1. This is an appeal by the Provincial Government against the order of the Third Presidency Magistrate acquitting the accused in C. C No. 2354 of 1943. The offence of which the accused was charged was under Rule 117(2) of the Defence of India Rules.
2. It was said that in filling up form K of the form used under the Motor Spirit Rationing Order in respect of applications for supplementary coupons, the accused under column 7 stated in effect that he had only one car> namely MSC I737,whereas in fact he had another car in Ramnad MDR 1341. Column 7 of Form K runs :
If the application refers to a private car or motor cycle give registered number and horse power of all motor cars and motor cycles in applicant's possession or in possession of the applicant's firm which are available for his use or in the possession of any member of family residing with the applicant.
Rule 117(1) of the Defence of India Rules states:
If any person when required by or under any of these rules to make any statement or furnish any information, makes any statement or furnishes any information which he knows or has reasonable cause to believe to be false or not true, in any material particular he shall be punishable with imprisonment, etc.
And in effect the accused was charged with making a statement under the Defence of India Rules, namely, the statement in Form K which he knew or had reasonable cause to believe was false or not true. The accused himself explained, first, that the forms of applications were filled up' by his driver whom he had left in Madras when he had gone to Devakottai and that he was not himself aware of all the details the driver had given under the several heads, and, secondly, that in any case the other car MDR 1341 was in the possession of Meyappa Chettiar and Firm and not in his own possession. With regard to the first explanation the learned Third Presidency Magistrate rightly held that the accused could not shelve the responsibility by the plea that the applications were filled up by his employee. He signed all the applications and it was for him to prove, if that was his case, that he did not know what details had been given. With regard to the second explanation there was no satisfactory evidence that the car did belong to the firm, and it should be remembered that there is evidence that the accused himself signed applications in respect of the car MDR 1341 also in his individual capacity. Furthermore there is no evidence, even if the car did belong to the firm; that it was not put at the accused's disposal.
3. The Third Presidency Magistrate acquitted the accused because, the point for deterffemination being whether the omission to give the number of the car in column 7 of the application, i.e., the number of the other car, was an offence, he was of opinion that it was not, for the reason that an omission was not, as he puts it, intended to be penalised by Rule 117 of the Defence of India Rules. The construction put by the Third Presidency Magistrate on Rule 117 of the Defence of India Rules is clearly wrong. That rule makes punishable the making of any statement required by or under any of the rules which the person making it knows or has reasonable cause to believe is false or not true; and it is manifest that, if a person who is in possession of several motor cars and is required to give the registered number and horse power of all the motor cars in his possession, gives the registered number and horse power of only one of them, he makes a statement which he knows or has reasonable cause to believe is false (ft not true. It can make no difference whether the falsity or untruthfulness of the statement is due to a misstatement of fact or to an omission. If therefore the accused knew or had reasonable cause to believe that his entry under column 7 which amounts to a statement that he had only one car was false or not true, he should have been convicted. It has already been pointed but that the Third Presidency Magistrate was right in his view that the pleas that the responsibility for the return was that of the accused's employee must be rejected, and, that being so, as the accused did not know that he had another car but at the same time made a return that he had only one car MSG 1737, he made a statement which he had reasonable cause to believe was false or not true within the meaning of Rule 117. He should therefore have been convicted.
5. His acquittal by the Third Presidency Magistrate is set aside and he is convicted of the offence charged, namely, an offence under Rule 117(2) of the Defence of India Rules. With regard to the sentence this appeal has been brought mainly because of the construction put by the Third Presidency Magistrate on, Rule 117 of the Defence of India Rules and not because of the gravity of the offence committed. The accused has already been convicted of an offence arising out of the same set of circumstances, namely the taking of both his cars to Devakottai in April, 1942 and for that offence he was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 600. It will be sufficient in this case to inflict a nominal fine. The accused is consequently sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 5 or in default to undergo simple imprisonment for one week.