1. This was a Rule calling on the District Magistrate of Backergunga to show cause why the conviction and sentence passed on the petitioners should not be set aside, or such other order passed as to this Court may seem fit on the ground that it is doubtful which of the petitioners, if any, is liable under Section 154, Indian Penal Code.
2. Now, the facts are that a certain Naib of the estate got up a riot in order to dispossess certain person by force. Four rioters were convicted. One of them was sentenced to one month's, and three others to two months' rigorous imprisonment. The first point, therefore, which we have to notice is that this riot appears not to have been in any sense a serious one. There is no doubt that under Section 154, Indian Penal Code, the owner or occupier of the land or any person having or claiming an interest in such land is punishable with fine not exceeding Rs. 1,000, if he or his agent or manager do not use all lawful means in their power to prevent it, and in the event of its taking place, use all lawful means in their power to disperse or suppress the riot, and if they, knowing or having reason to believe that such an offence is being or has been committed or is likely to be committed, do not give the earliest notice thereof in their power to the nearest Police station. In this case, it is admitted that the ladies themselves did not do or omit to do any of the things which are set out under Section 154. It was their agent or Naib who got up the riot, apparently to promote his own ends and who did not take any steps to prevent it or give notice to the Police station. The ladies, therefore, in this case or their adopted sons would be responsible for having appointed such an agent and for not having removed him.
3. The question, therefore, which arises in this case is as to who was responsible for the management of this estate and for the appointment of the officers under the estate. It is clearly proved by the general manager Mr. Savi that the three ladies, Siva Sundari Chowdhurani and two others, were fully responsible for these appointments; and that although their adopted Sons took some share in the active management of the estate, they are in no way responsible for the appointment of this Naib who created this riot. It seems to us impossible to punish in every case every person who has any interest in the land. The responsibility must depend upon the fact of the person who caused the riot being himself the person who has an interest in the land or an agent or manager of such person; and one of the facts to be proved was whose agent or manager the person who fomented the riot is. In this case we cannot trace the appointment of this Naib to any one else but the three ladies, and the conviction and sentence, therefore, against the two adopted sons, Dhakhinaranjan Roy Chowdhury, and Romesh Chandra Roy Chowdhury must be set aside and the fine, if paid, must be refunded.
4. Then, as regards the liabilities of the ladies; we think that in this case they must be considered to be jointly liable, although the case being one under the criminal law separate sentences have to be passed against each of them; and we think that in all these cases what should be considered is tin extent of the responsibility entailed upon the estate by the occurrence, for it would be manifestly inequitable that in a riot between two sets of zemindars where there are 100 co-owners on one side and one only on the other, that the one man should be fined Rs. 100 and the hundred men should be fined Rs 100 each, which seems to be the principle upon which the present case has been decided. We consider that a fine of Rs. 300 would amply meet the justice of this case.
5. We reduce the sentence on each of the ladies to a fine of one hundred rupees each, and in default one month's simple imprisonment. The Rule is so far made absolute and the balance of the fine, if paid, will be refunded.