1. This is a criminal revision, in which I reserved judgment; not because the case presented any legal difficulty, but because the circumstances of the convictions, the course of the proceedings and the nature of the punishments are unusual and, I trust, exceptional.
2. The trouble arises out of a dispute over a crop of moong in a certain village said to be about 20 miles from Allahabad. There had been some litigation about the land in the Revenue Court. One Beni Madho had been put in possession. Ram Dulare, the complainant in this case, claims to hold as sab-tenant of Beni Madho. One Badri, the principal accused, claims to hold a share by arrangement with Ram Dulare, and to have cultivated his share of the crop.
3. Disputes having begun some few days before between the complainant and Badri as to Badri's right to any share in the crops, Badri brought matters to a head on November 30 by beginning to cut his alleged share. There was no concealment about it. Badri employed two men Ram Kumar and Gaya Prasad to assist him in cutting. It was all done openly, and the portions cut were openly removed to the threshing floor.
4. As there was no suggestion that the cutting was improper as an agricultural enterprise, and the crop was openly and properly dealt with when cut, it is little difficult to see what ground there was for invoking the aid of the criminal law. Ram Dulare, however, reported the matter to the Police. At first they took what was obviously the correct view and declined to interfere.
5. Next day Ram Dulare lodged a complaint before the 1st class Magistrate. In that complaint he stated that Badri claimed the right to cut the crop. On his own showing, therefore, at that stage, the dispute was one for a Civil Court.
6. The Magistrate, however, directed the Police to investigate the matter. By an order in writing he directed a copy of the complaint to he sent , to the local Police for a report to be made thereon, and the case to be put up on 13th December. He further directed the Police not to let the three accused, Badri, Ram Kumar and Gaya Prasad, remove the crops until further order, but to entrust the crops to the custody of some third person, No ground was alleged for anticipating any breach of the peace, and this further direction was clearly without jurisdiction.
7. On the day following, namely on the 2nd December, the 2nd officer arrived at the field and found the two subordinates, Ram Kumar and Gaya Prasad, in charge of the cutting of the crops. He had taken with him another constable, the complainant, and three other men, a show of force hardly consistent with a mere investigation. The two men stopped the cutting when called upon to do so. Learning that the cut crops were at the threshing floor, the 2nd officer went off there with his men, and with Ram Kumar and Gaya Prasad. No physical restraint appears to have been used, but I am satisfied that the 2nd officer took these men temporarily into custody. The Magistrate in his judgment says that ''he took them' to the threshing floor. On the way Gaya Prasad, to use the officer's own language, made off', As the procession got near the bagh Gaya Prasad returned with Badri and four other men, who were subsequently convicted with them and are now applicants in this revision. There is no doubt that'Badri was angry and resented the interference of the Police. All the men who returned with Badri carried lathis and no doubt presented a threatening appearance, The evidence of an alleged savage (sic) upon Ram Dulare is so palpably theatrical and exaggerated that it is difficult to form an estimate of what actually happened. It is probable that Ram Dulare was struck a slight blow in the face by Badri. It is certain that he reached the ground, but having regard to his injuries it is unlikely that he was knocked down. The 2nd officer says in the evidence that he fell down'. He was examined on the 5th December by a Doctor, who found a simple bruise with slight swelling under his right eye, one on the bridge of his nose and one on the- left side of the small of his back. Not only the injuries but the blows must have been of a trivial description. Ram Dulare himself when be gave evidence on the 19th January had apparently forgotten his injuries altogether. At least he did not mention them. If half the evidence of the 2nd officer and himself had been true, he ought to have been covered with bruises from head to foot and to have suffered very severely. The 2nd officer himself was not touched, although he says that the men showed readiness to beat him. His own evidence suggests that he was himself in some fear, but I am satisfied that it is much exaggerated and that he had no cause for alarm. Having by this time, in consequence of his own injudicious conduct, put every one against him, he found himself unable to collect any information. He made a fruitless attempt to secure the assistance of the leading zamin-dar, but by this time a large number of villagers had congregated, and as they seemed disposed to resent any further attempts against the liberties of other villagers in the interests of Ram Dulare, the 2nd officer retired to a temple with the complainant where he took from him a further statement. In substance this is the result of the day's proceedings. So far as the evidence of any theft was concerned the visit of the Police was unproductive. It ought to have been fairly evident by this time that the charge of theft was misconceived. The report which the officer was directed to make to the Magistrate was not forthcoming before me.
