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In Re: A.K.M. Ahmad Naina Maracair - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1947Mad451; (1947)2MLJ102
AppellantIn Re: A.K.M. Ahmad Naina Maracair
Cases ReferredMalcolm v. Emperor
Excerpt:
.....that was applicable to such a case was section 14 of the indian arms act and that no contravention of that section can form the subject-matter of a prosecution by virtue of section 29 of the same act without the previous sanction of the district magistrate. rejected the argument that was raised before them that the word 'extent' in section 14 relates only to the territorial extent and construed the word 'extent' to include the concept of limit of time or of the duration of the licence as well. there had been some delay in the renewal of the licence but at the time when the offence complained of was committed the weapon was not actually covered by a licence......of a person's wealth or liabilities or his gains or losses, it cannot be said that the use of the word 'extent ' in that context as implying the concept of quantity or bulk is inappropriate and there is no justification for holding, whatever the limited application of the word ' extent ' may be in condition 3 read with column 8 of the licence, that the word ' extent ' was used in section 14 as excluding the idea of quantity. reference to the first footnote in the licence is also unprofitable as the conditions in the licence as to which section of the act is applicable cannot be held to govern or control the provisions of the act itself. it may be contended that upon such wide interpretation of section 14, section 21 would become a superfluous provision and such intention cannot be.....
Judgment:

Yahya Ali, J.

1. The petitioner has been convicted by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Negapatam under Section 21 of the Indian Arms Act and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 100, in default rigorous imprisonment for one month. He appealed to the Sessions Judge, Negapatam who confirmed the conviction but reduced the fine to Rs. 30.

2. The petitioner held a licence for an S.R.B.L. gun for the years 1944-45 and he was permitted by that licence to possess 50 cartridges or one pound of gun powder. He also possessed a licence under the Indian Explosives Act by which he was entitled to keep for sale 50 lbs. of gun powder at a particular place which was described in that licence. He applied for the renewal of the gun powder licence and in the ordinary course, the application went to the Taluk Magistrate, who on 5th April, 1946, inspected the site where the gun powder was stored. The Taluk Magistrate found that only 30 lbs. were in store at the place mentioned in the licence under the Indian Explosive Act; but in the shop there were besides the S.B.B.L. gun 17/8 lbs. of gun powder. The Taluk Magistrate reported the matter to the authorities and as a result the petitioner was prosecuted for being in possession of 7/8 lb. of gun powder in excess of the quantity permitted by his gun licence. The prosecution was under Section 21 of the Indian Arms Act and both the Courts below have found the petitioner guilty under that section.

3. The defence was twofold. On the facts it was alleged that the excess of 7/8 lbs. was the gun powder that was removed from the cartridges and that possession of such gun powder did not constitute an offence. The more substantial objection was with reference to the provision of law that was applicable. Even on the assumption that the facts of the prosecution case were all true, it was contended in both the Courts below as well as before me that the appropriate provision that was applicable to such a case was Section 14 of the Indian Arms Act and that no contravention of that section can form the subject-matter of a prosecution by virtue of Section 29 of the same Act without the previous sanction of the District Magistrate. It is admitted that there is no such sanction in the present case because the view upon which the prosecution has throughout acted is that Section 21 of the Arms Act is applicable and not Section 14 and for a prosecution under Section 21 no such sanction is required. The question that falls to be decided in this case is whether when a licensee possesses more gun powder than is mentioned in his gun licence, he commits an offence under Section 14 or under Section 21 of the Indian Arms Act.

4. Section 14 runs thus:

No person shall have in his possession or under his control any cannon or fire-arms or any ammunition or military stores, except under a licence and in the manner and to the extent permitted thereby.

5. This has to be read with Section 19(f) which is the provision relating to punishment for the infringement of Section 14:

Whoever commits any of the following offences (namely) :-(f) has in his possession or under his control any arms, ammunition or military stores in contravention of the provisions of Section 14 or section15,

shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both.

Section 29 provides:

Where an offence punishable under Section 19, Clause (f), has been committed within three months from the date on which this Act comes into force in any province, district or place to which Section 32, Clause 2 of Act XXXI of 1860 applies at such date, or where such an offence has been committed in any part of British India not being such a district, province or place, no proceedings shall be instituted against any person in respect of such offence without the previous sanction of the Magistrate of the district or, in a presidency-town, of the Commissioner of Police.

Lastly Section 21 is in these terms:

Whoever, in violation of a condition subject to which a licence has been granted, does or omits to do any act shall, when the doing or omitting to do such act is not punishable under Section 19 or Section 20, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.

The lower Courts have, in holding that this is a case falling within the purview of Section 21, relied upon condition 3 of the licence which says that the licence is valid ' to the extent specified in column 8 ' and column 8 is as follows : 'Area within which the license is valid--Tanjore District.' It is, from this condition, argued that the expression ' extent ' is in its connotation restricted to the territorial limit. The appellate Court has also relied upon the second condition in the licence which is in these words:

It (the licence) covers only the persons named, and the arms and ammunition described therein and such retainers (if any) as may be entered in column 5.

