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Present: Schneider A.J
SUB-INSPECTOR OP POLICE, BENTOTA, v. ZOYSA etal.
459-462—P. C. Bcdapitiya, 49,242.
Penal Code, 8. 291—Escorting priests to get “ pirith ceremony ” per-formed—Attack on members of the procession—Is procession“ religious ceremony ” t
L, desiring to have a “pirith ceremony ” at his house, sent personsto escort the priests from the temple to his house. The processionfrom the temple consisted of four tom-tom beaters and a personblowing a horn and of four persons bearing a canopy, under whichwalked two persons carrying relics and sacred books and of somepriests. The first accused struck some of the members of theprocession, and the procession broke up as the musicians fled. Thepriests and the rest of the people proceeded to the house of L ; theaccused went near the house, and by threats prevented it takingplace.
Held, that a conviction under section 291 of the Penal Code wasbad. It is of the essence of the offence that the disturbance musttake place while the assembly is actually engaged in the perform-ance of the religious worship or ceremony.
The disturbance of the procession would not constitute theoffence created by section 291, Penal Code, unless the processionwas a religious ceremony. The object of the procession was toescort the priests in order that they may perform the religiousceremony in the house.
What the accused did near the house of L did not constitute anoffence under section 29L
r’jj 1HE facts appear from the judgment.
de Zoysa, for accused, appellants.
Amarasekere, for complainant, respondent.
May 30,1921. Schneider A.J.The first, second, fourth, and fifth accused have appealed from aconviction under section 291 of the Penal Code of having voluntarilycaused disturbance to an assembly lawfully engaged in the per-formance of a religious ceremony.. The third accused had beenacquitted by the Magistrate. 1 will accept the facts proved to bethe following: One Leidiris, a Buddhist, desiring to have a pirithceremony99 at his house, sent persons to escort the priests from thetemple to his house. A procession consisting of one Sohandiablowing a horn, and of four tom tom beaters playing on their tom-toms and walking behind him, and of four persons bearing a canopy,
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Svib-Inapec-tor of Police,Bentota,v* Zoyea
under which walked two persons carrying relics and sacred books,and, lastly, ol some priests was wending its Way along a villagepath on its way to leidiris’ house, when the first accused struckSohandia with a stick and pushed the two men who were carryingthe relics.
This attack broke up the procession as the musicians fled. How-ever, the priests proceeded to the house of Leidiris, as also the restof the people in the procession, together with the books and relics,but no “ pirith ceremony ” took place. The reason given was thatthe acoused came near the house, and by threats prevented ittaking place. Leidiris says that the ceremony was not performed.Zoysa, the Police Officer, says that he went to Leidiris’ house uponreceiving a complaint that the accused had caused a disturbance; hefound that preparations had been made for the ceremony, but thatno ceremony had been held. All the evidence is that no ceremonytook place in the house.
The language of the section under Which the accused have beenconvicted is clear that it is of the essence of the offence that thedisturbance must take place while the assembly is actually engagedin the performance of the religious worship or ceremony.
According to the evidence the disturbance, complained of in thiscase was caused at two distinct stages : First, when Sohinda wasassaulted as the procession was wending its way. This disturbancewould not constitute the offence created by section 291, unless theprocession was a religious ceremony. There is no evidence uponwhich I could hold that it was such a ceremony. The evidence isthat the object of the procession was to “ escort ” the priests inorder that they may perform the religious ceremony in the house.The music of the horn and tom-toms were apparently intended tohonour the priests as they proceeded to the scene selected for theperformance of the ceremony. The relics and hooks were thetilings required for the ceremony. I have seen a Buddhist priestescorted from a railway station to the temple he was proceeding tovisit with the heating of tom-toms along the high road. I amunable to conceive how such a procession can he said to be a religiousceremony. Supposing the priests in this instance had proceeded ina motor car or in a horse and carriage from their temple to the house,would any obstruction to the progress of their vehicle he a disturb-ance of a religious ceremony ? I cannot think it would be. – *
The evidence of the attack upon the procession, therefore, fails toprove the commission of the offence created by section 291. Nor isthe offence established by what the accused did near the house of' Leidiris. The evidence is that their threats prevented the religiousceremony from being performed at all. No attempt was madeeven to commence it. The threats of the accused appear to havebeen taken so seriously that the ceremony, for which preparationshad been made, was abandoned altogether that night.
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The acts of the&coused may amount to other offences, hut theyare not guilty of having oaused disturbance to an assembly engagedin the performance of a religious ceremony.
I therefore set aside the conviction of the accused, and acquitthem.
Sub-Inepec-tor of Police,Bentota,o. Zoysa
SUB INSPECTOR OF POLICE BENTOTA v. ZOYSA et al