Imam and Chapman, JJ.
1. At the time of the alleged offences the petitioner was a sazawal of the Bettiah Raj and was entrusted with the work, of collecting rents from the tenants of the Raj. Three tenants are said to have been cheated by him while he was so engaged in the collection of rents. They laid three separate complaints against him before the Magistrate; who, purporting to act under Section 234 of the Criminal Procedure Code, tried the petitioner for the three offences at one trial and framed only one charge, setting out only one offence of cheating in respect of all the three complainants.
2. If the Magistrate had treated the three complaints as complaints of distinct offences and had drawn up three separate charges, the procedure would have been without defect. There was no obstacle to the disposal of all three cases at one trial. There was no misjoinder and no contravention of any law limiting the joinder of offences in one indictment: Subramanya Ayyar v. King-Emperor (1901) I.L.R. 25 Mad. 61.
3. The defect is one of 'duplicity,' not of misjoinder: Archbold's Pleading, Edn. 1910, page 76. It was not the mode of trial that was wrong; it was merely the form of the charge.
4. The law on this subject, in the words of the Code of Criminal Procedure, is as follows: 'For every distinct offence... there shall be a separate charge, but no finding or sentence... shall be deemed invalid merely on the ground that no charge was framed, or shall be reversed or altered on account of any error, omission or irregularity in the charge unless a failure of justice has been occasioned.' It seems clear, therefore, that it is not open to us to hold that the trial was bad merely upon the ground of the omission to draw up a separate charge for each offence.
5. We are of opinion that the petitioner clearly understood what he was being tried for, and was not in any way prejudiced. Moreover, he made no objection at the time of the trial (see Explanation to Section 537).
6. The result is that we see no reason to interfere with the conviction. The sentence was, however, too, severe. It is reduced to nine months' rigorous imprisonment. The sentence of fine, or imprisonment in default, will stand.