M. Anantanarayanan, J.
1. This proceeding involves a very interesting question, relating to the interpretation of Section 16(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act, 1950. I might immediately add that the point is res Integra, and that the learned Counsel have not been able to draw my attention to any relevant authority on the subject. But it is a matter for some satisfaction, lessening the responsibility upon me in deciding the point, that the Revision Petition itself admits of a disposal, without a final expression of opinion on the issue that I have just referred to. Actually, the Revision Petition does not call for any conclusive order here ; on the contrary, the interests of justice are both imperative and clear that the proceeding under Section 19(1) before the learned District Munsif, will have to be remitted to him for further evidence upon basic facts, and for dealing with the petition in the light of such recorded evidence.
2. It is not necessary to set forth Section 16(1) here. It will be sufficient if the gist of the section is set forth. Any person who has been sentenced by a criminal Court to imprisonment for a period of more than six months for ' any offence other than an offence not involving moral delinquency ', is subject to disqualification for election as member of a Panchayat, while under the ban of the actual sentence, and for a further period of five years from the date of its expiry. The admitted facts are that the revision petitioners are two rival candidates, and one voter, at that particular Panchayat election. The 1st respondent was indisputably convicted and sentenced in S.C. No. 117 of 1951 on the file of the Additional Sessions Judge, Tirunelveli, for offences under Section 120-B, Indian Penal Code, read with Section 109, Indian Penal Code, Section 121, Indian Penal Code and Sections 4 and 5 of the Explosive Substances Act. The conviction and sentences were on 11th August, 1952, for periods aggregating to five years. The question was whether the 1st respondent had served out his sentence, and further stood for the election only after a period of five years from the date of release, and not earlier. Admittedly, the 1st respondent stood for election on 23rd May, 1959, and the election itself was held on 24th May, 1959. The learned District Munsif points out that the petitioner did not establish that the 1st respondent was not released earlier than five years prior to 23rd May, 1959 ; in brief, that is the ground upon which the learned District Munsif came to the conclusion that the petition need not be allowed.
3. But it is a fact within the exclusive knowledge of the 1st respondent when he was released as he must have been released anterior to the actual date of expiry of the sentence according to the calendar, because of several remissions that could be earned by persons undergoing imprisonment. Learned Counsel for the revision petitioners (Sri Ramaswami) now states, with reference to records just made available to him, that the 1st respondent was actually released on 7th March, 1955. If that be correct, the bar of disqualification would operate. For this reason, I am constrained to allow the revision to the extent of setting aside the order of the learned District Munsif, and remitting the matter for further disposal. The petitioners may now produce in Court the authentic record in their possession, alleged to show that the 1st respondent was released on 7th March, 1955. It will be for the 1st respondent then to controvert this by claiming that he was released earlier than five years prior to 21st May, 1959 and to prove that fact.
4. That really disposes of the Revision Petition. But the learned District Munsif has also held that the offences for which the 1st respondent was convicted and sentenced did not involve ' moral delinquency ' within the scope of Section 16(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act. In so holding the learned District Munsif has referred to Section 55(1) of the Madras District Boards Act, which contains a similar disqualification, but excepts both ' political' offences and offences not involving 'moral delinquency ' from the operation of the rule of exclusion.
5. The learned District Munsif appears to have succumbed to a fallacy, in dealing with this aspect of the matter before him. Apparently, he was under the impression that offences ' involving moral delinquency' form a specific category of offences, as enacted somewhere in the corpus of the criminal law. He says:
The 1st respondent was not convicted for any offence involving moral delinquency, but for specific offences under the Indian Penal Code.
6. But, this fallacy apart, it is certainly difficult to define what is an offence involving ' moral delinquency', and when an offence does not involve that element. The point is bare of authority. Learned Counsel for the 1st respondent argues that any offence of a ' political' complexion would not involve moral delinquency, but only an offence which amounts to some form of private crime, such as theft, rape, robbery, dishonest misappropriation or extortion. Not merely am I unable to agree, but I may point out that this begs the whole question. For, we shall then have necessarily to be embroiled in the argument what a ' political' offence is, and that, would be even more difficult to define. In my view, applying the approach of negative exclusion, which may be fruitful in such cases, it is clear enough that all technical and formal offences, and offences not involving mens rea would be automatically excluded. Next, an offence like a rash and negligent act causing the death of a person, may be presumably excluded, for, though rashness and negligence are states of mind, they do not involve a guilty intention, and are not states of mind per se transgressing the moral law. But where such an offence as criminal conspiracy, or waging war against an established Government (Government of India) (Section 121, Indian Penal Code) is committed, it is very difficult to accept the validity of the decision that ' moral delinquency' is not involved, because the motive is not personal but political. After a careful consideration of this aspect, I am inclined to feel that any grave criminal offence, which involves an element of guilty knowledge, and which thus transgresses the majesty of the law of crimes, will necessarily involve also an element of ' moral delinquency ' because of its anti-social content. To hold otherwise would admit in the application of the definition, a chaos of relativity. I am somewhat fortified in this view by certain observations in the ' Law Lexicon' of P. Ramanatha Aiyar (1940 edition) under the item or category ' moral turpitude ' It is observed therein:
If parties intend such wrong, as where they conspire against the public interest by aggreeing to violate the law or some rule of public policy, the act doubtless involves moral turpitude.
Unfortunately, the Judgment in S.C. No. 117 of 1951 is not now available, but the facts of the convictions and sentences are not in dispute. It may be that the offences were committed out of bitter enmity to the Government established by law, and not out of spite against individuals. 'But, the element of moral delinquency is indisputably present, particularly where grave violence was sought to be employed and law and order subverted.
7. Under the circumstances, the petition is allowed and the matter remitted for recording of further evidence and for disposal by the Court below, in the light of the foregoing observations. No costs.