1. In this case one Bhirgu Singh was tried summarily by a Magistrate of the First Class and convicted under Section 174 of the Indian Penal Code. The offence alleged against him was that being legally bound to attend at a certain place and time in obedience to a summons, notice or order from a public servant he had intentionally omitted to attend. In this case the public servant who issued the directions to attend was a Tahsildar and the direction purports to have been issued under Section 147 of the Land Revenue Act. That section says that
when an arrear of revenue becomes due, a writ of demand calling on the defaulter to pay the amount within a time therein stated or a citation to appear may issue.
2. It was alleged on behalf of the Crowns that a citation had issued. A Tahsildar had power to issue the citation. The only question that arises in the case is whether the power to issue citation connotes a legal liability on the part of the person to whom the citation is issued to attend. The Board has framed a form which embodies both the writ of demand and the citation in one document.
3. It was in the following form:
Whereas a sum of R... on account of arrears of instalment in respect of...is due against you, you are hereby directed (hidayat) that in case the entire arrears aforesaid and process-fee in respect of this summons are not paid immediately you should appear before this Court at...on....
4. A foot-note to this document says that 'Failure to attend shall be punishable under Section 174 of the Indian Penal Code.' The document is further headed 'Summons requiring attendance' (in vernacular 'summon hazri').
5. Two things may be noted about this document. The first is that by embodying the writ of demand and the citation in the same form the Board of Revenue in practice deprived themselves of the option of sending either a writ of demand or a citation; but if they have chosen to deprive themselves in practice of that option there is nothing illegal in their so doing.
6. The second point to be noted is that in two places the vernacular word used is 'summons' and the foot-note declares omission to comply to be punishable under Section 174 of the Indian Penal Code. To give full force to the use of the word 'summons' and the foot-note would be to beg the question which we have to decide, and if omission to comply is not punishable by law, a mere declaration in the form that it is punishable will clearly be wholly ineffective. The question is whether there is any different effect to be given to the use of the word 'citation' in Section 147 and to the use of the word 'summons.' As we have said the Magistrate found the accused guilty under Section 174 of the Indian Penal Code. On appeal he was acquitted by the learned Sessions Judge and from that acquittal the Local Government has filed the present appeal. On behalf of the opposite party it has been pointed out to us that in the N.W.P. Act (Act 19 of 1873) Section 151, there was only a provision for the writ of demand. There was no power to issue either a citation or a summons. In the Oudh Act (No. 17 of 1876), Section 114, there was provision for a writ of demand or a 'summons' to appear; while finally in the present Act No. 3 of 1901, Section 147, in which both the previous Acts are combined, there is provision for a writ of demand or a 'citation'.
7. It is not unreasonably urged that there must have been some good reason for the use of this word 'citation' which did not appear in the N.W.P. Act or any other word of the like nature, and which did not appear in the Oudh Act in which the word 'summons' was used. It can hardly be an accident and we cannot treat it as such. We are urged to give this word its ordinary meaning, that is, that it is rather in the nature of an invitation to appear than of an order to attend. We think that it is reasonably contended that its meaning is analogous to its meaning when used in the Probate and Succession Act, where it amounts merely to an invitation to come and see the proceedings. Reference may be made to Act V of 1881, Section 69(Probate and Administration Act) and the Succession Act, Sections 199 and 250. It is true that in testamentary matters where there are definite proceedings going on, invitation to come and see may well be issued to parties interested, while in the matter before us it might be said that there are no proceedings for anybody to come and see. But it does not appear to us unreasonable that Government should have contemplated the issue of a notice to an apparent defaulter inviting him to come and discuss the matter. There might be some question of dispute or uncertainty in regard to the amount due as shown by the account prepared under Section 145 of the Land Revenue Act.
8. It might be possible that if the apparent defaulter went to see the Tahsildar some arrangement might be arrived at by which a delay in payment might be accepted. These are only two considerations that occur to us. It is quite possible that Government may have contemplated that in many cases immediate arrest might by negotiation he avoided. We think, therefore, that a meaning can properly be given to the word 'citation' without attributing to it the full force of a 'summons.' It is further clear that if a person has been given an opportunity, even though he is not obliged to take advantage of that opportunity, of going to the authorities and discussing the matter, and he refuses to take advantage of that opportunity, he can have nobody to blame but himself if the authorities proceed to the extremity of arresting him. Finally there is drawn to our attention the provisions of Section 193 which expressly declare that a person who has received a 'summons' to appear 'shall be bound to attend.' The Legislature can hardly have overlooked the fact that Section 147 provided for a citation to appear and if it had intended that an unnatural construction should be put upon the word 'citation,' namely that it involved legal liability to attend it would naturally have inserted also the word ''citation' in Section 193.
9. For these reasons we hold that the issue of a citation to an alleged defaulter under Section 147 of the Land Revenue Act does not involve him in any legal liability to attend, that the opposite party here was, therefore, not guilty of an offence punishable under Section 174, I.P.C. and was rightly acquitted by the learned Sessions Judge. The appeal is therefore dismissed.