1. This is an appeal preferred by fifteen accused who have been convicted of dacoity by the Sessions Judge of Saran agreeing with the opinion of both the assessors. The evidence principally is that of accomplices. An accomplice is a competent witness and there is no absolute rule of law which enacts that the conviction on the evidence of an accomplice is bad, but there is an established practice founded on the judicial experience of generations which requires corroboration by some untainted evidence, and that there should be a corroboration in a material particular pointing not only to the crime but to the participation of the accused in that crime. This rule has been disregarded to a large extent by the Sessions Judge. Perhaps it was not known to the assessors. We do not feel at liberty to disregard this rule, and the result is that as to seven of the accused it has to be conceded that there is not that evidence on which a Court of law, properly guided, would convict. Those accused are Siar Nonia accused No. 7, Dahori. Nonia accused No. 8, Badal Ahir accused No. 9, Kujan Kurmi accused No. 14, Ram Rup Ahir accused No. 17, Soudagar Tewari accused No. 18 and Sobha Bania accused No. 19. As against these seven accused the conviction and sentences must be set aside, they must be acquitted and we direct that they be released.
2. As against the other appellants, there is some amount of evidence independent of the testimony of the accomplices, and we have been assisted in the consideration of that evidence by the learned Vakil who appeared for Pitambar Ahir and brought to our notice matters relating to the other accused. The first of these is Munessar Ahir, and as against him it appears to us that there is evidence which is sufficient to sustain the conviction if it is believed. Now, with regard to the belief of this evidence we are in this position that we merely have a written record of it. The testimony was actually given before the Sessions Judge and the two assessors, and we must pay some regard to their appreciation of the evidence. They have believed this evidence and we see no reason to question the propriety of this appreciation. What we have said here applies to all the rest of the accused with one exception. That exception is Khedharu Nonia, for we feel that as against him it is not brought sufficiently homo to him that he was present at the scene of the occurrence. It is true that he was seen, but how far from the scene of occurrence does not appear. There is nothing to show that he was at any time so near it as to raise any presumption against him. We feel that as against him, there is no such corroboration as the law requires. As against him the conviction and sentence must be set aside and we direct that he be released.
3. As against the others, and in saying that we include Pitambar Ahir, we think there is sufficient evidence, and so far as they are concerned, we accept the view of the Sessions Judge and the assessors and the appeals of those seven accused, that is, accused Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15 and 16, are dismissed.