1. The petitioner's election as Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat of village Rattanheri in the Panchayat Elections held on 24-6-1972 has been set aside by the prescribed authority, respondent No. 1, on an election petition (Annexure 'A') filed by the defeated candidate Shri Arjan Singh, respondent No. 2, on the ground that the petitioner had, during the period of five years preceding his election, been convicted of the offence of voluntarily causing simple and grievous injuries to respondent No. 2 under Sections 324 and 326, Indian Penal Code and that the offences involved petitioner's moral turpitude. The prescribed authority's order dated 22-8-1972(Annexure 'C') removing the petitioner from office under Section 6(5)(b) read with Section 13-O (1)(a) of the Punjab Gram Panchayats Act. 1952, has been called in question by the petitioner under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India.
2. The petitioner admits that he had been convicted under Sections 324 and 326, Indian Penal Code, and that he had been sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year on the first count and to rigorous imprisonment for four months and a fine of Rs. 1,000/- on the second count. The copy of the judgment of the trial Magistrate is Annexure 'R-1' to the written statement filed by respondent No. 2 while the petitioner had filed a copy of the judgment on appeal as Annexure 'D' to his writ petition. These judgments show that the petitioner was found to have planned the crime in a cool and calculated manner and to have lain in ambush for the complainant. He had armed himself with a deadly weapon namely a gandasa. When the complainant was returning from Ludhiana and was passing by the side of a graveyard at about 8 P.M., the petitioner had opened an unprovoked attack on the complainant who had been taken by complete surprise. The complainant was unprotected and unarmed at that time. He had been mercilessly injured in a sustained attack with a deadly weapon which had been used on the complainant's head not only from the blunt side but also with the sharp edge. One of the blows had cut off the complainant's jaw and had resulted in a loss of eight teeth in a row on one side. More than half a dozen injuries had been caused to a helpless unarmed man all over his body and two or three injuries had been given with that heavy weapon on the head itself. The nature of the weapon and the location of the injuries may even suggest that this was almost a murderous assault on respondent No. 2. This premeditated crime was the work of an aberrated mind and no normal person can possibly approve of such conduct on the part of a person who is aspiring to be the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat of his village. The attack was on an unarmed and unprotected person and no element of fair fight was involved. The crime does not appear to have any redeeming features.
3. The simple question for decision in this case in whether such a deliberate or planned assault on another with a deadly weapon could be described to involve any moral turpitude. No direct rulings relating to cases of convictions for offences of voluntarily causing hurt have been cited before me.
4. In Risal Singh v. Chandgi Ram, AIR 1966 Punj 393(Division Bench) and Chandgi Ram v. Election Tribunal, 1965 Pun LR 578 = (AIR 1965 Punj 433), this Court had taken the view that a conviction under Section 19(1) of the Indian Arms Act for the unauthorised possession of an unlicensed fire-arm, would not necessarily involve any moral turpitude. In Malha Ram v. Deputy Director of Panchayats, Civil Writ No. 2005 of 1972, decided on 10-11-1972(Punj), I had followed a Single Bench ruling of the Allahabad High Court in Mangali v. Chhakki Lal, AIR 1963 All 527, to hold that a conviction under the Punjab Excise Act for the possession of a small quantity of bhang or charas for personal use would not involve any moral turpitude. The Allahabad ruling had laid down the following three tests which could ordinarily be applied for judging, whether a certain offence did or did not involve moral turpitude:--
'(1) Whether the act leading to a conviction was such as could shock the moral conscience of society in general.
(2) Whether the motive which led to the act was a base one, and
(3) Whether on account of the act having been committed the perpetrator could be considered to be of a depraved character or a person who was to be looked down upon by the society.'
5. Moral turpitude had then been defined by a Single Bench of this Court in the case of Durga Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1957 Punj 97, as follows:--
'The term 'moral turpitude' is rather vague one and it may have different meanings in different contexts. The term has generally been taken to mean to be a conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals and contrary to what a man owes to a fellow-man or to society in general. It has never been held that gravity of punishment is to be considered in determining whether the misconduct involves moral turpitude or not'.
6. In Madan Lal Karam Chand v. Director of Panchayats, Punjab, AIR 1966 Punj 524, conviction for offences under Sections 225 and 332, Indian Penal Code, for an assault on a Naib Tehsildar, who was heading a team for recovery of arrears of land revenue, was held to imply a defect of character which disqualified a person from holding the office of Sarpanch. This was, however, not a case, like ours, of an assault on an ordinary citizen who did not hold any official position. The facts of the rulings mentioned above are, therefore, not on all fours with the facts of the present case.
