1. This appears to be a case which, in the words of Singleton J., in a recent case in the King's Bench Division, ' is very much easier to argue than one in which to give judgment.'
2. The petitioner was convicted under Rule 81(4) of the Defence of India Rules read with Clause 2 of the Madras Rice Mills Licensing Order, 1943, and sentenced to one month's rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 150. On appeal to the Sessions Judge the conviction was confirmed, but the sentence of imprisonment was reduced to the period already served and the sentence of fine was upheld. The petitioner seeks to revise the said decision of the Sessions Judge.
3. The offence with which he was charged was that he hulled paddy in his rice mill without a licence in contravention of Clause 2 of the Madras Rice Mills Licensing Order, 1943. Under Clause 2 of that order, on and after the date from which that order came into force no person shall carry on the business of milling rice by power-driven machinery except under and in accordance with the conditions of a licence issued in that behalf by the Collector of the District. Clause 3 provides that applications for licence under the order shall be made in Form I in the schedule to that order to the Collector of the District ; and under Clause 4, the licences issued under the order shall be in Form II in the schedule to the order. Form I is certainly peculiar. In addition to the particulars of the applicant's name, address and place of situation of the mill, there is a provision for a declaration that the applicant is the proprietor or manager of the rice mill covered by the application. Then occur the following provisions:
I have carefully read the Madras Rice Mills Licensing Order, 1943, and the conditions of licence in Form II in the schedule to the said order and I agree to abide by them.
I declare that I have in my possession the following stock of rice which has been processed otherwise than by the processes described in paragraph 4 of the Form of Licence (Form II) and I agree not to mill rice except by these processes in future from the date of this application.
It has been found that the petitioner applied for a licence under the provisions of this Order on the 2nd March, 1945. He was charged with having hulled paddy in his rice mill without a licence on the 11th March, 1945, i.e., after the date of his application. By that date no order had been passed on his application for a licence.
4. The learned Sessions Judge says that the object of the order was to see that in machines of the single huller type rice shall be passed through the huller only once. There was no evidence in the case that the petitioner was passing paddy through the huller more than once.
5. The question is whether in these circumstances the petitioner was rightly convicted under the order. From the preamble to the order it appears that it was found necessary for maintaining supplies of rice essential to the life of the community, to regulate the treatment of paddy in rice mills in the Province of Madras. Form I must be taken to have been embodied in the order itself because of Clause 3 which says that applications for licence shall be in that form. In his application in accordance with that form the applicant has to agree not to mill rice except by the processes described in paragraph 4 of the form of licence to be granted in future from the date of the application. The learned advocate for the petitioner relies upon this last provision, that is to say, the provision that the applicant agrees not to mill rice except by certain processes indicated in the licence to be granted, from the date of the application and not from the date of the grant of the licence. It is true that under Clause 2 of the order no person can carry on the business 'of milling rice by power-driven machinery except under a licence issued in that behalf by the Collector of the District. Obviously on the date of the application for the licence the applicant cannot be expected to have a licence in his favour. In fact he is asking for one. Therefore it would appear that even though he has made an application, he cannot carry on the business of milling rice even after that date till a licence is granted to him. The provision therefore that the applicant should agree not to mill rice except by certain processes mentioned in the licence to be granted in future from the date of the application does not appear easy to understand. Does it mean that if he follows any of the processes so mentioned that he could mill rice from the date of the application? In my opinion there is one way in which this provision may probably be reconciled with the terms of Clause 2 of the order and in attempting at this reconciliation I am taking into consideration the object of the order and the possible inconvenience which is likely to result not only to the man who is doing the business of rice hulling but to the entire community. It is not unreasonable to suppose that when an application for licence is made and in the ordinary course it is granted, the licence shall be deemed to be in operation from the date of the application. No doubt, in some enactments there is express provision for such a result. But in my opinion such a result can also be inferred by necessary intendment. Having regard to the terms of Form I of the schedule it must have been the intention that when an application for licence is granted in due course such a licence must be deemed to be valid from the date of the application. That is why the applicant is made to agree not to mill rice except by the processes mentioned in the licence to be granted even from the date of the application. With great respect I would in deciding this case respectfully follow the principle laid down in a recent decision of the King's Bench Division in Wardale v. Binns (1946) 2 All. E.R. 100. Humphreys, J., referred therein to certain observations which fell from Lord Goddard, L.G.J. in the course of the argument in that case. This is what he says :
I desire to associate myself heartily with some observations which fell from my lord in the course of the argument when he observed that he was very much averse to the notion that any person should be convicted in this country upon the terms of an Act of Parliament which was obscure and which lawyers could not construe clearly. If an Act of Parliament is so drawn as to make it really difficult to say what was intended and what facts come within it, the benefit of that obscurity should be given to the accused person.
Having regard to the finding that there was no evidence that the petitioner contravened any of the provisions of the licence set out in Form II, I think that he should be given the benefit of this salutary rule. I therefore set aside the conviction and sentence of the petitioner and direct that the fine, if paid, should be refunded to him.