HOWARD C.J.—Pitchapullai v. Leembruggen.
Present: Howard C.J.
PITCHAPULLAI et al. v. LEEMBRUGGEN.
M.C. Hatton, 97-99.
Plea of guilt—Plea not an unqualified expression of guilt—Accused’s right towithdraw plea.
Where a plea of guilt entered by an accused is expressed in termswhich leave room to doubt whether the plea is unqualified, the accusedis entitled to withdraw the plea.
^ PPEAL from a conviction by the Magistrate of Hatton.—
A. Rajapakse (with him S. Aiyar and M. Balasunderam.), for theaccused, petitioners, in applications for revision in M. C. Hatton, Nos. 97,98, 99, and Nos. 101, 102, 103, 104, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, and for theaccused, appellants, in S. C. Nos. 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153.
M.T. de S. Amerasekere, K.C., Solicitor-General (with him NihalGunasekera, C.C.), for the Crown, respondents, in applications for revisionin M. C. Hatton, Nos. 97, 98, 99, 101, 102, 103, 104, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112,and S. C. Nos. 147 to 153.
Cur. adv. vult.
March 14, 1940. Howard C.J.—
The points that arise for decision in these cases are the same and inthese circumstances Counsel on both sides have asked that they should betaken together. In applications for revision in M. C. Hatton, Nos. 9798 and 99 the petitioners pray that the Court may be pleased to quasithe proceedings had against them on January 30, 1940, and thereaftermake order directing the continuation of the trial in accordance with the
nuwAitu c.j.—ritctiapuuai v. L,eemOruggen.
law. In applications for revision in M. C. Hatton, Nos. 101, 102, 103, 104,107, 108, 110, 111 and 112, and in appeals M. C. Hatton, Nos. 100, 102,103, 104, 107 and 108, the petitioners pray that the Court may set asidethe convictions and sentences entered against them and make orderallowing the appellants to withdraw their pleas of guilt and make suchother orders as may seem meet and proper to the Court. In cases Nos. 97and 98 each of the petitioners on January 30, 1940, who on January 20,1940, had pleaded “ not guilty ”, stated “ I am guilty. I will leave theestate in a week ”. The Magistrate thereupon made order as follows:“ Call case on February 7 at Nuwara Eliya ”. In case No. 99 theaccused made the same statement and the Magistrate thereupon madeorder as follows : “ Call case at Nuwara Eliya on February 7. Sentencedeferred until then ”. No further orders have been made by theMagistrate in these three cases.
In the other cases the Magistrate on January 30, 1940, made the sameorder as in cases Nos. 97 and 98. On February 7, 1940, Counsel for eachof the accused applied to withdraw the latter’s plea of guilty. Thisapplication was refused and the Magistrate then found each of the accusedguilty on his own plea and convicted them and sentenced them to a termof one month’s rigorous imprisonment. On behalf of the various accusedMr. Rajapakse has contended that the Magistrate was wrong in law inrefusing to allow the accused to withdraw their pleas of guilty. TheActing Solicitor-General admits that, if the pleas of guilty were qualified,they could be withdrawn. He also admits that the wording of thosepleas and the affidavits of the accused in support of their petitions permitof some doubt as to whether the pleas in law amounted to unqualifiedadmissions of guilt. In these circumstances he suggests that the mattershould be referred to the Magistrate for report. I am of opinion that thepleas are so phrased that it is a matter of inference as to whether they areunqualified admissions of guilt. It is conceivable that they amount to aplea of guilty on the condition that a week is allowed for the accused toleave the estate. If this inference is correct the plea of guilty was notunqualified. In these circumstances the doubt as to whether thepleas are unqualified must be resolved in favour of the accused.' Itherefore, hold that the accused should in these cases have been permittedto withdraw their pleas and substitute pleas of “ not guilty ”.
Even if the pleas were unqualified it is maintained by Mr. Rajapaksethat they could be withdrawn. The Magistrate has not recorded a formalconviction of the accused in any of these cases. In these circumstancesthe judgment of Bertram A.C.J. in Fernando v. Costais authority forthe proposition that such pleas could at the option of the accused bewithdrawn and treated as never having been made. Roosemalecocq v.Sally2, is a further authority for the same proposition. In cases Nos. 100,101, 102, 103, 104, 107, 108, 110, 111 and 112 the convictions and sentencesmust he set aside and the cases remitted to be tried by a differentMagistrate.
In cases Nos. 97, 98 and 99 the proceedings are also quashed and thecases remitted for trial by a different Magistrate.
» 37 N. L. B. 139.
» S C. ir. B. 235.
PITCHAPULLAI et al. v. LEEMBRUGGEN