7. Shri Kang, the learned counsel for the petitioner has, however, relied on 58 Corpus Juris Secundum, page 1206, and the following extract can be reproduced here with advantage:--
'While frequently general statements have been made to the effect that mere assault does not or may not, involve moral turpitude, or that assault and battery rarely involves moral turpitude, the rule would seem to be that assault and battery may involve moral turpitude and it may not, the difference depending on the circumstances; and whether an assault does or does not involve moral turpitude generally will be determined by the particular facts of each individual case. The statutes in various jurisdictions divide assaults into different degrees, and many of the crimes which are included within such definitions are crimes that involve moral turpitude. Homicide may or may not involve moral turpitude depending on the degree of the crime.'
8. It may, therefore, appear that the offence of causing hurt can involve a certain amount of moral turpitude or depravity of character and the answer to the question would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. On the facts now before me, this case does not appear to have any redeeming features. The doctor who had medically examined respondent No.2 had described his injuries in the following words:--
'1. An incised wound 3'x1' on the left side of the face cutting the cheek in entire thickness upto the level 11/2'in front of the lobe of the ear and stopping at the left angle of the mouth.
2. An incised wound in the centre of the upper lip in line with injury No. 1, 1/2' x 1/4'.
3. Laceration of the albeoler margin of the upper jaw from the right upper canine tooth to the left second premolar tooth. All the intervening teeth were missing from the sockets, which were freshly bleeding. The second left premolar was fractured and the fractured portion of the tooth was present in the socket.
The right upper canine along with the adjoining premolars were hanging loose with the fractured albeoler process of the upper jaw.
4. An incised wound 1'x 1/4'x 1/2' on the chin directed obliquely from below upwards and to the left.
5. Incised wound on the front of the right fore-arm 1 1/2' above the wrist 3'x11/4'x1'.
6. An abrasion 1/4'x1/4 ' on the bridge of the nose.
7. A linear abrasion 5' on the front of the neck in line with injury No. 4, if the face was turned to the left directed obliquely from below upwards and to the left starting from a point 1 1/2' above the end of the right collar bone.'
9. Respondent No. 2 had not furnished the petitioner with any valid grounds for making such a merciless assault. The parties had been contesting for the office of Sarpanch during the last two elections. The contest should not have been given this violent shape. One other motive alleged was that the petitioner had entertained the suspicion that respondent No. 2 had instigated a co-villager to file a pre-emption suit against the petitioner. A person who can be guilty of such violent breaches of the law cannot be taken to be properly qualified for presiding over a judicial body. Considering the office that he is seeking to occupy, his conviction for such an offence may seem to involve a certain amount of moral turpitude. The suitability or eligibility of a person to a certain elected office or position has to be judged in the context of the nature of the duties that he is expected to perform. The ethical notions of the community amongst whom he moves or lives and who has returned him to the elected office would determine whether the acts for which he has been convicted and punished by the Criminal Court would shock the conscience of that community so far as to involve an element of moral turpitude in the commission of the offence. The community that has returned him to that position of authority expects him to maintain certain standards of rectitude or responsibility and if he fails to come up to their expectations, he would be shocking their conscience and his offence would, to that extent, involve an element of moral turpitude according to the ratio of the rulings cited above. Certain qualities may make a person pre-eminently suited for a particular position in a certain circle of society, while the same qualities may be considered out of place in another circle. A volatile temperament may be tolerated in a soldier in the Army or police force, but may render a person most unsuitable for an office where he has to preside over a judicial body charged with the maintenance of law and order.
10. The prescribed authority has exercised his discretion in a matter in which he had full legal jurisdiction. It has taken a reasonably correct view. The mere fact that there could be some scope or room for a difference of opinion would not justify any interference by this Court. Under Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code, the offender can be sentenced to imprisonment which may in some cases extend to life. I have no reason to disagree with the prescribed authority that considering the circumstances under which the offence was committed, it does involve a certain amount of moral turpitude or depravity of character on the part of the petitioner. This was not a fight which had taken place on the spur of the moment or due to any provocation given by the complainant. The offence clearly falls within clause (b) of sub-section (5) of Section 6 of the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act, 1952, and may seem to create a disqualification in the matter of the petitioner's eligibility for holding the office of Panch or Sarpanch of his Gram Panchayat.
11. I, therefore, dismiss this writ petition with costs.
12. Petition dismissed.