1. The question before us is whether the maximum sentence which may be imposed on any one occasion under Section 488 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is one month, or whether a longer term may be imposed at the rate of one month's imprisonment for each month's arrear remaining unsatisfied. In High Court Proceedings, dated 19th April 1871 6 M.H.C.R. App., 22, this Court remarked that only one month's imprisonment could be awarded, but this observation was made with reference to the terms of Section 316 of the Criminal Procedure Code then in force (Act XXV of 1861) which runs as follows:
The Magistrate may, for every breach of the order by warrant, direct the amount due to be levied in the manner provided for levying fines; or may order such person to be imprisoned with or without hard labour for any term not exceeding one month.
2. The words of Section 488 of the present Code are very different. They are:The Magistrate may, for every breach of the order, issue a warrant for levying the amount due in manner herein before provided for levying fines, and may sentence such person for the whole or any part of each month's allowance remaining unpaid after the execution of the warrant, to imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month.' The change is significant, and the words' for the whole or any part of each month's allowance' are unmeaning, if, in any case, the maximum sentence can only be one month's imprisonment. In the interpretation put upon the Section by the Allahabad High Court Queen-Empress v. Narain I.L.R. 9 All. 240 we are therefore unable to agree. The difficulty suggested by EDGE, C.J., in determining to which month out of several a sum levied should be appropriated does not seem to be important. The procedure contemplated by the Code appears to be to deduct the sum levied from the sum due, and then to ascertain how many months' arrears the balance represents. The maximum imprisonment that can be imposed will then be one month for each month's arrears, and if there is a balance representing the arrears for a portion of a month a further term of a month's imprisonment may be imposed for such arrear. Our view is in accordance with the construction incidentally put upon the Section by this Court in Biyacha v. Mohidin Kutti I.L.R. 8 Mad. 70.
3. In the peculiar circumstances of this case we should not have been prepared to say the sentence was altogether excessive, but as the Sessions Judge has already released the prisoner on bail before the expiration of his sentence, we think it inexpedient that lie should be again committed to jail. His bail may, therefore, now be discharged.