1. The two petitioners have been sentenced to three months' simple imprisonment and Rs. 50 fine under Section 332, Indian Penal Code, for resisting a distraint under a warrant purporting to have been issued by the Municipal Chairman of Cuddapah.
2. It seems clear that there was no warrant. The prosecution theory is that the ex-Chairman left a facsimile stamp of his signature behind him, which the peons continued to use. Of course this would be quite irregular and would give no validity to a warrant.
3. It is clear from Appendix A of Schedule IV of the District Municipalities Act that the warrant must bear the signature of the Chairman. Signature must be taken in its accepted sense of sign manual. The fact that in Section 20, Code of Civil Procedure, sign is used as including stamp has no bearing on the Madras District Municipalities Act.
4. The only departure from the general rule is that if the Chairman happens to be illiterate, under Section 3 (29), Madras General Clauses Act, he may affix his mark.
5. Even if the distrainers had a warrant they had no right to do as they threatened, and take the front door of the house (Queen-Empress v. Shaik Ibrahim I.L.R.(1890) M. 518 a proceeding which rendered the house unsafe, and called for immediate defence of private property. In the circumstances I am not prepared to hold that the accused exceeded that right. The conviction is set aside and the fine ordered to be refunded.
6. Accused's bail is released.