1. The accused persona were placed on their trial with four others before the Sessions Judge of Howrah upon charges of forging, and conspiring to forge, currency notes. The Jury was unanimous in acquitting all the accused persons, and the leaned Judge accepted their verdict in regard to the other four, but referred the case as against these two men to this Court under the provisions of Section 307, Criminal Procedure Code.
2. A abort account of the incidents leading up to the trial will' help to make the case more intelligible. On March 18th, 1918, a forged currency note for Rs. 5 was tendered and accepted at Bagnan Railway Station, a station on the Bengal Nagpur Railway. When it was found that the note was spurious, it was sent to the Railway Police, and, later, Sub Inspector Panna Lal Roy of Bagnan Thana took up the enquiry. On April 1st, 1918, Panna Lal searched the house of the accused Anant at village Chandbag and found two five-rupee notes, one of which was forged, A man named Shibkali Chatterjee had given to Panna Lal the information which lead him to search Anant's house on April 1st, and the same man handed over to him on April 16th, a post card, marked Exhibt II, whish is said to establish a connection between Anant and Dhiraj. On April 19th, 1918, Inspector Darpa Narain Singh was placed in charge of the investigation. It is not necessary to follow all the details of his proceedings, but it may be remarked that by the time this trial was begun, the Police were in possession of no less than 84 forged notes of five rupees each, all taken, according to an expert, from the same block. On January 27th, 1949, Anant's house was searched a second time by Sub-Inspector Panna Lal Roy and this time the charred fragments of some five rupee notes are said to have been found. Anant was arrested and taken to the head-quarters of the Sub-division at Uluberia where he made a statement on the following day. He was remanded to custody, but released on bail on February 3rd and on February 13th he made a second statement. In the interval, he is said to have given information to the Police on various points. For the present, those are the principal points in the story against Anant.
2. Dhiraj Chandra Pal's family house is at a village called Bhowanipur, but he is said to live generally at the house of his father in law at Bhadreswar, A search was made of that house on January 27th, 1919, without result: then a second search was made on February 5th and this time it is said that inside a box were found some pearls wrapped in a piece of paper similar to the paper on which forged notes were printed. Dhiraj, it may be noted, was not present at this search. Then, as the result of the information supplied by Anant, the Inspector traced a man, named Lakhan, who had served in the house at Bhadreswar, to his home in Orissa. This Lakhan was brought to Calcutta, where he made some disclosures and on March 17th, he showed to the Police a tank into which the press had been thrown, and on the morning of the 18th the component parts of a press were recovered from the tank in the presence of witnesses. Those are the salient points in the story against Dhiraj.
3. Both the accused say that they are innocent of the charges preferred against them, Anant does not admit that the charred fragments were found in his house, on January 27th: he urges that the statements said to have been made by him are not admissible; and that the evidence given by Lakhan is the evidence of an accomplice and unworthy of credit. Dhiraj says that he knows nothing about the packet of pearls, and he does not claim the pearls; he denies having any correspondence with Anant; he also attacks the evidence of Lakhan, and he says he is in no way responsible for what was found in the tank. He also pleads that at the time when the notes were being forged--the last quarter of 1917--he was laid up with a broken leg at Bhowanipur.
4. Before dealing with the evidence, I may note that the expert's evidence is not challenged. The Police are in possession of a large number of forged notes, all having a common origin, and the charred fragments are fragments of forged notes similar to the uninjured forged cotes These facts, of course, do not in any way affect the accused. One other fast to be mentioned is that the forged note found in Anant's house in March 1918 is of the same origin. That by itself proves nothing more now than it did in 1918; but it will become significant if it be proved that, ten months later, he had five or more similar notes in his possession. Consequently, I think that the proper starting point in considering the evidence against Anant must be the house-search that took place on January 27th, 1919.
5. The witnesses to this search are the Sub Inspector and Rajani Kanta Chakravarty and Harihar Chatterjee; prosecution witness No. 15 also signed the search list, though he was not present during the search. One Shib Kali chatterjee also signed the search list and was present part of the time, but he has not been examined as a witness and is not to be confused with the other man of the same name (prosecution witness No. 50). This evidence has been criticised at great length. The point which impressed me most was this that if the story is true, Anant mast have tried to burn the forged notes directly after the arrival of the Police, and it seems surprising that at such early hour in the morning no one caught sight of the blaze, but as the walls are solid if the door were shut in time the light might have escaped notice. There are no doubt discrepancies in the evidence; but the charred fragments were undoubtedly brought out, of the kitchen and placed on a mat outside, The witnesses are perfectly clear on that point. They also say that the persons of the Sub-Inspector and of the witnesses were searched. The long delay that took place before Anant was marched off to the Thana is easily explained by the meticulous care with which the fragments were detailed in the search list. The result of the evidence, to my mind, is that we must either believe that the fragments were found as they are said to have been found, or we must hold that they were cunningly introduced into the kitchen by the Sub-Inspector. The first of these alternatives is, I think, proved by the evidence. The second involves overwhelming difficulties, namely, that the intended fraud must have been discovered when the Sub Inspector's person was searched, and that Anant would instantly have denounced the Sub Inspector, The second of these difficulties is the greater; Rajani, Harihar and Manmatha are not hostile to Anant, and the question was not put to them. The Sub-Inspector also was not asked whether he had gone to the house with the notes in his pocket, nor whether the accused had at once charged him with fraud, Lastly, there is the statement of the accused; he was asked by the Committing Magistrate on June 26th whether the fragments had been found by the Sub-Inspector in his oven, and his answer was 'Daroja babu katakguli kagae paiyachhilen: e tukragali taha nahe.' He said nothing further to the Judge These words can only mean that the Daroga found some pieces of paper and theh substituted the charred notes, but that is not the defense suggestion.
