1. The applicants who have obtained this Rule Nisi desire their prosecution for forgery and cheating to be quashed on the ground that it is in contravention of the provisions of Section 195, Criminal P.C., and also Section 54, Bengal Agricultural Debtors Act. A prosecution for forgery where a document has been used in Court can only be started on the complaint of that Court or one to which it is subordinate by reason of Section 195, Criminal P.C. Is the tribunal in this case a Court? He is the Appellate Officer set up under Section 40, Bengal Agricultural Debtors Act who has functions similar to those of Debt Settlement Boards from which appeals are brought. The purpose of these tribunals is to adjust debts between agricultural debtors and their creditors either by agreement or compulsorily, and then after adjustment to make an award in favour of the creditor, which award shall be enforced in certain specified ways. These tribunals are not intended to do justice according to law between debtor and creditor; they are intended to adjust the debt ac cording to the debtor's ability to pay. They are not Courts as defined in Section 195, Criminal P.C. Are they Courts within the ordinary meaning of the word?
2. There is an old definition and yet a comprehensive one by a great authority; it is that of Sir Edward Coke in his treatise Coke on Littleton 58-a where he says 'a Court is a place where justice is judicially ministered.' The functions of the debt settlement tribunals in the first instance or on appeal, however admirable their purpose, do not come within that wide definition. They are not Courts; they are what their names indicate, debt settlement tribunals. A similar conclusion in the case of Debt Settlement Boards as tribunals of first instance was reached by a Division Bench of this Court consisting of Khundkar and Edgley, JJ., on 1st March 1940, in Hari Charan Kundu v. Kaushi Charan Dey : AIR1940Cal286 .
3. It was next said that the production before the Appellate tribunal of mortgaged documents falsely endorsed as to the repayments comes within Section 54(a) Bengal Agricultural Debtors Act, namely, intentionally making a false statement in writing. The production of that document, if it was a false document, before the tribunal fraudulently or dishonestly, was something more than the offence set out in Section 54(a). Section 54 creates certain offences which are not included in the Indian Penal Code which may be committed by persons who go before Debt Settlement Boards and, whilst purporting to conform to the procedure there, attempt to deceive the Boards. The offences alleged here are something beyond that; they are offences of a more serious and general nature coming under the Indian Penal Code. Consequently, the permission of the Collector to commence prosecution in such an offence is not necessary. The result is that the Rule is discharged.
4. I agree.