1. The petitioner despatched from the Madras Central Station two drums, the contents of which he described as wood oil, A railway constable became suspicious and examined the drums at Melpatti Station. He then found that they contained denatured spirit with some solid matter in it, which was found, after the distillation of the spirit, to contain a substance which the analyst thought might have been shellac. The petitioner says that these ten gallons of denatured spirit contained a viss of shellac and a viss of resin. There is no reason to doubt the truth of that statement; and so we may for the purpose of this petition assume that statement to be true. The petitioner was charged under Section 4(1)(a) of the Madras Prohibition Act for the illicit transport of ten gallons of denatured spirit and was convicted. He was also charged under Section 417 of the Indian Penal Code with making a false declaration that the drums contained wood oil; but of this offence he was found to be not guilty.
2. It is argued that the petitioner was entitled to transport spirits in which shellac and resin had been dissolved; because the dissolving of these substances rendered the liquid not potable and therefore not liquor or spirits within the meaning of the Act. 'Liquor' is defined in Section 3 (9) as including toddy, spirits of wine, methylated spirits, spirits, wine, beer, and all liquid consisting of or containing alcohol. 'Spirits' is defined in Sub-section (17) of the same section as meaning any liquor containing alcohol and obtained by distillation (whether it is denatured or not). There is nothing in the Act which suggests that because some substance is mixed with the spirits that makes it unfit for human consumption it is no longer 'spirits'. On the contrary, the very wording of Sub-section (17) of Section 3 indicates that spirits which are not potable come within the definition of 'spirits'; for they include denatured spirits; and 'denatured' is defined in the explanation to that sub-section as meaning 'subjected to a process prescribed by the Provincial Government by notification for the purpose of rendering unfit for human consumption'.
3. The evidence does suggest that varnishes such as French Polish can be introduced into prohibition areas without a license; and at least one of the prohibition Sub-Inspectors, D.W. 4, seems to be of opinion that it is unobjectionable. The learned advocate for the petitioner argues that a perusal of the preamble to the Act indicates that Government did not intend to prohibit the transport of spirits and such substances for industrial purposes. That is no doubt true; but under Section 18 of the Act a license is required for such transport. If licences were not required, the whole object of the Act might be largely frustrated by mixing substances with spirit which could afterwards be removed by distillation, thus introducing the product without question into prohibition areas, and finally making potable spirits by distillation.
4. The petitioner quotes The Attorney-General v. Bailey (1847) 1 Exch. Rep. 281. , in which it was held that spirits within the meaning of a certain English Act meant potable spirits, but in that Act the word 'spirits' was not defined; and so the learned Judges naturally argued that the Legislature must have intended the word 'spirits' to be used in the manner in which it is used in ordinary parlance. They were strengthened in that belief by reference to certain other Acts. That decision cannot however help us in interpreting an Act in, which the term 'spirits' is defined as including spirits which are rendered unfit for human consumption.
5. If the petitioner had merely sent spirits under a widely-held belief that he was entitled to do so without taking out a license, nothing more than a nominal fine would be called for; but the accused here practised deception. He was not perhaps guilty of an offence punishable under Section 417, Indian Penal Code, because it does not seem that on account of his false representation the booking clerk was led to do any act which he would not have done had the petitioner declared the contents of the drums to be varnish; but I have little doubt in my mind that the contents of the drums were described as wood-oil in order to hide the fact that he was sending a substance containing spirits. Wood-oil is oil extracted from various trees and does not resemble in any way any varnish made from spirits. I am not therefore able to treat this offence as a nominal one committed in good faith in the belief that he was doing something which he was entitled to do.
6. The petition is dismissed.