V.B. Raju, J.
1. The appellant was convicted under Section 218 of the Indian Penal Code. The charge against him was that being the Talati, he had erased the signature on a previous receipt issued by the previous Talati and substituted his own signature on that receipt in order to show that the amount had been really received by him and not by the previous Talati and in order to save the previous Talati from the charge of the misappropriation of the amount previously paid to him. To prove such a charge, the prosecution must prove that the previous signature on the receipt had been erased by the accused, and that in addition to doing so he had put his own signature after cancelling the previous signature. On this point, there is no evidence whatsoever except the evidence of the Mamlatdar, who has deposed as follows:
The signature of Vithaldas Virji seems to have been erased or cancelled and the accused Yusuf has placed his signature in place of the signature of Vithaldas. It appears that the D/- 8-7-61 has also been placed by the accused Yusuf.
It is surprising that evidence has been recorded in this manner. It is not for a witness to give his opinion unless he is an expert. It is wrong for the witness to say that the signature seems to have been erased or cancelled. It is for the Court to decide whether the signature seems to have been erased or cancelled. Evidence in the form 'it appears that' etc., should not have been allowed, by the learned Sessions Judge, This is not the manner of giving evidence in a Court. Witnesses must give evidence as to what is within their personal knowledge. When the expression 'it appears that....' is used, opinion evidence is being given. Such evidence should have never been allowed unless it is the opinion of an expert or is otherwise admissible. It is surprising that the learned Sessions Judge has forgotten this elementary principle of taking evidence. The Mamlatdar has also deposed as follows:
I find that even in the original receipt there are similar erasures or cancellations. I then ordered Circle Inspector Ramniklal Gaurishanker Joshi to make inquiry and report. Circle Inspector Ramniklal Gaurishanker reported to me that the accused Rayma Jusab had made erasures in a certain Pavti.
The evidence that Circle Inspector Ramniklal reported to me that the accused had made erasures in a certain 'Pavti' is absolutely irrelevant as being hearsay. In fact, the Circle Inspector Ramniklal has made no mention of this fact in his evidence at Ex. 7. In fact, even if he tried to make such a statement, that should have been disallowed as hearsay. What a person finds as a result of investigation is absolutely shut out by Section 60 of the Evidence Act as hearsay. All references to the report of the Circle Inspector and the result of his investigation are, therefore, absolutely irrelevant. It is the duty of the Court to disallow the evidence of such a type, even if it is not objected to by either side. As the Privy Council has remarked in Lim Yam Hong & Co. v. Lam Chocn & Co. AIR 1928 P C 127. Judges should stop witnesses from giving hearsay evidence.
2. In his statement under Section 342 of the Criminal P. C., the accused has also stated that whatever the Mamlatdar and the Circle Inspector have stated in their depositions is quite correct. This answer was given to a general question, which reads as follows:
The prosecution evidence has been recorded in your presence and hearing. What have you to say as to that?
When a question is put to an accused person, it must be such as to concentrate his attention on a single point to which his answer is required. Even otherwise, as there is no substantial evidence in the depositions of the Mamlatdar and the Circle Inspector, this answer of the accused does not help the prosecution in any way. There is, therefore, no evidence to prove the charge framed against the accused.
3. The appeal is, therefore, allowed and the conviction and sentence of the appellant are set aside.