Gyanendra Kumar, J.
1. The applicants have been convicted under Section 147, I. P.C. and Section 7 of the Untouchability (Offences) Act. 1955 and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 100 and Rs. 50 respectively under the above counts and in default to undergo one month's simple imprisonment.
2. The prosecution case briefly is that on the 5th of May., 1961, P. W. Puran Singh, who is Dom Harijan by caste and Thakur Matbar Singh went together to village Bhatkoti. The Thakur was thirsty, so he asked his companion to get some water. Accordingly Puran Singh fetched and gave water to him. The giving of water by a Harijan to a Thakur was disliked by the accused, who are Thakurs by caste, with the result that a Panchayat was held at the house of Bisheshwar Prasad (applicant No. l) on 7-5-1962. The meeting was attended by the other applicants as well, Puran Singh and his relative Singhu Singh were also called to answer whether Puran Singh had given drinking water to Matbar Singh who is a high caste Thakur. Both the aforesaid Doms admitted the fact that Puran Singh had given water to Thakur Saheb. Thereupon they were asked to pay a fine RS. 500, within a week to meet the expenses of Shuddhi or Chandrayani of Thakur Matbar Singh. On failure by P. Ws. Puran Singh and Singhu Singh to comply with the directions of the Panchayat, a meeting was again held on 18-5-1962 in the Panchayati Chowk of the village, which was also attended by the applicants and a few others. This time P. Ws. Puran Singh, Singhu Singh and Hoshiar Singh were forcibly brought before the Panchayat and were asked to pay the amount of compensation, which they declined to do. Thereupon Hari Singh, Prem Singh and Bishal Singh fastened the hands of P. W. Singhu Singh with a cord while Bisheshwar Prasad applicant save him a beating with fists and also pulled his moustaches. Singhu Singh remained tied with a rope from about 12 A. M. to 5 or 6 P. M. On the intervention of Buddhi Bam accused (since acquitted) the amount imposed by the Panchayat on the said Harijana was reduced from RS. 300 to RS. 101. The victims were further threatened by the applicants with dire consequences in cage they went to lodge any report at the Police Station. On 20-5-1962 a letter was sent by P. W. Singhu Singh to his nephew P. W. 1 Gambhir Singh of Delhi. It was forwarded to the village Patwari who got the instant cage registered against the accused persons After. wards the Kanungo had investigated the matter, the accused were challaned.
3. All the accused denied the above allegations and stated that they had been implicated due to enmity with the complainants. It was also con. tended that the applicants were hissedars in the village and bad taken back certain lands from the Harijans in the last Settlement, which had displeased them, with the result that they had brought this forged complaint against the accused.
4. The Magistrate, who had the advantage of seeing, hearing and watching the demeanour of the witnesses believed the version of the prosecution and rejected that of the defence. The Magistrate found that P. W. Singhu Singh was kept in wrongful confinement by the accused, who had treated the complainant in the way alleged by the prosecution.
5. On appeal, the learned Sessions Judge maintained the conviction and sentences of the applicants; hence this revision.
6. It has been urged on behalf of the applicants that the learned Magistrate had not examined the accused properly under Section 342, Criminal P. C. and that the general question put to them at the end of their examination was illegal and improper and that a specific question should have been put to the accused to explain the incriminating circumstances appearing in the evidence against them. It is true that the Magistrate had not strictly complied with the provisions of Section 342, Criminal P. C. and had erred in asking a general question from each accused viz. 'You have beard the evidence of the wit-nesses, have you anything to say,?' However, the mere non-compliance of the above provision would not vitiate the trial inasmuch as there is nothing to show that it had resulted in any injustice or prejudice to the accused. Such a defect is obviously curable under Section 687, Criminal P. C.
7. It has then been urged that the conviction of the applicants under Section 7 (1) (b) of the Untoucbability (Offences) Act is not justified on the allegations made in the case. I think there is some force in the contention of the learned Counsel for the applicants. But 1 find that the case clearly falls within the ambit of Section 7 (1) (c) of the above Act, which reads as under:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, incites or encourages any person or class of persons or the public generally to practise 'untoucbability' in any form whatsoever shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
There is clear evidence on the record to show that Singhu Singh complainant had been mal, treated and put under fear by the applicants and was also kept under wrongful confinement for a few hours by them in order to encourage and enforce the practice of untouchability in general and against the complainant in particular within the meaning of Section 7 (1) (c) of the Untouchability (Offences) Act.
8. It was next contended that Srimatu, Mangsiru and Bhadai, who were also present in the meeting dated 18-5-1962 had not been produced as witnesses by the prosecution, which had chosen to call only partisan and interested witnesses, who were related to the complainant. It has, however, not been denied that all the three aforesaid persons also belonged to the caste of the complainant. The prosecution had produced as many as five eye-witnesses to prove its case. It was, therefore, not necessary for it to have produced three more witnesses, particularly when they also belonged to the caste of the complainant and could have been dubbed as partisans. It is true that the eye-witnesses were relatives of the complainants. But this by itself does not mean that their evidence should be discarded on that account. At best their testimony has to be judged with caution. As already observed earlier, the two courts below bad relied upon their testimony and I see no reason to differ from the appraisement and conclusions arrived at by them.
9. Lastly, it was contended that the learned Sessions Judge had not considered the testimony of defence witnesses. It is true that the Sessions Judge had not dealt with the evidence produced by the accused persons, but it may very well be that their counsel had not placed any particular importance on their statements. However, we find that the trying Magistrate had considered their evidence in detail and had given good reasons for not accepting the same. Their depositions have also been placed before me and I agree with the findings of the Magistrate that their testimony is tainted and does not disprove the prosecution version.
10. Untouchability had been abolished by Article 17 of the Constitution of India and the enforcement of any disability arising out of it had been made an offence punishable in accordance with law. In presence of the above provision, the Untouchability (Offences) Act. 1955 was enacted to accord equal human treatment to the so called untouchables. The violation of this Act should be treated with concern, when the socalled high caste people transgress the same with a vengeance even in the year 1961. It is true that we are custom ridden people, particularly in the hills. They must be finding it somewhat difficult to shake off centuries-old-notions and traditions of treating the members of scheduled caste with disdain. It is high time that people realise the sanctity of the fundamental rights enshrined in Part in of the Constitution and the laws enacted thereunder. The accused had no justification whatsoever for treating Singhu Singh and Puran Singh in the above inhuman way, all the more so when the latter had done a good turn to Thakur Matbar Singh by giving him drinking water in the hot month of May. The guilt bad been fully brought home to the applicants and the Magistrate was clearly justified in convicting them. Each of them has been sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 100 under Section 147, I. P. Code and Rs. 50 under Section 7 of the Uutouchability (Offences) Act, which can by no means be considered to be excessive. If at all it errs on the side of leniency.
11. The revision has no force and is accordingly dismissed.