8. On the 7th of December Badri went and filed a complaint against the Police for their conduct on the 2nd December. On the 8th of December the Police charged Badri, and the six other men now applicants before me, with riot under Section 147 and interfering with the Police in the execution of their duty under Section 152.
9. On the 9th of December the Magistrate issued a proclamation against Badri for having absconded, and directing attachment of his property, under Sections 87 and 88 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
10. There was no evidence of his having absconded, and it was not the fact.
11. This proceeding was wholly without either jurisdiction, or justification in fact. In view of the complaint filed by the alleged absconder himself against the Police a few days before it was a monstrous proceeding.
12. On the 22nd December the alleged absconder came to the Court to file a list of his witnesses for the charge of theft, the hearing of which was fixed for the 6th January. The application was made by his Pleader.
13. On the 6th January the day fixed for hearing, he was arrested on his arrival at Court, and detained in custody until released on bail by the Chief Justice of this Court, pending the trial of the case.
14. His application for bail had been refused by the Magistrate and was again refused by him after the order of the Chief Justice, and it was necessary to go to the Sessions Judge, in order to obtain the release.
15. On the 25th February all three men were convicted of theft, and as will hereafter appear, heavily sentenced and fined. On the same day the same three, together with the other four already mentioned, were convicted of riot and obstruction of the Police and heavily sentenced as I will point out hereafter, such sentences in the case of Badri, Ram Kumar and Gaya Prasad being cumulative with those already inflicted.
16. On the 6th March they were released on bail by order of the Sessions Judge.
17. On the 18th March the Sessions Judge quashed the conviction for theft, and also for obstruction (which Connsal for the prosecution declined to support) and reduced the sentences for riot.
18. The accused were again compelled to come to this Court in order to get bail which was granted by my brother Rafique on the 1st April.
19. They now apply for revision of the proceedings under which they have been convicted of riot.
20. It does not much matter now that they have already served far more imprisonment than the nature of the case de manded, but they are entitled to my judgment upon the point, andI I hold that there was nothing approaching a riot.
21. The applicants must clearly understand that they have no right to take the law into their own hands. It was wrong to strike Ram Dulare, and Badri might well have been convicted of this offence. A small fine would have met the justice of the case. But they had a perfect right to protest against the treatment of Ram Kumar and Gaya Prasad by the 2nd officer. They had no right to threaten the Police, if they did so. I do not believe they did. The 2nd officer admits that they said nothing disrespectful to him. They did not touch him, or attempt to do more than protest. They had a perfect right to express their opinion of Ram Dulare's conduct and also of the Police, provided they conducted themselves peaceably. With the exception of the unimportant chastisement inflicted upon Ram Dulare, there was no attempt at violence or any breach of the peace. In my opinion they did not assemble for an unlawful purpose, or do, or betray any intention of doing anything within the section. The constable who went off to report to the officer-in-charge merely reported that 'Badri and his companions made a row and showed readiness for disturbance.'
22. They are, therefore, entitled to have their convictions and all orders made thereunder quashed. As they are at liberty already this disposes of their case.
23. It is, however, impossible for this Court sitting in revision to leave it there without noticing the judgment of the Magistrate in these two cases. It ought to have been obvious from what had already taken place when the cases came on for hearing that the complaint of theft was in the nature of a civil dispute, and the charges and counter-charges relating to the proceedings on the land on 2nd December demanded a careful and impartial investigation.
24. The evidence for the complainant in the theft case was of the flimsiest character. Ram Dulare and his son were called bat no independent evidence. The patwari's papers did not assist him. The only independent evidence in the case was called on behalf of the accused. A canal patrol and a patwari, both of them public officials; spoke to having seen bullocks and other implements being used by Badri in the cultivation. The evidence showed that whatever were the rights of the parties the case altogether lacked any criminal character.
25. The judgment of the Magistrate covers thirteen pages. The first four are devoted to acquitting the Police of allegations made against them in respect of their conduct on 2nd December. Inasmuch as the question of theft depended upon facts anterior in date, this question was irrelevant to the charge. The Magistrate decided it against the accused, and held that it was an afterthought, by dating it from the day when Badri filed his complaint, and not from the events which he complained of. This irrelevant issce was decided against the accused on insufficient grounds, as a preliminary to the decision of the charge against them.
