1. This is a criminal revision from a conviction under Section 251, Indian Penal Code.
2. It appears that on the 24th of May 1925 the two accused Mehtab Rai and Ram Sarup arrived at Moradabad and through the help of a broker Ram Kishen were introduced to Rang Behari Lal the cashier of the Moradabad branch of the Imperial Bank. They showed him some samples of defaced coins and requested him to cash them next day when the Bank would open. Rang Behari Lal was reluctant to accept those coins and said that ho would consult other clerks of the Bank before giving his final opinion. The accused left some coins by way of sample with Rang Behari Lal and promised to return at about 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Rang Behari Lal approached another Officer of the Bank named Manohar Lal who came to the conclusion that the coins could not be taken by the Bank. The police were informed and some police officers came and concealed themselves in the house of Rang Behari Lal and lay in wait for the arrival of the accused. At about the appointed time the accused arrived with bags full of coins about Rs. 2,000 in face value. Rang Behari Lal, after examining the coins expressed his willingness to accept about 300 one-rupee pieces and 100 eight-anna pieces and offered to pay only Rs. 250. While the coins were lying before them and were being counted the police officers came out and arrested the accused and took possession of all the coins. An Inspector was sent to Delhi, the place of residence of the accused, and on a search of their house a large number of implements e.g., 10 files, 4 shears, 36 chisels and 3 hammers, and a tin case containing clippings and some filings were found inside an iron safe along with a large quantity of defaced coins.
3. The accused did not deny their possession of these coins which ware sent to an officer of the Calcutta Mint;, for an examination and report. Mr. Hart, an officer employed at the Calcutta Mint, was examined as a witness to prove his report. According to his classification the coins ware of three main samples. Sample No. 1 were coins where no drastic attempt had been made to remove solder owing to the considerable wearage of the coins. These coins, however ware such as could have been received by Government at a reduced valuation. Sample No. 2 were coins which had not worn much but on which cutting had been done intentionally, which the expert thought amounted to a fraudulent treatment. Sample No. 3 were coins where the cutting and clipping had been practised to an extreme limit. The coins showed little or no wearage and were of recent dates. The weight of these coins, however wars remarkably close to the extreme limit of wearage prescribed, from which fact the expert presumed that scales must have been used in achieving this result.
4. The Courts below have examined the coins and agreed with the report of the expert that these coins are such as had been dishonestly and fraudulently operated on within the meaning of Section 247 and that the accused parsons were knowingly in possession of the same and had attempted to induce Rang Behari Lal to receive the same and were accordingly guilty of the offence under Section 251, Indian Penal Code.
5. Three main points have been urged before me.
6. The first is that as matter of fact' these coins have lost in weight owing to wearage and have not been actually defaced and are not coins which have been fraudulently or dishonestly operated upon. The second is that the accused were in possession of these coins which were in the form of ornaments, honestly and in the course of their ordinary business, and did not knowingly possess them as dishonestly or fraudulently defaced coins within the meaning of Section 251, Indian Penal Code. The third is that no offence under Section 251 was committed inasmuch as the coins had been transformed into ornaments and any clipping or cutting that was done was performed on ornaments as such and not on coins.
7. As regards the question of fact I must in revision accept the findings of the Courts below based on expert evidence that a large number of the coins found in the possession of the accused had been defaced and had lost in weight not due to wearage but because of cutting and clipping. In order further to satisfy myself I have examined a large number of those coins and there is no doubt in my mind also that a number of these coins have been clipped and cut even at places where there was no soldering. Many of these coins show edges where portions have been cut away in straight lines as if they have been filed away. The circumstance that the weights of all the coins in Sample No. 3 are remarkably close to the extreme limit of wearage prescribed, does, show that their weights were reduced deliberately to that extent after careful weighing. This excludes the possibility of their having been merely worn out. The way in which the cuttings and clippings have been done also indicates that it is not a case of mere wearage. When I am accepting the findings of the Courts below on this point it is not necessary for me to express myself in any great detail.
8. As to whether the accused were in possession of these coins knowing that they were so defaced, the view of the
9. Courts below is supported by all the circumstances of the case. The conduct of the accused themselves fully bears out the conclusion. In the first place they admit that they carry on the business of collecting such coins and ultimately change them at the various offices of the Imperial Bank. Under these circumstances it is only natural to suppose that ha would take care to examine the coins which they receive and would make sure that they are such as can be exchanged at the Bank. Then again them is the fact that they suddenly arrived at Moradabad on a holiday and the first thing they did was to obtain an introduction to the cashier and to offer him a commission of 3 per cent. in case he accepted the coins. If they were carrying on their business in a straight forward and honest way one would have expected them to visit Moradabad on a day when the Bank was open and to go straight to the Bank and tender the coins. The tortuous way adopted by them provided ample material for the Courts below to infer that they were not dealing in this matter honestly. Furthermore, the very appearance of the coins is such as would make any one who was in possession of them know that they had been cut, clipped or filed intentionally.
