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Present: Bertram C.J.DTJEAYA et al. v. APPUHAMY et al.
60-61—P. 0. Qampaha, 60.
Setting riee above controlled price—Misjoinder of charges—Failure tospecify particulars of offence—Criminal Procedure Code, s. 1ST—Inquiries atthe spot by Police Magistrates.
Four persons (from two different boutiques) were charged with“ selling rice at various dateB in December, 1919, at thirty-fourcents per measure, that .is, above the controlled price, an offenceagainst the Defence of the Colony Regulations, at Attange Uda-gama. ”
field, that the charge was irregular (a) as there was a misjoinder of parties;and (6) as it did not particularize the sales which are said to have, been aninfringement of the regulations.
Observations as'to the procedure to be followed by Magistrates in inquiriesat the spot into complaints made by villagers.
fJlHE facts appear from the judgment.
J. 8. Jayawardene, -for the appellant, in No. (JO.—The accusedshould not have been charged together, as they are alleged to havesold rice at various times and places. The charge also fails, as itdoes not specify the particular time and place where the offence wascommitted, and does not state what the controlled price of rice wasat the time. Inspector of Police, Ambalangoda, v. Fernando.1
Peri Sunder am, for the appellant, in No. 61.—This accused hasnot been charged in accordance with section 187 of the CriminalProcedure Code, and no evidence on oath has been taken against him.Twelve persons from the crowd assembled in the course of theinquiry, raised their hands as having bought rice from the accused,and he was convicted.
February 11, 1920. Bertram C.J.—
In this case the learned Magistrate has behaved in a very zealousbut, unfortunately, in a very irregular manner, and the case containsso many flaws in procedure that the conviotions cannot stand. Theaction of the learned Magistrate in proceeding,to the spot to inquireinto complaints made by villagers that certain tradesmen in thevillage were over-charging them in the sale of rice is highly to becommended. In any case, however, where such action is taken, aMagistrate should take special care when he passes from an executive
'(1919) 6 O. W. R. 296.
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to a judicial position to see that all the formalities of justice arestrictly observed. In this case, after holding an inquiry of aninformal nature, he framed a charge. In the charge he includedfour accused: two of them boutique-keepers, and two of them sales-men. He charged these four persons with “ selling rice at variousdates in December, 1919, at thirty-four cents per measure, that is,above the controlled price, an oSence against the Defence of theColony Eegulations, at Attange Udagama. ” It is plain that thisCharge was wholly irregular. It joins two sets of parties whosecases could only be justly considered separately. It does notparticularize the sales which are said' to have been an infringementof the regulations. , It merely refers to various dates in December,1919. No persons accused under this charge could have an oppor-tunity of dealing with the facts alleged against them as they oughtaccording to our system of justice.
There are other points in the course of the case in which the learnedMagistrate’s action is open to criticism, but this charge is'of itself- fatal to the proceedings. In case other Magistrates should think itfit to follow the example of what was done in this case, and proceedto the spot for inquiries of this nature, I would add a word of adviceas to the course they should follow. It is quite proper that theyshould assemble the villagers and call upon those who have com-plaints to make to come forward, and take their statements fromthose who do come forward. But having cleared the ground in thispreliminary way, if they are going to frame a charge against anyperson complained of, they should do so with particularity. Theyshould demand the day on which the sale took place, get the circum-stances stated, inquire who were present, and what complaints, ifany, were made to any neighbour or to any village authority.These particulars being obtained the charge should be framed in asprecise a manner as possible. An opportunity should be given tothe person complained of to consider the charge. I do not say thatan adjournment should necessarily be granted, but there should besome short interval in which the person complained of can refresh hisrecollection with regard to the period to which the charges apply,and call any of his customers or friends who can speak to his courseof business in the matter complained of. When the charges arethus defined they should be strictly inquired into. I would furtherdeprecate in cases of this kind the free use of the power of the Courtto punish witnesses for a contempt of Court where it does notbelieve their evidence. Intermediate sentences of this kind in aninquiry held among simple people may be liable to produce falseimpressions. It is also, of course, undesirable, when once a chargehas been formally framed, that a Magistrate should invite the.opinion of villagers by a show of hands in regard to any particularmatter. He may, at the initiation of the inquiry, ask the villagers
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to hold up their hands if they wish to make any complaints, and thengiven an opportunity to those holding up their hands to come forward,and do so. But to invite such demonstrations during the courseof such inquiry is a grave irregularity. I hope that nothing I haveSaid will deter any Magistrate from dealing with complaints on thespot in regard to a matter in which the public are so vitally interested,and where the course of justice may be assisted by suoh action beingtaken. But I trust that every Magistrate who so acts will takecare to see that any proceedings thus taken are taken with all the
safeguards which the law requires.
Tn thin case the Magistrate appears to have endorsed on theproceedings a note which shows that executive action has beentaken, which, no doubt, will prove sufficient for the purpose. Inview of this circumstance, I make no order as to any furtherproceedings, more particularly as it appears that, with regard tothe second accused, there was no sufficient evidence to justify aconviction, even if his case had been dealt with separately.
The appeals are, therefore, allowed.
DURAYA et al. v. APPUHAMY et al