The learned Sessions Judge considered that this condition which also has been violated does not fall within the ambit of Section 14 of the Arms Act and hence the offence would not be punishable under Section 19(f) as coming under Section 14. Attention was further drawn to the first note at the bottom of the licence which is to the following effect:

Any breach of the conditions of this licence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to Rs. 500 or with both (Section 21 of the Indian Arms Act, 1878).

The criterion to be applied in deciding whether Section 14 applies is whether the possession or control, was not covered by a licence or if it was covered by a licence whether it was in the manner and to the extent permitted by the licence. The prosecution case is definitely to the effect that so far as the excess quantity of gun powder that is found in the shop is concerned, it is not covered by the licence. It was therefore a case of possession of 7/8 lbs. of gun powder without a licence. Condition 2 might also be applicable to such a case but it has to be noticed that Section 21 comes into play only where in violation of a condition subject to which the licence has been granted an act has been done which is not punishable under Section 19. Apart from this quite simple way of disposing of the matter, I have to deal with the second part of Section 14 which relates to the manner and extent permitted by the licence as there has been considerable discussion about it at the Bar and in the Court below. Both the lower Courts relied on the decision of the learned Chief Justice of the Oudh Chief Court sitting singly in Ram Saroman Singh v. Emperor (1946) 21 Luck. 301 : A.I.R. 1946 Oudh 124 where it was held that the word ' extent ' in Section 14 means territory in which the licence is valid but with regard to the word ' manner ' the learned Chief Justice was of the opinion that it should not be given a restricted meaning. We are not concerned in this case with the interpretation of the word ' manner ' but with reference to the meaning given in the Oudh case to the word ' extent '. I have to point out that the learned Chief Justice was under the impresssion that that word had not been construed in any case before and it is in that view that the interpretation was given that the word means only territorial limits. Actually there is an earlier decision given by a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Malcolm v. Emperor : AIR1933Cal218 , directly on the question of meaning of the word ' extent ' in Section 14 of the Indian Arms Act and unfortunately this case was not cited before the learned Chief Justice of the Oudh Court. In the Calcutta case, Jack and Ghose, JJ. rejected the argument that was raised before them that the word ' extent' in Section 14 relates only to the territorial extent and construed the word ' extent' to include the concept of limit of time or of the duration of the licence as well. There had been some delay in the renewal of the licence but at the time when the offence complained of was committed the weapon was not actually covered by a licence. Although it is usual not to prosecute persons who have applied for renewal before the expiry of the year allowing them a month's period of grace, the learned Judges held that that would not affect the provisions of Section 19, which states that a person who has in his possession arms in contravention of the provisions of Section 14 commits an offence and to such a case it was held that the word ' extent ' was applicable as the accused was in possession and control of the weapon after the expiry of the period of licence.

6. The learned Public Prosecutor tried to distinguish the Bench decision on the ground that that was a case where the licence had expired and at the time of the alleged sale of the weapon it was not actually covered by a subsisting licence. It was thus a case of possession without a licence and would come directly under the earlier portion of Section 14 and it was not necessary to discuss the connotation of the word ' extent ' or its applicability to such a case. I have pointed out that the position is quite similar in the present case also as the excess quantity was held without a licence. The Calcutta case is certainly authority for the position that the word ' extent ' is not confined to territorial extent only but it has to be understood in its ordinary and natural sense. The meaning of the word ' extent ' according to Webster's New International Dictionary is, inter alia, 'degree, measure, proportion ' as can be gathered for the phrases in common use ' to a certain extent, to a great extent, to the full extent and reaching the extent '. In fact when one speaks of the extent of a person's wealth or liabilities or his gains or losses, it cannot be said that the use of the word 'extent ' in that context as implying the concept of quantity or bulk is inappropriate and there is no justification for holding, whatever the limited application of the word ' extent ' may be in condition 3 read with column 8 of the licence, that the word ' extent ' was used in Section 14 as excluding the idea of quantity. Reference to the first footnote in the licence is also unprofitable as the conditions in the licence as to which section of the Act is applicable cannot be held to govern or control the provisions of the Act itself. It may be contended that upon such wide interpretation of Section 14, Section 21 would become a superfluous provision and such intention cannot be attributed in the Legislature. There can conceivably be several cases where Section 21 would come into play but I may, for illustration, mention the breach of condition 7 of the licence requiring the licensee to report the loss or theft of the weapon at the nearest police station. Such a violation will not fall under Section 14 and would be rendered punishable under Section 21 of the Act.

7. For the reasons, I am in agreement with the defence contention that the word ' extent ' in Section 14 includes the quantity of ammunition permitted by the licence. Possession or control of any quantity in excess of it must be deemed, apart from its not being covered by the licence, an offence under Section 14 read with Section 19(f) because it is not according to the 'extent' permitted by the licence. In this view it must be held that the prosecution of the petitioner was not maintainable under Section 29 without the sanction of the District Magistrate. The petition is allowed and the conviction is set aside ; the fine if paid will be refunded.


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