1. This petition was admitted because the judgment of the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate did not set out the nature of the offence committed. The speech was not analysed, and it was not apparent on the face of the judgment how the Defence of India Act had been contravened by the accused.
2. I have now been able to read through the whole of the speech and in particular those passages which were marked in the lower Court as being particularly objectionable. I have been reminded by the learned advocate for the petitioner of a remark of mine in another case that it was ordinarily unfair to apply the Defence of India Act to a speech made for the purposes of promoting the welfare of the workers in a trade and industrial dispute; but the speech with which we are concerned here was one to which this Act could be properly applied; for it was a wild speech which tended to endanger the public safety and hinder the defence of British India during this time of grave emergency. The speaker was addressing a large body of workers and his speech was likely to influence adversely to the war effort the whole body of his listeners and his fellow workers.
3. It is contended by Mr. Varadachari, and I think he is right, that the learned Magistrate was wrong in convicting the appellant three times for the same speech because the speech offended against the provisions of Rule 34 (vi), e, f and g. Actually, I do not think that it offended against Rule 34 (vi) at all, and as far as Sub-clause (g) was concerned, it probably had no greater effect than the leading articles in the daily press; but even if the speech could be said to be a prejudicial act for any one of three reasons, there would only be one offence. What is punishable is the doing of a prejudicial act within the meaning of Rule 38 (1) (a); and the prejudicial act in this case was the making of a speech. If everything in the speech offending against any of the many clauses to Rule 34 (vi) were considered, then the speaker would be guilty of not merely three offences, but one or more for each and every objectionable remark made throughout the whole speech. An objectionable remark cannot constitute several prejudicial acts merely because it is a prejudicial act in several ways. Nor can an objectionable remark be deemed a prejudicial act unless taken with the rest of the speech, which forms the background against which the remark must be viewed.
4. Two of the convictions and sentences are therefore set aside. The sentence of four months' rigorous imprisonment is not unduly severe under the circumstances. It certainly does not warrant any interference in revision.