1. The matter before us relates to proceedings before the Magistrate, which have arisen out of proceedings before a Deputy Collector under the Land Acquisition Act (I of 1894).
2. The two petitioners put in claims to compensation for certain lands taken under that Act, and they have now been charged with offences which may shortly be described as forgery and perjury in making and attempting to substantiate those claims. The Deputy Collector was unusually dilatory in those proceedings, and apparently was unfavourably disposed in respect to those claims, and be abstained from making any award or reference to the Civil Court, although he was pressed to do so by the petitioners. The petitioners then moved the District Collector who sent for the record, and it would seem that the orders for the prosecution of the petitioners, though subsequently passed by the Deputy Collector, were at the suggestion of the District Collector. The Deputy Collector, on 9th September, passed orders under Section 195 of the Code of Criminal Procedure giving sanction to the prosecution of the petitioners for certain offences set out in his order, those offences having been committed in or relating to the proceedings taken by him under the Land Acquisition Act, and he at the same time reported this to the District Magistrate 'for necessary action.' The District Magistrate then took cognizance of these offences. He issued warrants for the arrest of the petitioners for certain specified offences he made over the cases to be tried separately to various Magistrates subordinate to him; he directed in respect to one of these cases that the Magistrate should commit to the Court of Session, if he finds the evidence sufficient,' and by another order of the same date he directed that bail should, not be accepted 'as the offences are not bailable.' The petitioners then moved ibis Court to quash these proceedings as void and contrary to law, and they also asked in the alternative that the cases might be transferred to another District away from the influence of this District Magistrate.
3. A rule was granted only to consider the matter of transfer of the cases.
4. Mr. Jackson, who appeared for the petitioners in placing the facts of this matter before us, has renewed this application for quashing the proceedings. We propose to consider all the matters raised, and we find no difficulty in doing so, as although there is no appearance against the rule, the District Magistrate in an explanation submitted deals seriatim with all the objections raised in the petition on which the rule was granted.
5. Now as regards the rule for a transfer of the trial of these cases to another District we may at once say that we think that no sufficient grounds are shown for supposing that the Magistrates in whose Courts they are, will not try them fairly on their merits. The District Magistrate, both in that capacity and also as District Collector, has no doubt taken a prominent part in these proceedings. As we have already stated, as District Collector he has, we think, had some share in instigating the order passed by the Deputy Collector sanctioning the prosecution of the petitioners. After that sanction had been given under Section 195 of the Code of Criminal Procedure the copy of the order was sent to the same officer, who held both the offices of District Collector and District Magistrate 'for necessary action.' Now this was a very unusual proceeding, and it was also very irregular. Sanction under Section 195 of the Code of Criminal Procedure should be given only on application made for it by some person who may desire to complain of the particular offence, and whose complaint could not be entertained without such sanction. We need only refer to In the matter of Banarsi Dass (1896) I.L.R., 18 All., 213, and Baperam Surma v. Gouri Nath Butt (1892) I.L.R., 20 Cal., 474, amongst several authorities for this, if any authority be necessary for such an obvious practice. We cannot find that any application for sanction was made. Indeed, the order of the Deputy Collector of 9th September and his subsequent order of 18th idem indicates that he acted proprio motu. The latter order passed after his report of the 9th September to the District Magistrate 'for necessary action' shows that he had a doubt whether that order was a proper order under Section 195, Code of Criminal Procedure, and it also shows his desire by referring to Section 476 to legalise 'any necessary action' that the Magistrate might take. But action had already been taken by the District Magistrate, and this could not be affected by any subsequent order of the Deputy Collector. It will be necessary again to refer to this matter. It is sufficient at present to repeat that sanction under Section 195 was given proprio motu by the Deputy Collector, and without application for it by any person desiring to make a, complaint regarding these offences. As to what followed we do not mean to say that the District Magistrate was not competent under Section 190(1)(c) to take cognizance of the offence, but as the matter was then before him he was competent to do so only on sanction properly given, and there was no proper sanction. Consequently he was not in a proper position to act. That, however, would affect the validity of the proceedings, which will be hereafter considered. But taking it that he was competent to institute the prosecution and to make over the