1. The petitioner has been convicted under Rule 38 of the Defence of India Rules for having done a prejudicial act and sentenced to imprisonment till the rising of the Court and to a fine of Rs. 50.
2. 'Prejudicial Act' is defined in Rule 34 (6). Many groups of prejudicial acts are described in this rule, but the learned Crown Prosecutor relies on Sub-clauses (b), (c), (d) and (1). The learned Magistrate has not referred in particular to any of these sub-clauses; but has merely said that the speech of the petitioner is a prejudicial act which is punishable under Rule 38 (5). The speech of the petitioner consisted of a tirade against the police. He said that although they are poorly paid men of no status, yet they give themselves airs and strut about doing no work. He suggests that they are acting against the workers in the interests of the capitalists. The speech also contains threats of what might be done to the police if they continue as they are at present.
3. Clause (b) of Rule 34 (6) is:
to cause disaffection among, or to prejudice, prevent or interfere with the discipline, health or training of, or the performance of their duties by, members of His Majesty's forces or public servants.
4. This speech was certainly not intended, nor was it likely to cause disaffection among the members of the police force, although it might cause disaffection among the public against the police force. It seems to me that the speech of the petitioner did make him guilty of an offence under Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code for sedition; but it was not a prejudicial act within the meaning of Rule 34 (6) (b).
5. Clause (c) is:
to render any member of His Majesty's forces or any public servant incapable of efficiently performing his duties as such, or to induce any member of His Majesty's forces or any public servant to fail in the performance of his duties as such.
6. It would need a great stretch of imagination to make the speech or the remarks of the petitioner fit into this clause.
7. Clause (d) is:
to prejudice the recruiting of, or the attendance of persons for service in, any of His Majesty's forces or any police force or fire brigade or any other body of persons entered, enrolled or engaged as public servants.
8. All that can be said with regard to the application of this clause is that the members of the public might possibly be inspired by fear of what the workers would do to them if they joined the police force, if they came to know what was said and took it seriously; but the speech was not likely to have that effect because it was addressed to the workers, who presumably had no intention of becoming constables.
9. Sub-clause (1) applies more nearly than any of the others and runs:
to instigate directly or indirectly the use of criminal force against public servants generally or any class of public servants or any individual public servant.
10. Although the speech is a strongly worded one, I do not think that it can be said that the petitioner intended to instigate the use of criminal force, against public servants, nor do I think that what he said was likely to have that immediate effect. The speech was not an incitement to personal violence, but rather an exposition of the part that the police were playing as the agents and tools of capitalists in preventing the workers from expressing their grievances and securing their rights. If the speech is read as a whole it is difficult to spell out any incitement to attack or to use force against the police, although it might cause disaffection against them. In fact, the learned Crown Prosecutor does not rely very strongly on this sub-clause, but rests the case for the Crown rather on Sub-clauses (b), (c) and (d). The learned Magistrate while saying that there was a prejudicial act, does not say why.
11. The petition is allowed and the conviction and sentence set aside. The fine is said to have been paid and there will be an order that it should be refunded.