1. At about 9-00 a.m. on 25-3-1969 the accused was found grazing his goats in the field of the complainant Patel Kevaldas Ugardas of Varavada and thereby he caused damage to the extent of Rs. 15/-. The accused was further alleged to have rescued two goats when the complainant was taking them away to the cattle-pound. The complaint was lodged at the Kakosi police station. After finishing the investigation of the case, charge-sheet against the accused was sent up to the Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Sidhpur for offences under Sections 161 and 162 of the Gujarat Panchayats Act.
2. When the accused was produced before the learned Magistrate on 5-4-1969, he was found to be deaf and dumb. He was, therefore, sent to the Sidhpur Hospital for his examination. That report showed that he had 'congenital defects of hearing and speech centre'. On 23-5-1969 the complainant and the accused presented a composition in respect of the said offences. That composition was rightly not allowed by the learned Magistrate as the offences were not compoundable. Then it appears that a separate statement in writing under the thumb impression of the accused, wherein he admitted to have committed the offences through mistake, was put in. The learned Magistrate accepted that statement as his admission of the guit and since he could not pass any further orders viz., of sentence for the same he has made this reference to this Court under Section 341 of the Criminal P.C. through the Sessions Judge, Mehsana. The material part of his order as disclosed in his letter for reference runs thus:-
'The accused has thus admitted the guilt Ex. 9 p. 12 guj file 1. He is not able to understand the proceedings even though tried by me. As the accused has admitted guilt before the beginning of the trial, the trial is not to be proceeded with. As the accused has admitted guilt as above, the case thus ends in conviction and hence this reference is made under Section 341 of Criminal P.C. to the Honourable High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad through the District and Sessions Judge, Mehsana.'
3. Now Section 341 under which this reference is made runs thus:-
'If the accused, though not insane, cannot be made to understand the proceedings the Court may proceed with the inquiry or trial; and, in the case of a Court other than a High Court, if such inquiry results in a conviction, the proceedings shall be forwarded to the High Court with a report of the circumstances of the case, and the High Court shall pass thereon such order as it thinks fit.'
Now, it is clear that though the accused is not insane, as reported by the learned Magistrate he was unable to understand the proceedings. He was both deaf and dumb besides being illiterate. When he was not able to understand the procedings the learned Magistrate ought to have proceeded with the inquiry by making a note that his plea could not be recorded as he was unable to understand the proceedings as required in sEction 341 of the Criminal P.C. Once he was satisfied that he was not able to understand the proceedings, there was hardly any question for trating his admission of the guilt as a basis for his conviction for the offences in question. The only course open to the learned Magistrate was to proceed with the trieal and if such trial resulted in a conviction, his duty further was to forward the proceedings to this Court with a report of the circumstances of this case so as to enable the High Court to pass thereon such order as it thinks fit. The learned Magistrate has failed to proceed with the case by examining the complainant and witnesses and has wrongly chosen to act upon the admission of his guilt.
4. Section 243 of the Criminal P.C. contemplates recording of the admission of the accused as early as possiblein the words used by him. In other words, the plea of the accused in respect of the offences with which he has been charged has to be recorded by the Court and any such statement given by him under his thumb impression cannot, and at any rate need not be treated as enough for the purposes of this trial. It isopen to the learned Magistrate to accept any such plea - if it can be so said - under Section 243 or reject the same and put the accused on trial. The discretion is wide enough to reject the same and be satisfied on the evidence led to hold him guilty. In view of what the learned Magistrate says viz., that he was not able to understand the proceedings though tried by him, it was not proper or rather correct to treat any such statement as admission of his guilt and act upon the same for convicting him for the offences in question.
5. In any view of the matter, therefore, the learned Magistrate was in error to convict him, and that cannot be accepted by this Court in absence of any proper trial having taken place.
6. In these circumstances, when the accused is not able to understand the proceedings, the learned Magistrate shall proceed with the trial and in case he holds him guilty for the offences with which he has come to be charged, he has to forward the proceedings to this Court so as to enable this Court to pass suitable orders under Section 341 of the Criminal P. C. The case is, therefore, sent back to the trial Court for proceeding further in accordance with law keeping in mind the observations set out here above.
7. Order accordingly.