10. The third point is that no offence is committed when a coin which has ceased to be used as money and which has been transformed into an ornament, has been defaced. It is not disputed that the word 'deface' as defined in Section 2(a) of Act 3 of 1906, includes clipping, filing stamping or such other alteration of the surface or shape of coin as is readily distinguishable from the effects of reasonable wear. As to fraud or dishonesty, the contention is that the intention of the Legislature in making the possession of such a coin or intention to deliver it an offence is to punish persons who have defaced coins which are capable of being used as money. The argument is that if a coin has been transformed into an ornament then no offence is committed if that ornament is further cut away or clipped. This argument is sought to be supported by Rules Nos. 65 to 69 of the Resource Manual under which provision has been made for accepting defaced coins provided that they have not lost in weight below a certain prescribed minimum. Great stress is laid on Rule 69 which provides that when a silver coin which has been fraudulently defaced is tendered to any person mentioned in Article 57 such person shall cut or break the coin and return the out coin to the tenderer who shall bear the loss caused by such cutting or breaking. It is therefore argued that the only penalty to which a person is subjected is that he has to bear the loss caused by a fraudulent defacing of a coin. But any rule prescribed by Government under which Bank officers are directed to accept or return defaced coins can in no way take away the effect of the provisions of sections in the Indian Penal Code It is impossible to construe a section of the Indian Penal Code in the light of the provisions of the rules in the Resource Manual. These rules do not deal with any criminal liability which is provided for in the Indian Penal Code. They contain provisions under which if the conditions required by the rules are fulfilled coins can be exchanged.
11. I have, therefore, to consider whether the intention of the Legislature is that possession of only such coins as have not been already altered or transformed is prohibited under Section 251. Section 230 defines a Queen's coin and expressly states that the metal which has been so stamped and issued shall continue to be the Queen's coin for the purposes of that chapter notwithstanding that it may have ceased to be used as money. Now a coin may have ceased to be used as money in various ways. It may for instance be a coin which has been superseded, or it may pass into territories of some independent chief where it is not accepted as legal tender or it may be that it has been defaced so badly that no one would accept it as a current coin. But it may still, within the meaning of Section 230, be deemed to be a Queen's coin even though it has ceased to be used as money. Furthermore the mere fact that a coin is being used as an ornament by soldering a ring to it does not transform it absolutely into a new article. By removal of that ring the coin in a defaced form will re-appear and may be capable of being accepted by ignorant villagers. The rules in the Resource Manual themselves require that a person who wants to have these defaced coins exchanged must at his own cost remove the solder and then tender the coins. The rules speak of a silver coin which has been defaced. If is obvious, therefore, that when these coins are tendered to a Bank they are not tendered as ornaments or other articles into which coins have been transformed, but are tendered as coins which have been defaced. If, therefore, an accused person clips and cuts away a coin and makes up the deficient weight by solder with the intention of subsequently delivering it to a Bank he would certainly be guilty of fraudulently defacing a coin even though on a previous occasion the coin had been used as a wearing ornament. It is contended on behalf of the accused that there was really no fraud in their minds and that they did not intend to commit any fraud on the Bank. It is said that the amount of money to be paid to them would be according to the reduced weight of the coins and that if they cut away a greater portion they would receive a smaller amount, and in case they reduced the weight beyond the limit prescribed they would themselves have to bear the loss.
12. This argument loses sight of the fact that coins which have bean used as ornaments are purchased cheap in the market and then the person who cuts away a portion of them retains in his possession a part of the silver so cut away and yet gets the price for the remainder from the Bank by adding solder to bring the weight up to the required figure. The whole transaction, therefore, is a very profitable one because he was able to procure these coins at a very cheap price, and has also substituted solder for silver. The word 'dishonestly,' which occurs in Section 247 has been defined in Section 24 as follows:
Whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person, or wrongful loss to another person, is said to do that thing dishonestly.
13. Now the Banks are not authorised to accept coins which have been fraudulently defaced. If, therefore, a person intentionally defaces a coin and conceals this fact from the Bank in order to persuade the Bank to accept the coin, he has the intention of causing wrongful gain to himself even though the Bank may not be put to a wrongful loss inasmuch as it has to pay price according to the present weight of the coin. But there would be a wrongful loss to the Bank if some silver has been taken away by cutting, clipping or filing and the weight is brought up to the required minimum by soldering. In my opinion, therefore, it is impossible to hold that the conviction of the accused persons under Section 251, Indian Penal Code, was in any way illegal or improper.
14. It is lastly urged that the sentences passed on the accused are very severe and that in any case the imposition of the final was too hard. The maximum sentence prescribed under Section 251, however, is ten years' rigorous imprisonment coupled with a fine. I, therefore, do not think that the sentence of one year's rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1,000 on one of the applicants and six months' rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 500 on the other are severe.
15. The application is accordingly dismissed. The applicants must surrender to their bail to serve out the remainder of their sentences.