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OWEN v. RATNAIKE et at.D. G., Matara, 9,429.
Criminal Procedure Code, 83. 181, 182, 213, and 347 (b)—Trial withassessors—Duty of assessor to state his opinion and reasons therefor—Power of Supreme Court to alter verdict in appeal.
Per Withers, J.—In plain cases where the witnesses testifywithout serious contradiction to a state of facts which amount toan offence and which is not met by the accused, one would notexpect or require reasons to be given. But where there is a direotconflict of evidence, or where the accused offers an explanation ofcircumstances which tell against him and that explanation is notaccepted, assessors should, I think, give some reason—as succinctas possible—why in the one case they prefer to believe the case forthe prosecution or, in the other, why they are not satisfied with theaccused’s explanation-
It is in the power of the Supreme Court sitting in appeal to alterunder section 347 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a verdict of riotinto one of intentional use of criminal force.
T N this case six persons were jointly charged with unlawfulassembly, riot, and criminal trespass, and tried by the DistrictJudge with assessors. At the conclusion of the case for the defencethe District Judge summed up and called upon the assessors “ togive their verdicts.” The assessors gave their verdicts withoutstating any reason, and the District Judge considered their opinionscorrect and found the accused guilty of various offences as declaredin the verdict and sentenced them to various imprisonments.
The accused appealed.
Domhorst (Jayatcardana, and Van Langenberg with him), forthe appellants: Assessors should have stated their reasons.(Criminal Procedure Code, section 213; Indian Criminal Pro-cedure Code, section 307 ; 3 Weekly Reporter, Cr. Bui. 6 and21). There is no evidence of unlawful assembly, and that chargeand riot cannot stand together.
Ramanathan, S.-G.:—In section 213 of the Civil ProcedureCode the District Judge is required to call upon the assessor tostate his “ opinion ” only. Opinion is one thing, and reason foropinion is another thing. He referred to sections 181, .182, and347 (b) of the Procedure Code, and urged it was open to theSupreme Court to alter the verdict.
26th April, 1899. Withers, J., reviewed the evidence atlength and gave judgment as follows on the law points raised :—
This was just the case in which a District Judge might derivegreat help from having competent and respectable people of thedistrict associated with him at the trial. Unfortunately thisCourt does not derive much help or gain, much enlightenmenteither, from the judgment of the Judge or the opinions of theassessors. The points for determination are not stated in thejudgment, and no reasons are given for the decision. The
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assessors wore called upon to give their verdicts, but they arenot jurors, and they do. not give verdicts. The Judge, in myopinion, is the ultimate Judge of law and fact, for he is not boundto conform to the opinion of the assessors.
It was made a point by the appellant’s counsel that not onlyshould the opinion of each assessor have been recorded, butreasons for his opinion as well. Reliance was placed on judg-ments of some of the High Courts in India, which have declaredthat not only the result arrived at by each assessor sitting on asessions trial should be recorded, but if possible the reasons bywhich each assessor arrives at the result. In plain cases wherethe witnesses testify without serious contradiction to a state offacts which amount to an offence and which is not met by theaccused, one would not expect or require reasons to be given.But where there is a direct conflict of evidence, or where theaccused offers an explanation of circumstances which tell againsthim and that explanation is not accepted, assessors should, I think.give some reason— as succinct as possible—why in the one case theyprefer to believe the case for the prosecution or, in the other, whythey are not satisfied with the accused’s explanation. Again, if aJudge happens to defer in opinion from his associates, it is import-ant to know what the reasons for the assessors’ opinions are, thatthey may be compared with the reasons of the dissenting Judge. ■
I think it is in my power to alter the verdict of riot against thefirst accused into one of the intentional use of criminal forceunder section 341, and I alter the verdict against him accordingly.One of the objects of the alleged unlawful assembly, as I saidbefore, was to commit an offence against the person of thecomplainant. Now, if the first accused was present and incitedthe other accused to seize the complainant and drag him out ofthe boutique and they attempted to do it, he was clearly guilty ofthe intentional use of criminal force.
In the result, the first accused is acquitted of riot and unlawfulassembly and convicted of the intentional use of criminal force.His acquittal in the lower Court of house trespass stands affirmed.
The second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth accused are acquittedof the charges of riot and unlawful assembly. The sixth accusedis acquitted of the charge of riot. The convictions of the second,third, fourth, fifth, and sixth accused of house trespass will stand,but their respective sentences of imprisonment will bo altered toa fine of Rs. 10 each, in default two weeks’ rigorous imprisonment.
The sentence of the first accused will be altered to a fine ofRs. 50, or in default six weeks’ rigorous imprisonment.
These sentences will, I think, sufficiently meet the ends ofjustice in this case.
OWEN v. RATNAIKE et al