1. This is an appeal from the judgment and sentence of the learned Sessions Judge of Shahabad who, agreeing with both the assessors, found the accused Jang Bahadur Lal guilty of the offence of using as genuine a false document, to wit, two rent receipts, and sentenced him to three years' rigorous imprisonment under Section 471, read with Section 467, Indian Penal Code.
2. We have had the evidence put before us and the judgment; of the learned Judge and we are of opinion that, apart from the questions of law which arise in the case, it would altogether be too dangerous to support this conviction on the evidence.
3. The case starts with a serious initial error in respect of the charge and that error seems to have been carried into the learned Judge's reasonings with regard to the user. Two documents are said to have been used which the accused knew to be forged. Now it might very well be that the decision of the Court would be that one of these documents was genuine and the other forged. In which case the charge as framed would entirely break down. The law is clear that there must be a separate count for every alleged item of perjury, or forgery, and this means that there must be independent evidence of user in the case of each document. Now what is the evidence in this case. The Assistant Settlement Officer says, that these two receipts were filed in support of the accused's claim, that his rent was Rs. 3 and not Rs. 3-12, and he says it does not appear whether the other receipts and papers i n the bundle were filed for that purpose or not, but he is convinced that they were not used. Now the patwari on whose evidence this case principally depends deposed that the accused took the papers out of his pocket in a bundle and threw them on the table in front of the Deputy. The Deputy was doing work in attestation camp surrounded by bamboos. The parties were outside the bamboos The Deputy Saheb took up all the receipts and saw them and asked me if I had granted them. I said I could say that if I saw them. I saw them and saw that the signatures on them were different and that they did not bear my signature or my father's signature or the malik's signature. Also the rent was less. They purported to be signed by Sheo Barat Singh and my father and two of them purported to be signed by me. None of the signatures were genuine. All the receipts filed by him at that time were forged.' He does not say under what circumstances the accused person was taxed with forgery and made what is held by the Judge to be unincriminating statement. But it is perfectly clear from his evidence that these documents were not tendered by the accused independently and that the Settlement Officer himself selected these two receipts for inquiry and discarded all others. It now turns out, according to the pattern's own evidence, that two of these documents at least are genuine, and it is clear from the Settlement Officer's evidence that the patwiri did not aver before him that any of the documents were forged except Exhibits Nos. 1 and 2. We then have it from the Settlement Officers evidence that he examined the patwari and the malik's son and that he then taxed this accused with forgery and he asked him to write the patwirrs name and the name of Sheo Barat. The accused did so and then the recollection of the Settlement Officer is not quite clear as to whether he asked the accused to sign his own name or not. But however that may be, the accused fell at his feet and asked the following words--'Hazur kasur map kiya jaya ab aisa kubhi nahin hoga.' Now this is not in itself an incriminating statement and the Settlement Officer does not say that he at the time was of opinion that the man had admitted these papers to be forgeries. He Siys that he is influenced by the man's conduct in thinking that the malik's statement as to the amount of rent is true: and that the raiyat's statement is false. But the words in themselves are not an admission of forgery or of using forged document. It is easy to understand that a man in the mofusil being suddenly asked to sign his name and the names of the people whose names he is alleged to have forged would ask to be excused. The statement in itself is certainly not a confessional statement.
4. Then we have looked at the handwriting, and it is difficult to say that this receipt Exhibit No. 1 or Exhibit No. 2 was not, as a matter of fact, signed by the former patwari the father of Ram Pergash. There is one Exhibit No. 15 which his son cannot deny is not in his handwriting; which would rather lead to the conclusion that they were signed by Brijnandun, the father of Ram Pergash. They certainly were rot signed by the accused; and the evidence of Sheo Barat who declared that a number of genuine documents were false and not in his handwriting, although his patwari proved that they rendered his evidence entirely worthless. We have, therefore, to rely entirely on the evidence of this patwari who contradicts the Settlement Officer on every point as regards the user of these documents.
5. Then there is the objection which the learned Judge feels to be a very grave one that from 1300 to 1315 this malik Sheo Barat says that no printed receipts were granted by him, but a still graver objection has not bfen noticed by the learned Judge that under the law he was compelled to keep counterfoil receipts whether printed or not, and he is unable to produce any counterfoil for that period. His statement, therefore, in regard to his own receipts is of very little value.
6. Then, again, as regards the question what the rent is, there is absolutely no evidence worth the name to show that it is Rs. 3-12-0 and not Rs. 3. The sehas are completely useless for that purpose. They contain no entry of Rs. 3-12-0 paid at any time by the accused; whereas they do contain an entry of Rs. 3 and another Rs. 1-14-0 having been paid by him on dates other than those of the receipts. The only way in which they can be used is that they omitted any reference to these two receipts. Rut it is not contended that the se has contain item by item every receipt that was granted. Mow, in support of the fact that the rent is Rs. 3-12-0 the only papers produced are the jamnbandi and those jamabandis are said to have been prepared from the sehas and a written account-book. As we have seen, the sehas throw no light on the matter and the written account-book is not produced, and its non-production is in no way explained. The learned Settlement Officer candidly admits that his opinion as regards the rate of rent was based almost entirely on the accused's conduct. That we need hardly say is not evidence upon which the question as to the rate of rent can be decided in a Civil Court, and we think it is quite open still to the parties to say that the rate of rent is not decided. The accused is young man of 20 years of age and was acting for his father. The fact that he threw all these documents in a bundle on the table raises a great doubt as to whether he was minutely acquainted with the contents of each of those documents. No doubt he is a young man of education and has general knowledge of his father's affairs; but his very conduct shows that he was startled and taken aback when he was charged with forgery in respect of these two documents. Had he gone there with the deliberate intention of using these papers he would have been prepared for this accusation and would have strenuously denied that they were forgeries and put the patwiri to the proof, and if he had done so, it would have been exceedingly difficult for the patwiri to prove that they were forgeries.
7. We, therefore, think for all these reasons that it would not be safe to uphold this con. viction and we, therefore, set aside the conviction and sentence and direct that the accused be acquitted and released.