1. Om Parkash petnr. was convicted by a Magistrate at Ludhiana under Section 7, Essential Supplies (Temporary Powers) Act, for contravention of Clause (4) A, East Punjab Rationing Order and sentenced to a fine of Ha. 100 or in default to two months' E. I. The confiscation of the wheat concerned in the case amounting to 8 maunds and 4 seers was also ordered and his appeal was dismissed by the Sessions Judge.
2. The facts of the case are that Sardar Harbans Singh P. W., Ward Rationing Officer of the Southern Ward of Ludhiana town, received information that some wheat was lying in the P. W. D. godown and it was in fact discovered that 8 maunds 4 seers of wheat belonging to the accused, who was an Overseer in the P. W. D., were lying in the cement bags in the P. W. D,, godown. The accused himself signed a sort of recovery memo in which he admitted that the wheat belonged to him.
3. It was, however, contended by Mr. Tek Chand for the petnr. that the offence with which the accused was charged has not been brought home to him. The charge against him as framed by the trial Court was that on 17-6-1949, at Ludhiana he was found in possession of 8 maunds and 4 seers of wheat, a rationed article, which he had imported into Ludhiana, a rationed town, after the rationing date, i. e. 1-1-1949, without any permit in contravention of Clause (4) A, East Punjab Rationing Order. It may, however, be pointed out that in the document signed by the accused it was merely mentioned that the wheat belonged to him, and nothing was said about its having been imported or on what date it was imported by him, and the only evidence on this point is an oral statement made by the Ward Rationing Officer as a witness at the trial that the accused had told him that he had imported the wheat from Jagraon. Even this statement is silent on the date of the alleged import. The contention of the learned counsel for the petnr. is two-fold: (1) that it cannot be relied on as being obviously an after-thought, since if any such statement had been made at the time of the recovery it would almost certainly have been incorporated in the document signed by the accused; (2) that in any case the statement is inadmissible under Section 25, Evidence Act, the Ward Rationing Officer for all intents and purposes being in the position of a Police Officer in a case of this kind. It is certainly strange that if the statement was made by the accused at the time of the recovery it was not included in the document signed by the accused, and it is, therefore, open to doubt but in any case it seems to me that the second contention must prevail. It has been held in authorities, which are cited in both the commentaries of Monir and Sarkar on Section 25, Evidence Act, that the expression 'Police Officer' in Section 25, Evidence Act, is not used in the technical and restricted sense in which it is used in Section 1, Police Act, but is used in a popular and more comprehensive signification. It would seem the position of a Ward Rationing Officer in a case of this kind is analogous to that of an Excise Officer carrying out a raid on suspected premises, and it has been held by Full Benches of the Bombay & Calcutta High Courts in Nanoo Sheikh v. Emperor, 51 Bom. 78: (A.I.R. (14) 1927 Bom. 4: 28 Cr. L.J. 122 F.B.) and Amin Shariff v. Emperor, 61 Cal. 607: (A.I.R. (21) 1934 Cal. 580: 35 Cr. L.J. 1071 F.B.) that an Excise Officer is to be treated as a Police Officer for the purposes of Section 25, Evidenoe Act. It was observed in the Calcutta decision that the Legislature in using the term 'Police Officer' in Section 25 did not intend to exclude from its meaning Excise Officers exercising powers of detection and investigation of crimes committed against Excise Laws. Such powers would seem to be on the same footing as those of a Rationing Officer. Another relevant decision is the case reported as In re, Someshwar H. Shelat A.I.R. (33) 1946 Mad. 430: (47 Cr. L.J. 865) in which it was held by Leach C.J. and Lakshmana Rao J. that a special officer of the Commercial Tex. Department who was empowered in this behalf by the Provincial Govt. of Madras in exercise of the powers conferred on them by Section 12 (3), Hoarding and Profiteering Prevention Ordinance, introduced by the amending Ordinance No. 53 [LIII] of 1944, is a Police Officer within the meaning and for the purpose of Section 162, Cr. P.C. and Section 25, Evidence Act. In the circumstances I am of the opinion that the alleged confession of the accused to the Ward Rationing Officer that he had imported the wheat from Jagraon to Ludhiana, which in any case did not mention that the import took place before or after the relevant date, is on no different footing from a confession made to a Police Officer, and is inadmissible under Section 25, Evidence Act, and without; this piece of evidence the charge against the accused collapses. It may be that he might have been convicted of some other offence regarding keeping more than the proper quantity of wheat in his possession, but this was not the charge which the prosecution chose to bring against him, He was thus wrongly convicted and I accordingly accept the revision petition & set aside the conviction & sentence of the petnr. including the order of confiscation of the wheat. His fine, which has been paid, is, therefore, to be refunded.