A.N. Grover, J.
1. This is an appeal by special leave of Dattajirao Patil, who at the material time was the Circle Inspector of the Up Ghat Circle comprised in Bavada Mahal in Kolhapur District, from the judgment of the Bombay High Court upholding his conviction and sentence by the Special Judge on various charges which will be presently noticed.
2. Four persons, namely, the appellant, H.G. Kadam the Talathi, N.R. Chaugule the Round Forest Officer and R.S. Bhambure the Forest Contractor, were tried on charges of conspiracy Under Section 120B read with Sections 167, 218 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 5(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 The last two were charged as abettors of the offence of conspiracy and there was also an alternative charge against them of the substantive offence Under Section 5(1)(d) of the Corruption Act. The Special Judge acquitted all the accused persons of the charge of conspiracy. He convicted the appellant and Kadam of the offences Under Sections 167 and 218 of the Penal Code and Section 5(1)(d) of the Corruption Act and sentenced them to three years' rigorous imprisonment on each count, the sentences to run concurrently Chaugule was convicted Under Section 5(1)(d) of the Corruption Act and sentenced to three years. In addition he was also convicted Under Section 109 read with Sections 167 and 218 of the Penal Code and sentenced to two years' rigorous imprisonment, the sentences being councurrent. Bhambure was convicted Under Section 109 read with Sections 167 and 218 of the Penal Code and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment. The High Court, on appeal, acquitted Chaugule and Bhambure but confirmed the conviction and the sentence of the appellant and Kadam. Kadam does not appear to have filed any appeal.
3. In the year 1960 the State Government had decided to allot cultivable waste land to land less poor persons in villages Nargelli. Taliya, Lakhamapur and Borbet. In the present appeal we are concerned mainly with the distribution of land in the last village. Initially the date fixed for completing the disposal of the land was 31st March, 1962. However on January 4, 1961 the Government passed a resolution saying that it was not desirable to wait till then. It has been suggested that apparently this was done keeping in view the elections which were to take place in February 1962. The procedure was simplified and it was directed that all cultivable waste land should be distributed permanently to the landless persons as early as possible and under any circumstances before the ensuing monsoon which meant June-July of the year 1961. It was stated, interalia, in the resolution that where there were some valuable trees it would be desirable to recover from the allottees the value of such trees which would be determined with the help of the Forest Department. In order that the disposal of the land should not be delayed on account of valuation of such trees it was directed that in the agreement to be executed a condition should be inserted that the allottee shall abide by the valuation of such trees and pay the valuation when called upon to do so. The allottees were to be made responsible for the protection of the trees standing on the land allotted to them till the final decision regarding their disposal.
4. The entire work of distribution of land under the above resolution was to be carried primarily under the control of the Mahalkari of Bavada Mahal which comprised two Circles one of which the Up-Ghat Circle. There were seven Talathi Sajas in this Circle, one of which was Bavali Saja comprising six villages. Four villages mentioned before including Borbet were included in Bavali Saja. As stated before the appellant was the Circle Inspector of the Up-Ghat Circle. Kadam was the Talathi of Bavali Saja in that Circle. Abdul Kadar Mulla P.W. 7 was the Mahalkari from February 1961 to June 1962.
5. In Borbet there were 12 survey numbers in all which were available for distribution. There were 33 applicants. Mahalkari had got certain forms printed for the various particulars to be filled in by the applicants. Each applicant had to satisfy the authorities about the correctness of those particulars. After due publicity the preliminary work was done on May 7, 1961 when the applicants were present and various documents filled in by them. On that date it is alleged that atleast four documents were prepared; the fifth set of documents called panchnamas and which gave the approximate number of trees on the parcels of land which were allotted to each applicant as also their probable value are stated by the appellant to have been prepared although the case of the prosecution is that these were prepared on May 7, 1962 i.e. a year later and were antedated to show that they had been prepared on May 7, 1961. The aforesaid panchnamas were admittedly prepared by Kadam but they were countersigned by the appellant. The entire case of the prosecution hinges on these panchnamas which, according to it, were deliberately prepared giving much lesser number of trees and showing for less value than was actually the case with the object of committing the offences with which the appellant and other accused were charged.
