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Satyaranjan Bakshi and anr. Vs. King-emperor - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Reported inAIR1927Cal698,103Ind.Cas.771
AppellantSatyaranjan Bakshi and anr.
RespondentKing-emperor
Excerpt:
- .....124a, i. p. c. ; secondly, that if it is alleged that there is in the article an imputation of motive, the motive, such as is to be discerned in it is a motive attributed to parliament and the british foreign office and that, if that is so, it is not an offence under section 124a, i. p. c., read with section 17 thereof ; thirdly, that the learned magistrate was clearly in error in admitting in evidence articles published in the ''forward' newspaper on dates sub-sequent to the 7th july 1926, and, lastly, that the sentences imposed on the appellants are out of all proportion, if they should be found guilty of having committed an offence punishable under section 124a, i. p. c.4. we have had the advantage of hearing mr. basu at great length on behalf of the appellants and mr. advocate.....
Judgment:

C.C. Ghose, J.

1. This is an appeal by two persons named Satyaranjan Bakshi and Pulin Behary Dhar, who have been, convicted by the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta under Section 124A, I.P.C., and sentenced as follows; namely, the appellant 1 to suffer rigorous imprisonment for a period of three months and to pay a fine of Rs. 300 and, in default, to undergo one month's rigorous imprisonment and appellant 2 to pay a fine of Rs. 250 and, in default, to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two months. Appellant 1 is the editor and appellant 2 is the printer of a newspaper published in Calcutta called the 'Forward.' They were charged under Section 124A, I.P.C., for having brought or having attempted to bring into hatred or contempt and for having excited or having attempted to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in British India, by editing, printing and publishing respectively an article entitled 'Anarchy' 'in Pabna in the issue of the Forward newspaper dated the 7th July 1926.

2. The article in question will have to be dealt with in detail later on. But it may be observed at this stage that, according to the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate, the first paragraph of the article contains a sneer at Government and at the services through which it works. The second paragraph is described by the learned Magistrate as an attack on the policy of the then Acting Governor of Bengal and, in his opinion, it contains a sneer at the impartiality of the bureaucracy; and the third paragraph, which is the final paragraph, is to the effect, according to the learned Magistrate, that the Governor or the Acting Governor takes his cue from the Government in Whitehall, where the Hindu-Moslem strife is a trump card in the hands of the British Imperialists and that the bureaucracy here know what policy they are expected by the Parliament to follow. The offending article, as stated above, was published on the 7th July 1926, at a time when a serious outbreak of lawlessness had taken place in the district of Pabna.

3. It is argued, on behalf of the appelants, first, that the article read as a whole and given a fair meaning, is not seditious within the mischief of Section 124A, I. P. C. ; secondly, that if it is alleged that there is in the article an imputation of motive, the motive, such as is to be discerned in it is a motive attributed to Parliament and the British Foreign Office and that, if that is so, it is not an offence under Section 124A, I. P. C., read with Section 17 thereof ; thirdly, that the learned Magistrate was clearly in error in admitting in evidence articles published in the ''Forward' newspaper on dates sub-sequent to the 7th July 1926, and, lastly, that the sentences imposed on the appellants are out of all proportion, if they should be found guilty of having committed an offence punishable under Section 124A, I. P. C.

4. We have had the advantage of hearing Mr. Basu at great length on behalf of the appellants and Mr. Advocate General on behalf of the Crown. Mr. Advocate-General has contended that the article in question is nothing more nor less than as follows : in the opening paragraph attention is called to the situation in, Pabna, where, as is stated above, there had been a very serious outbreak of lawlessness, and it is sarcastically remarked that although the Government has an efficient police and an efficient Civil Service, nothing had been done to check the lawlessness which was prevalent at the time in Pabna, and that the Government had been singularly inactive in its primary duty of maintaining law and order. In the second paragraph, according to Mr. Advocate-General, the writer argues that the situation in Pabna is inexplicable having regard to the fact that a tried and accomplished administrator in the person of Sir Hugh Stephen-son--the Acting Governor of Bengal,--is at the head of affairs, unless it be that Sir Hugh Stephenson is following what is described as the 'Favourite wife policy,' and that; he has an object behind the inaction of his government, namely to encourage communal tension so that a scheme described as Sir Abdur Rahim's scheme of forming a Moslem-block in the Bengal Legislative Council may be effectuated. In the third paragraph, according to Mr. Advocate-General, the argument of the writer is that there is nothing strange whatsoever in the action or inaction of the local Government seeing that the policy of Parliament and the British Foreign Office is to set the two communities, Hindu and Moslem, by the ears, and thereby indefinitely postpone the realization of self-Government or Swaraj which, if it once come to existence, would make the Civil Service and the Executive completely responsible to an elected legislature.