26. The judgment then discusses the equally irrelevant issue of the title to the field, and whether Badri had a right to share in the crop. In deciding this issue against the accused, two of whom Ram Kumar and Gaya Prasad had nothing to do with it in any view of the dispute, he finds that Ram Dulare had been put into possession by the amin under the orders of the Revenue Court. This was contrary to the evidence, as the Sessions Judge subsequently pointed out on appeal. The Magistrate in rejecting the evidence called by the accused threatens the canal patrol with proceedings for perjury, and the patwari with a departmental enquiry.
27. He next holds that 'it is admitted that Badri cut the crops without any right.' No such admission was made by any one. It was stoutly contested from first to last, and the finding is a perversion of the evidence.
28. He next holds that Badri's 'confession' proves his guilt. The so-called 'confession' was in fact a denial. So far from proving guilt it was an assertion of a right.
29. If by any straining of the evidence a conclusion of guilt could have been legitimately reached, which is to my mind wholly out of the question, a light, almost nominal, sentence was the most that could reasonably have been passed. Without any attempt to discriminate between Badri who made the claim, and the other two men who could have been no more than his tools, or dupes, he sentenced all three to 18 months' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 100 each, with three months' further imprisonment each if the fine was not paid. These sentences speak for themselves.
30. In his judgment in the second case the Magistrate holds that the Sub-Inspector was 'abused and threatened'. This is contrary to the evidence of the Sub-Inspector himself who said that the accused 'used no disrespectful words to me,' and further that he only 'inferred' that Badri was ready to beat him 'as it appeared from his attitude.'
31. He further holds that at a later stage in the day's proceedings the Sub-Inspector was in a precarious condition and was again threatened to be beaten by the accused;' and also that they used criminal force to the Sub-Inspector.' There is not a word in the Inspector's evidence to justify any one of these findings.
32. The Magistrate says that he admits facts against Ram Dulare, using language appropriate only to an Advocate, and inadmissible in a Judge, and he introduces evidence supposed to be within his own knowledge, which he could not possibly have known, as to Badri's attendance when his Pleader filed his application for witnesses, thereby making himself a witness against one of the accused upon a controversial matter of fact.
33. There are other topics in the judgment which seem to have little if any bearing on the case, but I do not think it necessary to deal with them all.
34. By the side of the matters to which I have already referred, a finding that Badri is a desperate and dangerous man' because he gets Rs. 4 per mensem from the zamindar, causes no astonishment. It is needless to add that Badri's complaint against the Police was brushed upon one side as being founded upon obviously false evidence and was not seriously entertained by the Magistrate at all.
35. For this so-called 'riot' and 'obstruction of the Police', which in my view are not proved and which in any case were of a trivial and venial character, all seven men were sentenced to two years, three months' rigorous imprisonment. They were further condemned under Section 107 to furnish bonds of Rs. 200 each, and two sureties of Rs 100 each to keep the peace for one year after their release. . The cumulative result of the Magistrate's proceedings on the 25th February, as far as Badri, Bam Kumar and Gaya Prasad were concerned, the two latter being in the most prejudiced view of the case mere subordinates, and little more than spectators of a trivial assault, was that they were ordered altogether to undergo 3 years and 9 months' rigorous imprisonment in any case, bound over for a further year in their own bonds 'of Rs. 200, and two sureties of Rs. 100 each fined Rs. 100, with the possibility if not the certainty of another three months' rigorous imprisonment and the additional penalty of remaining still further in confinement until, after having served nearly 4 years in jail and paid a fine of Rs. 100, they managed to find security to the amount of Rs. 400.
36. These savage sentences are the combined result of erroneous views of the law, unjustifiable and sometimes perverse findings of fact, and misconduct in procedure. The conviction for obstruction under Section 152, for which the accused received 18 months each, was actually thrown over board by the prosecution when the appeal was heard before the Sessions Judge. It is due to the accused to say that I can find in all the evidence very little trace of moral obliquity in their conduct, and that they have shown in trying circumstances more self-control than their Judge. It would be some consolation to feel that this lamentable miscarriage of justice was merely the result of a series of judicial blunders. But it is impossible to take this view. I am satisfied that the accused not only never had a chance, but were never intended to have a chance and that they have been the victims, for some reason unknown to me, of deliberate and vindictive injustice of such a kind as to con stitute a public danger in any tribunal charged with dealing with the liberties and characters of humble persons.
37. The order of the Court is that the conviction of the applicants under Section 147 of the Penal Code, and the order of the Sessions Judge affirming it, and all proceedings thereunder, be set aside.
38. A copy of my judgment to be sent to the Collector.