1. One Rattigadu, a Mala or Hindu pariah by birth, but now a convert to Christianity, and a weaver by profession according to the District Magistrate, but who, in fact, earns his living by cooly work according to the 'Village Magistrate, was convicted by the latter of having used abusive language, and was sentenced to two hours' confinement in the stocks under Section 10 of Regulation XI of 1816 of the Madras Code.
2. The District Magistrate, relying on The Queen v. Nabi I.L.R. 6 Mad. 247, refers to the sentence, as illegal, on the ground that a Native Christian is not a person belonging to one '' of the lower castes of the people' so as to be within the purview of the regulation. In the case of The Queen v. Nabi I.L.R. 6 Mad. 247 the High Court held that 'a Muhammadan cannot be said to belong to the lower castes of the people,' and the District Magistrate points out that conversions to Islam from the low caste Cherumars of Malabar are of daily occurrence, and that if they by reason of their creed are exempt from confinement in the stocks, so ought converts to Christianity to be exempt, oven though born in one of the lower castes of the people.
3. To render a person liable to confinement in the stocks under the regulation, there must be a concurrence of two circumstances viz.--(1) he must be a parson belonging to one of the lower castes of: the people, and (2) he must be a person on whom from his social standing or otherwise it may not be improper to inflict so degrading a punishment. As pointed out by this Court in The Queen v. Nabi I.L.R. 6 Mad. 247 the framers of the regulation probably had in view those castes who, prior to the introduction of British rule, were regarded as servile, and it was apparently from this point of view that the Court held that a Muhammadan could not be said to belong to the lower castes of the people. Save in the Moupla districts of the West Coast, where conversions from the low Hindu castes are common, the name Muhammadan ordinarily implies a race as wall as a creed, distinction. Broadly speaking, Muhammadans are foreigners by race who have no connection with any of the castes of the people. There is nothing in The Queen v. Nabi I.L.R. 6 Mad. 247 to show, or to suggest, that he was a convert to Islam from one of the lower castes of the people, and it may be doubted whether the case can be regarded as an authority for holding that every professor of the creed of Islam, whatever caste he may have belonged to before conversion or after it, is outside the purview of the regulation. The framers of the regulation probably had not in mind the question which has now arisen, and so made no special provision for it. But the regulation is a penal one, and must be construed strictly and in case of doubt, in favour of the liberty of the subject. The teat seems to be not what is the offender's creed, whether Muhammadan, Christian or Hindu, but what is his caste, If he belongs to one of the lower castes, a change of creed would not of itself, in my judgment make any difference, provided he continues to belong to the caste. Ordinarily, as I understand, a convert to Christianity abandons his caste, whether high or low; but I do not know that this is always, or necessarily, so. It will be a question of fact in each case. If he continues to accept the rules of the caste in social and moral matters, acknowledges the authority of the headmen takes part in caste meetings and ceremonies, and, in fact, generally continues to belong to the caste, then in my judgment, he would be within the purview of the regulations.
4. If, on the other hand, ha adopts the moral standards of Christianity, instead of those of his caste, if he assimilates his social ideals to those of the Christian community which he joins, if he accepts the authority of his pastors and teachers in place of that of the headmen of the caste, if be no longer takes part in the distinctive meetings and ceremonies of the caste, and if, in a word, he abandons his caste, then he can no longer be said 'to belong to one of the lower castes of the people,' and his punishment by confinement in the stocks is no longer legal.
5. The District Magistrate says that 'Native Christians in this district do regard themselves as of a higher status than Hindus of the Mala caste, and look upon the punishment of confinement in the stocks as very degrading. Malas do not.' This is a consideration which concerns the second condition required by the regulation to render an offender liable to confinement in the stocks. The question is not whether Native Christians as a class regard the punishment as degrading, but whether the individual offender is from his social standing or otherwise (e.g., from his education) a person on whom it may not be improper to inflict so degrading a punishment.
6. As pointed out in the proceedings of this Court, No. 1732, dated 9th October 1879 (Weir's Law of Offences,' third edition, page 685), the word 'whom' in Section 10 of the regulation refers back to the words' the offending parties,' not to the words 'the lower castes of the people.'
7. In the present case there appears to be no reason to think that Rattigadu was exempt under the second condition, and the District Magistrate's letter does not show that he was exempt under the first condition, though it is not improbable that he was. If the District Magistrate, having regard to the remarks made above, should find that Rattigadu was exempt under the first condition, it will be open to him to make a further representation with a view to a formal declaration that the punishment inflicted was illegal.
8. I concur.