5. Mr. Advocate-General contends that the meaning of the article is to be collected from the whole article itself and that, if one reads the article as a whole, one cannot but come to the irresistible conclusion that the writer was leading up to this, namely, that there was behind the action or inaction of the Government a deeply laid motive which was a dishonourable one and inconsistent with the elementary duties of a Government and he argues that if, as a matter of fact, an improper motive has been attributed to Government for its action or inaction in the matter of the disturbances in Pabna, the article does come within the mischief of Section 124A, I. P. C., and, therefore, is not protected by any of the exceptions and, in particular, by Excep. (2) to the said section.

6. Now, so far as Section 124A, I. P. C. is concerned, its interpretation is now settled and has been so settled for some time past according to a long series of judicial decisions in India. As is well known, the section itself, although drafted by the first Indian Law Commissioners, did not find place in Lord Macaulay's original draft of the Indian Penal Code, but was added to the Code itself in 1870 at the instance of the late Sir James Fitzjames Stephens. The law, as codified in India, represents in sub-stance the English law of sedition, although, as has been stated in one of the judgments to which our attention was called, ' much more compressed and more distinctly expressed.'

7. Now, in a charge under Section 124A, I. P.C., the prosecution must prove to the hilt that the intention of the writer or the speaker, whoever he may be, is to bring or attempt to bring into hatred or contempt or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in British India. The essence of the crime of sedition, therefore, consists in the intention with which the language is used and the Magiytrate has correctly stated that what is rendered punishable by Section 124A, I. P. C., is the intentional attempt, successful or otherwise, to rouse as against Government the feelings enumerated in the section, and that a mere tendency in an article to promote such feelings is not sufficient to justify a conviction ; in other words, as indicated above, the prosecution must bring home to the accused that his intention was as is described in the section itself. The intention of a writer or a speaker, however, has to be gatheied from the language used in the particular article or speech which is the subject-matter of the charge. When a man is charged in respect of anything that he has written, the meaning of what he wrote must be taken, as Sir Lawrence Jenkins said in a case decided in Bombay, to be his meaning, and that meaning is what his language would be understood to mean by the people to whom it is addressed. The article in the present case is in the English language, and obviously it is addressed to people who have a fair and working acquaintance with the English language.

8. But, while the intention is to be judged from the language itself, the offending article must be read as a whole in a fair free and liberal spirit. It has been said that one should not pause upon an objectionable sentence here, or a strong word there, but that the article as a whole should be dealt with in a spirit of freedom and should not be viewed with an eye of narrow and fastidious criticizm but, as has been said in another case, should be viewed in a free, bold, manly and generous spirit towards the accused. As we read the cases to which our attention was drawn during the course of the argument, the expression in the section ' calculated to bring into hatred or contempt or excite or attempt to excite disaffection ' must, as a rule of construction, be very narrowly construed so as to interfere as little as possible with the liberty of the subject and the freedom of speech. In one of the cases to which Mr. Basu drew our attention, it is said that every man has a right to give every public matter a candid, full and free discussion ; but, although people have a right to discuss grievances, they must not do so in a way calculated to excite tumult ; in other words, if a party publishes any matter in a newspaper, and it contains no more than a calm, dispassionate and quiet discussion showing possibly a little feeling in the man's mind, that will not be sedition ; but if the article goes beyond and attributes improper and dishonest or corrupt motive, and thereby is calculated to excite tumult, then it is sedition.