6. My conclusion is that the charred fragments of forged five rupee notes were found in Anant's kitchen in the manner alleged. It is his kitchen, and he is the only male inmate apparently.
7. Then we come to the statement made by Anant before Mr. Rahman on the following day. The objection taken on this statement is that it was made under pressure, and the pressure is said to consist of a threat by the Sub-Inspector to pat Anant's womenfolk to trouble. I think it mast be held on the prosecution evidence that the Sub-inspector spoke unwisely, but I cannot believe that a man of his experience was such a fool as to use the words 'baijat karibo' in public. the position, however, was that, unless Anant shouldered the responsibility, all who were in the house at; the time of the discovery might be accused and the only other inmates were his wife and mother. I think that fear may have worked on the mind of Anant, and may have been encouraged by the Sub Inspector in a subtle way in the hours that elapsed before Anant reached the Magistrate. In that view, I think that the statement is not admissible. The second statement, again, is said to be inadmissible because it resulted from inducement by the Inspector and Sub-Inspector. Shortly stated, the case is that Anant was led to believe that he would be offered a free pardon and examined as a witness. The evidence has been discussed elaborately; but I think the matter may be disposed of in a few words. After the statement on January 28th, Anant was sent to jail: an application for bail was refused abruptly, and at the instance of the Police. Then came a sudden change; Anant was released on February 3rd, on nominal bail: he went to Calcutta with Darpa Narayan, he showed the Inspector--it is said--Halder's shop and other places, in fact made him self thoroughly useful, and on February 13th he made a second statement much more detailed than the first, just the sort of statement that the Police like to have from a man who is to be used as an approver. It is difficult to believe that in those ten days he was not given to understand that a pardon was going to be offered to him on the condition that he betrayed his friends. In my opinion, therefore, the second statement made by Anant must also be rejected as inadmissible. I may say, in passing, that the omission to examine the Pleader Prabodh Chandra Chatterjee seems matter for regret.
8. With the confessions or statements ruled out of consideration, there remains the evidence of Thandaram and Kedar, the two coolies, and of Lakhan Jana. The evidence of the coolies loses its value by the rejection of the second confession, and I think it may be ignored. Lakhan says be was employed as a servant in the house of Dhiraj's father in-law at Bhadreswar, and he describes the actual making of the forged notes. His evidence is assailed as being that of an accomplice or at any rate, no better than that of an accomplice If his story is true, there can be no doubt that he was placed in an extremely awkward position, a position which would be embarrassing even to a man of scrupulous integrity. But that fact does not release him from the suspicion that must attach to a man who sees a wrong act done, and holds his peace for many months, and then tells his tale without any signs of reluctance. I think it would be dangerous to say that his evidence is free from taint and, therefore, I hold that it needs corroboration. Another point against him is that, since he was brought back from his home in Orissa he has been living under the same roof as the Inspector, and it is the Inspector who secured him his present employment. Those are facts which render it likely that Lakhan is anxious to help the Police,
9. The result of this consideration of the evidence is that, while I hold it proved that charred fragments of forged notes were found, as alleged, in the house of Anant, I am unable to hold that his share in the manufacture of the notes has been established.
10. Turning to the case of Dhiraj, the evidence is that of Lakhan Jana, supplemented by the finding of a press or parts of press near his house and of a piece of paper in his house, and the correspondence with Anant. The statement made by Anant may be left out of account entirely. Of Lakhan. I have already spoken: he needs corroboration as against Dhiraj just as much as against Anant. Now, there is no reason for doubting that parts of a press were found in a tank close to the house where Dhiraj was living in Bhadreswar, but the tank is accessible to others, and it seems that better hiding places might have been found. The paper in which the pearls were wrapped gives rise to suspicion, but I doubt whether more can be said than that. As for the correspondence with Anant, the most that can be said of it is, that it oroves a certain measure of intimacy between the two men.
11. The result is that, as against Dhiraj I think that the evidence is inadequate: it raises grave suspicion but nothing more.
12. In my judgment, the verdict of the Jury should be endorsed except in regard to the charge under Section 489-C against Ananta. I think the attention of the Jury was so much absorbed in the charge of general conspiracy, that they overlooked the fact that this charge rested on the evidence of a few witness, whose evidence is wholly unaffected by the criticisms to which the other evidence is open. I hold that the charred fragments of forged notes were found, as alleged, in the possession of Anant: and from the circumstances already set out it follows that he knew them to be forged and intended to use them as genuine.
13. The result is, while Dhiraj is acquitted on all charges in accordance with the verdict of the Jury, Anant Kumar Banerji is convicted of the charge under Section 489C, of the Indian Penal Code, and acquitted of the other charges under Section 489A. Anant is sentenced to undergo three years' rigorous imprisonment.
Shamsul Huda, J.
14. I agree.