cases for inquiry or trial to certain Subordinate Magistrates, is there sufficient ground for holding that the proceedings before such Magistrates will not be fairly and properly conducted, that they are so far dominated by the opinion recorded by the District Magistrate, and the part he has already taken in this matter, as to lead us to believe that these Magistrates will not exercise a fair and independent judgment in dealing with the evidence given before them? The District Magistrate has, no doubt, improperly dictated to one of these Magistrates that he should 'commit one case to the Court of Session, if he finds that the evidence is sufficient,' and he has refused to admit the petitioners to bail. In both instances the order was erroneous. In the first case, as one of the charges was triable by a Magistrate, as well as the Court of Session, commitment would not necessarily follow, if a prima facie case had been established. In the other case the offences were all bailable, but in this respect on application made to him the Sessions Judge has under Section 498 of the Code of Criminal Procedure admitted both of the petitioners to bail. At any rate we are not prepared to say that with this expression of opinion these Magistrates would so far fail in their duty as Judicial Officers as to be biased in their judgment so as to show incapacity to fill their offices. We may add that there is nothing on the record to show that they have in any way acted in these cases. We, therefore, see no sufficient ground to transfer these cases to another District.
6. And now to consider the matter on its merits.
7. Sanction under Section 195 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, we have already stated, was improperly granted by the Deputy Collector proprio motu. In the next place the matter could not be dealt with under Section 476. A Deputy Collector acting under the Land Acquisition Act is not a Judicial Officer. He cannot be properly regarded as a Revenue Court within the terms of Section 476. The District Magistrate is wrong in maintaining that the proceedings of the Deputy Collector under the Land Acquisition Act are regulated by the Code of Civil Procedure, or that the Deputy Collector was right in requiring the petition put in by the petitioners now before us to be verified in accordance with that Code, so as to make any false statement punishable as perjury. Section 53 of the said Land Acquisition Act sufficiently indicates this. It declares that the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply to all proceedings before the Court under that Act. But the context clearly shows that by this expression 'the Court,' a Collector is not included. The whole of Part VIII of the Act in which Section 53 appears distinguishes between orders and proceedings by or before a Collector and those by or before a Judge or Court. There is no authority that we can find given to a Collector to administer an oath or to require a verification. The nature of his duties also shows this. He can pass no final order of any sort save with the consent of the parties. We observe that amongst the matters charged is the making of a false verification. It is a false statement made under a verification that constitutes an offence punishable under Section 193, not a verification on oath or by solemn affirmation. We may also point out here that what may be found to be an exaggeration or overestimate of the value of land cannot properly constitute a false statement denounced as an attempt to cheat, which would demand a prosecution for perjury, and the fact that some years before the land was offered for sale at a much lower price is no sufficient ground for imputing such an offence. The Deputy Collector, not being a Judicial Officer, when acting under the Land Acquisition Act, could not as a judicial officer take cognizance of any of the offences mentioned in his order.
8. There is also another objection to the present proceedings. The Deputy Collector is not in a position to pass any final order in the matter of value of the land or the right to claim the price fixed. A party dissatisfied can claim a reference to the Civil Court, whose duty it is to settle the matter in dispute judicially. The petitioners claimed the right to such a reference and to subject them to a Criminal prosecution when the matters on which the Deputy Collector had formed an opinion as a Revenue Officer under the Land Acquisition Act must be submitted for the determination of a Court was obviously premature and improper. Such a proceeding was almost certain to operate very prejudicially towards them in the trial before the Civil Court of the same matters.
9. If the District Magistrate had acted under Section 190(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure--and that is not the case before us--it would have been for us to consider whether, having regard to the fact that the Civil Court will be called upon to adjudicate on these matters, his action was sustainable.
10. For all these reasons we are of opinion that the trials ordered by the District Magistrate do not proceed on proper grounds in point of law, and also that there are at present no sufficient grounds for such trials. 'We accordingly declare the order of the Deputy Collector of the 9th and 18th September to be null and void, and we set aside the order of the District Magistrate, dated 9th September, which is based on those orders.