9. Bearing these principles in mind, we have anxiously, and with such care as we are capable of, considered the article in question. The first paragraph taken by itself does not, in our opinion, offend against Section 124A, I. P. C. The writer was obviously entitled to draw attention to the state of things in Pabna and to comment, if the facts were true, on the inaction of the Government severely and even sarcastically. But the paragraph in question cannot be isolated from the rest of the article nor can the two other succeeding paragraphs be isolated and dissected for discussion apart from what is contained in para. 1 of the article. Mr. Basu argues that what the writer has said, stripped of verbiage, is this : namely that the administrators in India are fond of following the policy of ' Divide and Rule ' compendiously described as the ' Favourite Wife Policy,' and that, for the purpose of securing a majority in favour of Government in the Legislative Council of the province, the Government has chosen to be inactive, notwithstanding the fact that the disturbances in Pabna, to which reference had been made in an earlier part of the article, had taken place and that there was nothing to wonder at the attitude of the Acting Governor because the established policy of the Parliament and the British Foreign Office was to promote discord between the Hindu and Moslem communities,

10. Mr. Basu's point is that, if a motive has at all been ascribed to the Local Government, it is a motive which is commonly attributed by one political party to its opponent and that the attribution of a motive of this description does not bring the writer within the mischief of Section 124A, I. P. C. As we have said we have very fully considered this matter not only because of its wide and intrinsic importance to the question of freedom of discussion but also on account of its importance so far as the appellants are concerned and we have come to the conclusion that the Article in question, taken as a whole, does offend against the provisions of Section 124A I.P.C. The very cases to which Mr. Basu drew our attention show unmistakeably that while a very large amount of latitude is and must be allowed to writers in the public press, the interests of the State must at the same time be not Io3t sight of and that writers cannot under the guise of criticizm of public affairs be allowed to indulge in attributing base, improper or dishonest motives to those who carry on the work of the government of the country. If the writer had merely said that administrators follow the policy of 'Divide and Rule' in India that perhaps by itself, could not come within Section 124A, but in this case, there can be no doubt whatsoever - and we say this after repeated perusals of the article - that a distinctly improper motive has been astributed to Government when the writer said that the whole business namely the inaction of the Government was one of political manouveairing caclulated to secure an advantage to Government in the Bengal Legislative Council.

11. We shall not fail to take note of the act, as the concluding portion of our judgment will show, that the article was written at a time of great public excitement and that the writer was penning his article in an exasperated mood. But these considerations will go towards the mitigation of sentence and they do not and cannot be held to constitute an excuse for the article in question. Therefore, on Mr. Basu's first point, we are of opinion that the article does come within the mischief of Section 124A, I.P.C.

12. As regards Mr. Basu's second point, namely that, if a motive has been attributed at all, it has been so attributed against the British Parliament and the British Foreign Office and not against the Government in this country, the third paragraph of the article taken with the two previous paragraphs constitutes a sufficient refutation of it. It is an argument which has no foundation of any substance whatsover to sustain it. The answer to the second point really disposes of Mr. Basu's third point.

13.. As regards the fourth point : Mr. Advocate-General at the very outset intimated to us that he did not propose to rely on any other article which was subsequently published in the 'Forward' newspaper. We need not, therefore, take any notice of the fact that articles subsequent to the 7th July 1926 published in the 'Forward' newspaper have been allowed to be admitted in evidence. They should not have been admitted in evidence.

14. Lastly, there is the question of sentence. The object of the Crown in instituting proceedings of this nature is not to take vindictive action. The cases in England show that sedition is and has always been considered as a very serious1 offence. But while it is a serious offence many factors have got to be taken into consideration in awarding punishment and, on a full consideration of everything that has been argued before us and having perused the entire record, we are of opinion that the ends of justice will be sufficiently met if we reduce the sentence of imprisonment imposed on appellant 1, Satyaranjan Bakshi from the period of three month's rigorous-imprisonment to a period of a fortnight's simple imprisonment and alter the fine to one of five hundred rupees and, in default, to suffer simple imprisonment for a period of two months. As regards appellant 2, Pulin Behary Dhar the fine will be reduced from two hundred and fifty rupees to a sum of one hundred rupees and, in default one month's simple imprisonment. With this modification, the appeal will be dismissed.

15. Appellant, Satyaranjan Bakshi, must surrender to his bail and serve out the sentence now imposed on him.


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