6. The orders of allotment to the various claimants from village Borbet were passed by Mulla the Mahalkari between the 23rd and 25th December, 1961. Kabjapattis which were documents relating to delivery of possession were drawn up between April 11, 1962 and May 25, 1962 On May 7, 1962 a report from the appellant dated April 7, 1962 and an abstract in a tabular form of the same date showing the number of trees in each one of the parcels allotted together with the value and 32 documents purporting to be the panchnamas containing the particulars regarding the number, kind and the value of the trees in the allotted land and bearing the date (7-5-61) were received by the Mahalkari. He made an endorsement on the report and sent it along with the accompanying documents to the Ranga Forest Officer for verification and confirmation of the particulars regarding the trees. The Range Forest Officer sent all papers for verification to Chaugule who was the Round Forest Officer. This Officer made a panchnama of valuation dated May 9, 1962 showing the number of trees in each land to be correct but he increased their value to some extent. It may be mentioned that the trees of the entire land which had been allotted were shown to have been valued at the total figure of Rs. 387/-in the original panchnama bearing the date May 7, 1961. The Round Forest Officer valued them at Rs. 455/-In 1964 there were certain reports of cutting of Hirda trees from the Revenue waste lands. An anonymous letter was received by the Divisional Forest Officer Kolhapur saying that the contractor Bhambure along with some others had been illegally cutting those trees though the allottees had not vet paid their price. The Sub-Divisional Officer was directed to make an inquiry and submit his report. He made a complete survey and according to his report the total number of trees in the waste land which had been distributed was 3678 Out of these 1224 were Hirda trees out of which 819 had been cut and the rest were standing. He assessed the value of trees at Rs. 4787/-. This led to investigation and the subsequent prosecution and trial of the accused persons including the appellant, the subject matter of the charge being the panchnamas which bore the date May 7, 1961 and according to which total value of trees came to Rs. 387/-only.
7. We may now mention certain other facts which are not disputed and on which a good deal of reliance has been placed on behalf of the appellant According to the report made by the Sub-Divisional Officer Dalvi P.W. 1 Hirda trees which had been cut had not been removed and were found by him kept on the lands of various allottees. There was nothing to show that in additional to the trees which had been cut and which were lying any other tree had been actually cut and removed, from the aforesaid lands. The case of the appellant was shat the panchnamas which bore the date May 7, 1961 were genuine documents and had been prepared on that very date on which all the other documents came into existence in the matter of allotment of various par-cles of land to the allottees in village Borbet. As it was considered necessary to give an approximate number of trees and their valuation as per each allotted narcel of land rough and ready inquiry was made from all the persons who had gathered there including the allottees, the police Patel and other revenue officers and the number of trees and their valuation was given only tentatively There was thus no intention to commit the offences with which the appellant was charged.
8. The facts and circumstances which have been found by the High Court and which learned Counsel for the appellant was not able to displace or disprove leave no room for doubt that the panchnamas which bore the date May 7 1961 were false documents which were prepared with a dishonest intention According to the evidence of Mulla the Mahalkari, he never asked either the appellant or Kadam to make any panchnamas on May 7, 1961 containing an approximate number of trees and their rough value. There is also no explanation worth the name on the part of the defence as to why these panchnamas were forwarded to the Mahalkari not immediately after May 7, 1961 but a year later It is stated that Kadam kept them with him. Such an explanation for which there was no reason or justification could never be accepted. The High Court carefully analysed the evidence of Mulla and accepted it. His evidence was also accepted by the trial Court. We have not been shown any legal error or other justification for not accepting that finding. The High Court also came to the conclusion that the making of the disputed panchnamas was a part of the official duty of the appellant. The High Court considered the evidence of some of the allottees who were produced and according to whom the panchnamas were prepared on May 7, 1961 at the same time as the other documents were prepared The High Court for good reasons declined to place any reliance on that evidence It was of the view that from the evidence and all the circumstances it was proved that the appellant and Kadam whose joint duty it was to prepare the panchnamas and the valuation of the trees prepared false panchnamas in common concert with the dishonest intention of benefiting themselves and either the contractor Bambure or some other persons knowing full well that it would result in corresponding loss to the government and in doing so they abused their official position. It has not been urged before us that if the panchnamas which bore the date May, 7 1961 were prepared falsely the other ingredients of the offences would not be present. Accordingly we uphold the conviction of the appellant.
9. The appellant surrendered himself to custody on May 8, 1969. He has already served the sentence for a substantial period. In view of the entire facts and circumstances we are of the view that the sentence which the appellant has served would meet the ends of justice. The appeal therefore is allowed only to the extent that the sentence of the appellant will be reduced to one already undergone. He shall, therefore, be released forthwith.