1. The accused Prodyot Kumar Bhattacharji was tried by three Commissioners appointed under the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1925 on charges under Sections 302/120-B, 302/34 and 302/114, I.P. C, and also under Section 19(f), Arms Act. The Commissioners unanimously found him guilty under Section 302/120-B, I.P.C., and also under Section 302-34, I.P. C, and convicted him accordingly under the said two sections. As regards the charge under Section 302/114, I.P. C, the Commissioners stated that having regard to their finding on the said other two charges they did not convict him under this charge and the accused was thereupon acquitted of the charge under Section 302/114, I.P.C. As regards the charge under Section 19(f), Arms Act, the accused was found guilty and convicted accordingly. So far as the sentence on the accused was concerned two of the Commissioners were of opinion that having regard to the circumstances disclosed on the evidence on record nothing could be said in mitigation of the sentence of death and they accordingly directed that the accused should be hanged by the neck until he was dead. The other Commissioner Mr. J. De was of opinion that the ends of justice would be sufficiently met by the accused being sentenced to transportation for life. The dissenting Commissioner has purported to write a judgment differing from the majority of the Commissioners on the question of sentence and a question has been raised whether, having regard to the language of the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act 1925, and the rules made thereunder, the dissenting Commissioner was competent to write a separate judgment of his own. On this question we shall have something to say later on.
2. After the conclusion of the trial before the Commissioners the records of the proceedings were submitted to this Court by Mr. Burge, Deputy Magistrate, Midnapore and it has been argued before us by learned Counsel on behalf of the accused that Mr. Burge was incompetent to submit the records of the proceedings to the High Court and that the proper persons who could have submitted the records were the Commissioners and not the District Magistrate. It has been argued by learned Counsel for the accused that the reference is incompetent and that we cannot legally go into the question of the confirmation of the sentence of death passed on the accused and that the only course open to us is to retransmit the records to the place where from they were sent. This contention, in our opinion, has absolutely no substance and in this connexion we would content ourselves by drawing attention to Section 3(2), Bengal Criminal Law Amendment (Supplementary) Act, 1925, which runs as follows:
When the Commissioners pass a sentence of death the record of the proceedings before them shall be submitted to the High Court and the sentence shall not be executed unless it is confirmed by the High Court which shall exercise, in respect of such proceedings, all the powers conferred on the High Court by Chap. 27 of the Code.
3. (After considering the facts and discussing evidence the judgement proceeded). As stated above, we have examined the entire record from cover to cover with a single desire to find out the truth and we are bound to state that the prosecution has satisfactorily brought home to the accused his guilt in this matter. We are therefore in agreement with the Commissioners in holding that the accused has been rightly convicted under the sections referred to above including the section relating to the offence under the Arms Act. In coming to this conclusion we have not overlooked the significance of the medical evidence and the case for the prosecution that the bullets which killed Mr. Douglas were of 380 bore and that these were apparently not fired by the accused.
4. The only question that now remains for our consideration is the question of the sentence to be passed on the accused. Our attention has been drawn to what has been written by Mr. De-one of the Commissioners-in what he calls a dissenting judgment. We desire to make it plain that the trial being one under the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1925, the Commissioners were bound to follow the directions contained in the Act. It was, not a trial under the Criminal Procedure Code simpliciter before a tribunal of three Judges; it was a trial before a Special Tribunal under a Special Act and there is no room for the contention that there can be as many as two or three judgments in the case. The judgment that had to be pronounced was a judgment of the Tribunal, i.e. one single judgment embodying the findings and the views of the Commissioners who composed the Tribunal. If Mr. De did not agree with the other two Commissioners as regards the sentence to be imposed on the accused the only course that was open to him was to intimate to the other two Commissioners his views on the question of sentence and to leave it to the Tribunal to embody his views on the question of sentence in the course of the judgment which was to be pronounced by the Tribunal. He had no right whatsoever to write a separate judgment of his own, and what he did was clearly not contemplated by the law and was in every way irregular. But, be that as it may, we have allowed the learned Counsel for the defence to adopt what Mr. De has said as part of his argument and it need not be stated that we have considered the matter fully and with much anxious care.
5. The assessment of sentence in cases of this description is always beset with difficulties, but we desire to make it plain that there is no hard and fast rule that because the murderer is of what is called tender age he must necessarily escape the normal penalty prescribed by the law. Age is no doubt a circumstance to be taken into consideration, but this has got to be taken into consideration along with various other circumstances present on the record and to which attention may be drawn either by the prosecution or by the defence. The murder in this case was of an extremely cowardly character. The murdered man had not even a sporting chance. He was felled down and done to death while he was engaged in doing the duties imposed on him by virtue of his office as District Magistrate of Midnapore. He had done, as far as the present record goes, no injury to any human being and there was no earthly reason whatsoever as to why he should have been done to death unless it be that he was of alien origin and that therefore vengeance was to be wreaked on him on account of some vague, unknown, unsubstantial and indefinable grievance: see in this connection Exs. 1, 19, 14-22, 19, 21, 16 and 15. Remember also that this is not the first case of its kind. We are bound to take notice of the recrudescence of murders of this description. There is nothing on the record which can be urged in mitigation of sentence, although we have explored the whole of the record in our endeavours to find something or other in favour of the accused. We are of opinion that we should be failing in our duty if we refrained from confirming the sentence of death passed by the Commissioners.
6. The result therefore is that the sentence of death passed by the Commissioners is confirmed and the appeal preferred by the accused is dismissed.