1. This is an application presented by Raghunandan Lal, who has been convicted by the Sub-Divisional Officer of Buxar on charges under Section 465, read with Section 471, of the Indian Penal Code of dishonestly using as genuine a forged document, that is to say, a post card which was marked for identification as X.
2. A short summary of the facts will help to clear the points for determination. The petitioner Raghunandan Lal and his brother Jadunandan Lal are the nearest agnates of Narsingh Lal, the deceased husband of Musammat Ramsingaro Kuer. Narsingh and Ramsingaro had a daughter, Rajkishori. On November 7, 1927, an entry was made in the Death Register of Police Station Brahampur, District Shah-a bad, regarding death of Rajkishori, wife of Dadu Lal. This entry is based on a note in the hath chitha of a chaukidar, Ram-sagar Ahir, of village Bagan where Ramsingaro resides and where it is said that Rajkishori was residing. The note represents the death as having taken place on November 4, 1927. Musammat Ramsingaro Kuer who was, as is obvious from the above facts, a Hindu widow with a limited interest, had executed certain documents alienating portions of the family property and a suit, was instituted on August 9, 19(sic)8, by the petitioner, Raghunandan Lal, and his brother Jadunandan Lal impleading Ramsingaro and the transferees and praying for a declaration that the alienations were not binding on them as the next male reversioners beyond the life-time of Ramsingaro. The plaint disclosed that Ramsingaro had a daughter Rajkishori but stated that she was dead and, therefore, not impleaded. The defendants contested the suit and put in issue among other things the question whether Rajkishori was dead. Dadul Lal in the meantime on August 14, 1928, presented a petition before the Sub-Divisional Officer of Buxar out of which the present proceedings have arisen. Before coming to these proceedings I will correct a slight misunderstanding in the judgment of the Court below as regards the result of the civil litigation. The Sessions Judge has said that the accused persons lost the civil suit though they fought up to the High Court. What actually happened was that the accused got the declaration they prayed for, but the issue regarding the alleged death of Rajkishori was decided against them and on this ground the Courts refused them their costs.
3. I turn now to the petition of Dadui Lal presented on August 14, 1928. The petition alleged that Rajkishori is alive and " that the village chaukidar of Bagan, Ramsagar Ahir, at the instance of Raghunandan Lai and Jadunandan Lal has caused a false entry to be recorded in the Death Register of Brahampur Police Station," and "that the said Raghunandan Lal and Jadunandan Lal have got this false evidence fabricated for their future benefit " and goes on to pray the Sub-Divisional Magistrate " to have the matter inquired into by the Inspector of Police and thus declare the said entry, dated November 7, 1927, as false and prosecute the men concerned for committing the offence." The Magistrate passed an order in these terms: " Inspector, kindly look this up and report if the death report was false." The Inspector made a local inquiry in the course of which the accused produced before him a post card, which is the document alleged to be forged a ad the user of which by producing it before the Inspector oh September 1, 1928, is alleged to amount to fraudulent and dishonest user of a forged document as genuine with knowledge that it was a forged document. The post card appears on its face to have been posted on March 6, 1928, to have reached Post Office Raghunathpur on March 7, 1928, and, to have been sent out by the 7 a. m. delivery on March 8, 1928. It purports to have been sent by Rambadan Lal of Amrain Nawadah and to be an invitation to Raghunandan Lal and his brother Jadunandan Lal to attend the forthcoming marriage of the sender's daughter on 4th Chait Badi with Dadul Lal, son of Amir Lal of Dumraon. The Courts below have held that Rajnishori was alive, that no such postcard was sent by Rambadan Lal and that the accused had an interest in representing Rajkishori to be dead and used the post card in support of their contention regarding death. On these findings the accused has been convicted, and two points of law are raised on his behalf in revision; firstly that the proceedings against him in respect of the user of this post card are without jurisdiction and void, because no such proceedings could be taken by virtue of Section 195, of the Criminal Procedure Code, without a complaint of the Court of the Sub-Divisional Officer of Buxar under Section 476, of the Criminal Procedure Code. It is said that the post card if used was used in a Criminal Proceeding or the Court of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate. For the purpose of examining this contention I have above quoted the material portions of the petition by Dadul Lal presented on August 14, 1928, and sent to the Inspector for inquiry. " Complaint " is an expression denned in 8. 4 (I) (h) of tae Criminal Procedure Code, and the words which I have quoted from the petition leave no room for doubt that the petition was a complaint within the meaning of the definition. It was the duty of the Sub-Divisional Officer receiving that complaint to examine the complainant on oath, but his failure to do so was merely an irregularity and his order referring the matter the Inspector for inquiry must be deemed to be in substance an order directing an inquiry by a Police Officer for the purpose of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the complaint. That being so, user of a document in the course of the inquiry under Section 202, was user of it in or in relation to a proceeding of the Court of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate Therefore, that Officer had no jurisdiction to take cognisance of it on a Police report, still less on a complaint petition filed by Dadul Lal 17 days before the commission of the alleged offence for which the petitioner Raghunandan Lai has been prosecuted. Indeed the Sub-Divisional Officer seems to have completely lost sight of the original offence of which Dadul Lal's petition of August 14, was a complaint, that is to say, the offence of getting a false entry made by instigating the chaukidar. From what I have said it will appear that the first point succeeds.
4. I think it proper, however, to make some observations also regarding the second point raised, as a question may arise whether it is desirable to take fresh proceedings against the petitioner after complying with the provisions of law regarding the initiation of such proceedings. The contention is that there is no proof that petitioner had knowledge that the post card was a forgery. Rambadan Lai could not be examined by the prosecution to prove that the post card was not written by him The reason given is that he is dead. No genuine specimen of the handwriting of Kambadan Lal has been produced for the purpose of comparison to enable the Court to form an opinion whether the post card is in the writing of Rambadan Lal No expert has been examined. The prosecution has called Rambadan's brother to deny the writing to be that of Rambadan Lal. The prosecution imputes to the accused a knowledge that the post card was not in the writing of Rambadan Lal, but there is no evidence that accused knew the hand-writing of Rambadan Lal, or was in the habit of receiving letters from Rambadan Lal or had any means of knowing whether the post card was or was not in the writing of Rambadan Lal. Ramsagar Ahir chaukidar has not been examined, though he is alive, and no witness has been examined to prove that the accused had instigated Ramsagar Ahir to make any false record of death of Rajkishori On all these matters the Courts below appear to have acted on surmise and suspicion. The trying Magistrate himself appears not to have directly applied his mind to the question of the knowledge of the accused, the has not entered into any examination of what evidence there was of such knowledge. His discussion of the contentious points deals with the question whether the post card was a forged document, and not whether the accused knew it to be so. The Appellate Court deals with the question of guilty knowledge so far as it concerned the case of the co-accused Jadunandan Lal and gave him the benefit of doubt, but did not deal with the question of knowledge of Raghunandan Lai at all.
5. The result is that the application is allowed and the conviction and sentence are set aside. The fine, if paid, shall be refunded.