country.
13. Having regard to the facts of this case as they appear from the judgment of the Magistrate and of the learned Session Judge, I cannot help feeling that it was imprudent and inconsiderate on the part of the accused to have slaughtered cows on the road-side and in a locality which would be visible to any-Hindu passer-by, and I think I may say as a Muhammadan myself that it is difficult for me to conceive that the gentlemanly feelings of any person belonging to the better classes of the community which professes Islamism would even on the festival of the Id-ul-zuha permit the sacrifice of a cow in violation of considerations suggested by the religious feelings and prejudices of his Hindu fellow-subjects and neighbours with whom the Musalmans have for centuries associated on friendly terms as neighbours and fellow-subjects. It is, however, not necessary for me to go further into the particular facts of this case, because, as the learned Chief Justice has pointed out, the question is a pure question of law, and in this view I am bound to hold that Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code does not cover the case, and that the convictions were therefore wrong in law. I may, however, add that the circumstances of the case require that such matters should be dealt with by municipal regulations for which ample provision is made by our law, and that the learned Government Pleader, Munshi Ram Prasad who appeared on behalf of the Crown to support the convictions, has been unable to show me any section of the Indian Penal Code under which the facts proved in this case would constitute a criminal offence within the meaning of that Code (Section 40). But when I say this I wish to guard myself against being understood to lay down any general rule as to whether acts done by Hindus or Muhammadans offensive to each other's religious feelings would not in certain circumstances constitute an offence under the Code.
14. I agree in the order proposed by the learned Chief Justice.'