1. The question in this case is whether a complaint now pending against the petitioners before the Subdivisional Magistrate of Pollachi accusing them of offences under Sections 193, 204 and 471, I. P. C, is incompetent for want of sanction of the Local Government under Section 197, Criminal P.C.
2. The allegations in the complaint are as follows: The complainant, the two accused; petitioners (who are respectively the karnam and headman of the village) and two others mentioned as complainants' witnesses were elected as members of a Panchayat Court constituted under the Village Courts Act, for the village of Nanjundapuram. The five members were required by a notice given by the Revenue 'Divisional Officer to elect a President on 23rd September 1929. As the notices were given too late, the meeting for the election was in fact held on 27th September at which all the five members were present. The mode of election prescribed by the rules is by ballot by using slips of paper. Lots were however cast but the person whose name was drawn surrendered his right in favour of the complainant and by common consent complainant was elected. The complainant accordingly drew up the proceedings to that effect and got the signatures of all the five members present and entrusted it to the second 'petitioner, the headman, to forward the same to the Revenue Divisional Officer through the Tahsildar. The allegation is that instead of forwarding the true proceedings as above, the two accused together suppressed the genuine document and fabricated and forwarded a false report showing that the meeting had taken place on 23rd September and that accused 1 had been elected President and that for the purpose of supporting the fabrication had altered the dates in accused 2's tappal book showing the date of service of the notice of meeting from 27th to 23rd September. It appears that the Revenue Divisional Officer, on receipt of this proceeding and believing it to be true, approved the election of accused 1 on or about 19th October 1929; that on knowing this the complainant petitioned the Tahsildar; that the Tahsildar held an enquiry at which the accused put forward and relied on the false proceedings and tappal book in support of the alleged election of accused 1 and that the Revenue Divisional Officer on the Tahsildar's report set aside his previous order approving accused 1's election, and holding that the election of the complainant was itself irregular ordered a fresh election.
3. The petitioners (accused) took three preliminary objections to the maintainability of the complaint : (1) that the Revenue Divisional Officer and the Tahsildar in holding the enquiry were acting as a revenue Court and that therefore the offence under Section 193 could not be taken cognizance of without a complaint from that Court; (2) that the allegations amounted to a charge of conspiracy under Section 120-B for which the consent of the Local Government or District Magistrate is necessary; (3) that the petitioners purported to act as Judge within the meaning of Section 197, Criminal P.C., in the conduct attributed to them and that the sanction of the Local Government is necessary. The Sub-divisional Magistrate overruled all these objections. Hence this petition.
4. The first two objections were not seriously pressed before me. The Revenue Divisional Officer enquiring into objections to the election of a President under Rule 21 of the rules under the Village Courts Act, is not a Court of any kind. That objection was rightly disallowed.1 The second objection that an offence of conspiracy is disclosed, for trial of which the consent of the Local Government *or the District Magistrate is necessary, is equally groundless. Even if there be any offence of conspiracy implied in the allegations, it is not of the kind mentioned in Section 196-A. This objection also must be rejected.
5. But it was pressed that the accused petitioners were members of a Panchayat Court and therefore Judges; that they purported to act in the discharge of their official duty in what they did and are therefore protected by Section 197. It is now settled that members of a Village Panchayat Court are Judges within the meaning of this section: Sivaramakrishna Ayyar v. Seshappa, Naidu A.I.R. 1929 Mad. 172, and that the protection of the section is not confined merely to acts strictly within the authority of the Judge or public servant, but extends to all official acts purporting to be done under colour of that authority: Subbiah Pillai v. Emperor  21 Cri.L.J.233, Gangaraju v. Venki A.I.R. 1929 Mad. 659. The real point is whether the acts alleged against the petitioners are within that extended protection. To understand the character of the acts attributed to the petitioners some provisions of the Act and rules may be referred to. It is clear that the acts of the petitioners had no connexion with any case, real or imaginary, before them. It was in connexion with the election of the President.
6. As to elections, Section 9 (5), Village Courts Act, provides a Panchayat Court shall elect one of its members to be its President according to the rules prescribed. By Section 10 the 'Village Munsif' (which term in this section means the President of a Panchayat Court, see Section 5), has to keep a register of suits and write the proceedings of the Court and it is the duty of the village karnam, if so required, to assist in keeping such register and in writing the proceedings of the Court. Rules 19 and 22 prescribe the procedure for election of the President. The Revenue Divisional Officer is to convene the meeting. The meeting is to choose a Chairman. Candidates for the office of President have to be nominated and seconded; voting, if there is more than one candidate, is to be by ballot. The Chairman is to do the counting and if there is an equality of votes, the election is to be determined by casting lots. The name of the person elected is to be reported to the Revenue Divisional Officer. Objections to the election if any, are to be made in seven days and to be decided by the Revenue Divisional Officer whose decision is final. From the above it appears that the complaint is-that the complainant having drawn up the proceedings of the election as he was required to do, had to forward it to the Revenue Divisional Officer and for that purpose handed it to accused 2, the village headman, who as such is the subordinate to the Revenue Divisional Officer and that the headman, instead of forwarding it suppressed it and fabricated and forwarded a false document in concert with the karnam. In forwarding the proceedings neither of the petitioners was performing any official duty cast on members of the Panchayat Court but acting as revenue subordinates of the Revenue Divisional Officer as is clear from the fact that they would have had to forward the document even if they had not been also members of the Panchayat Court. I hold therefore that the objection based on Section 197, is not valid.
7. The petition is dismissed.