1. The facts of the case out of which this appeal has arisen are briefly these: One Jagadish Ch. Bose, a child of 12 was arrested on 7th July 1930. The charge against him apparently was that he caused obstruction in Harrison Road by distributing leaflets. He was further charged under Section 12, Press Act, with publishing a paper which was not in conformity with the rules contained in Section 3, Press Act, namely that there did not appear on it the names of the printer, the press of printing and the publisher. He was produced before the Magistrate on 8th July. It does not appear that any attempt was made to communicate to his parent or guardian. It was then ordered by the Magistrate that a medical officer would examine him on 10th July. This examination, I understand, was for the purpose of determining his age. On the 10th he was apparently examined by the Medical Officer who declared that he was 12 years old. The order then passed was 'tomorrow for evidence. Accused as before. The father or guardian to appear.' On 11th July the order is:
Accused Jagadish Ch. Bose pleads guilty to the charge under Section 233, I. P.C., and under Section 12, Press Act, as per details in police challan which are read over to him. Summon his father to show cause why he should not pay fine, if imposed under Section 25, Bengal Children Act. Put up on 15th July. Accused as before.
2. On 15th July 1930 the father of the accused appeared and showed cause which was not considered satisfactory and he was directed to pay Rs. 50, the fine imposed upon the accused, under Section 25, Bengal Children Act. Section 20, Bengal Children Act, provides that
when a child or young person is charged with any offence or when a child is brought before a Court on an application for an order to send him to an industrial school, his parent or guardian may, in any case and shall, if he can be found and resides within a reasonable distance and the person so charged or brought before the Court is a child, be required to attend at the Court before which the case is heard, during all the stages of the proceedings, unless the Court is satisfied that it would be unreasonable to require his attendance.
3. Now it does not appear in the present case that any attempt was made to comply with this section of the Act. All we find is that on 10th July the order is:
The father or guardian to appear.' It has been suggested that the father was present in Court. Clearly, if that were so, the form of order would not have been: 'The father or guardian to appear'. If he had been present in Court the Court would obviously have known whether he was father or guardian, for it is a fact which could have been at once ascertained from him. It does not appear however that any notice was sent to him to appear or any attempt made to insure his attendance. The next order which was passed on 11th July is:Accused Jagadish Ch. Bose pleads guilty to the charge under Section 283, I. P.C., and under Section 12, Press Act.
4. Now when we read this we must remember that the accused in question was a boy of 12, apparently undefended and with no one to assist him. He pleads guilty. I asked Mr. Bhattacharji as to what the proceedings were in which he pleaded guilty. I was told that the police challan was read over to him and he was asked to say whether he pleaded guilty. What a boy of 12 could understand of the police challan when read to him I am unable to understand. The charge was of causing obstruction in Harrison Road by distributing leaflets. Whether a boy of 12 can understand the meaning of obstruction or whether a boy of 12 understands the charge under Section 12, Press Act is, I should think, very doubtful. It is quite clear to me that some effort should have been made by the Magistrate in the absence of the accused's parent or guardian or any legal adviser to explain to the boy what he was charged with and also the meaning of pleading guilty to them. Instead of merely recording a plea of guilty he should have ascertained from the boy what he had to say and made it clear that the boy understood what was going on. The trial was, to my mind, conducted in a quite unsatisfactory and perfunctory way. If this is the way the Magistrates understand their duties under the Children Act the sooner they alter their opinion the better. This is not the way for a Magistrate to deal with an offence against a child of 12. In my opinion the Magistrate has entirely failed to comply with the provisions or the spirit of the Children Act and the trial of the case was conducted in a most unsatisfactory manner. I have no alter- native in the circumstances but to set aside the conviction and sentence.
5. The question that remains then is whether I should order a retrial. In the circumstances of the case I do not think that I should direct the child to be tried over again. I am not concerned with the contents of the leaflet. I think it is highly improbable that the child himself realized that he was committing any offence in distributing the leaflets or that a child of that age realized that such leaflets should have borne the names of the publisher, printer or of other people. Even if he be found guilty in this particular case the fine would certainly be a small one and the accused has been sufficiently punished for any offence that he might have committed by his trial. Therefore in the circumstances of the case I do not direct a retrial.
6. The accused Jagadish Ch. Bose is therefore acquitted.