1. The present rule is directed against the conviction and sentence of the petitioner passed under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for having furnished false information in a Road-cess return which he submitted to the Collector under Section 14 of the Road Cess and Public Works Cess Act (IX, B.C. of 1880).
2. Nobody appears to oppose this rule and after reading the explanation which has been submitted by the Magistrate, we are of opinion that the rule must be made absolute.
3. The learned Magistrate has held that the object of the petitioner in furnishing the false information in the return was to support a civil suit. The Magistrate has, however, failed to realise that under Section 95 of the Act such a return is admissible in evidence against the person making it, but is not admissible in evidence in his favour. The object, therefore, for which the Magistrate finds that the false information was given in the return appears to us to fail. No doubt, Section 94 of the Act provides for the prosecution of a person who furnishes false information to a public servant in any return. it is, however, clear from the provisions of that and other sections in the Code that their object was to secure that the person submitting a return should not submit one in which he undervalued his property for the purposes of the Road Cess and Public Works Cess.
4. In the present instance the allegation against the petitioner is that he falsely represented rent payable to him in respect of his subordinate holding to be in excess of that which the tenant was actually bound to pay. No doubt, in this case the Deputy Magistrate has found on the evidence that the information contained in the return was false. But it seems that the petitioner has brought a suit in the Civil Court to establish that the allegation made by him in the return is true, that is to say, that the holding is held under him by Raham Ali at a rental of Rs. 2 per annum and not by Rajani at a rental of annas 8. The provisions of Section 177 are to the effect that a person giving the false information furnishes as true information which he knows or has reason to believe to be false. In this case the fact that the petitioner is bringing a suit on the basis of the allegation that the information is true, does not, in our opinion, support the view that he knew or had reason to believe it to be false, even though the Deputy Magistrate on reviewing the evidence may have come to the conclusion that the information was not true. Section 20 of the Act precludes a person from suing for the recovery of rent at a higher rate then, what is mentioned in the return; and it is evident that the petitioner, if he had filed a return showing his rental to be annas eight contrary to the allegation made in his suit, would have stultified himself and in fact would have precluded himself from recovering rent at the amount which he declared to be due to him.
5. In these circumstances we are of opinion that the provisions of Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code cannot be applied to a case such as the present. We, therefore, make the rule absolute, set aside the conviction and sentence passed upon the present petitioner under that section and direct that the accused be discharged from prison if he is still in custody or if he is on bail, be discharged from the bail on which he has been enlarged.