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CADEE LEBBE v. DON ISSAN.
P. C., Kalutara, 8,949.
Ordinance No. 1 of 1895 se. 47, 48—Duly of parents to report birth of child—Duty of police officers and village headmen to give information of suchbirth “ within seven days "—Rule of interpretation of Ordinance.
Under the Ordinance No. 1 of 1895 it is the duty of parents to reportthe birth of their child within forty-two days from its birth, and it isthe duty of a police officer or headman who has received such informa-tion to report the matter to the registrar within seven days of hisreceiving the information.
If two constructions of an Ordinance are possible, one of whichis reasonable and the other unreasonable, it is the duty of the Court tochoose the one which makes the Legislature to express a reasonableintention.
HE accused, being a police headman, was charged with notgiving information on a printed form (S, in second schedule
of Ordinance No. 1 of 1895) to the registrar of Beruwalbadda of
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the birth of a certain child on 7th February last within sevendays of such birth, in breach of section 47 thereof.
The accused admitted that he knew of the birth of the child,and explained that he sent a report of its birth to the registrar,though not on a printed form, because on that day he had noprinted forms in his possession.
The Police Magistrate was of the following opinion: —
“ I take section47oftheRegistration Ordinancetobe
“ supplementary tosection12,so that if the parentsofthe
“ children failed to register their births within the prescribed“ time, the headman shall inform himself of such births and“ notify them to the registrar.
“ I can quite understand that in some cases it would be a matter“ of difficulty for the headman to get information within seven“ days of a birth in his village, but I must administer the law as I*' find it. No duty is therein cast upon parents to inform the“ headman within seven days of a birth. So it is immaterial“ whether the father ofthechild gave information or notofthe
“ birth of this childonthedayafter its birth. The purpose of
“ section 47 would be defeated if this was the case. The words“of this section are distinct: ‘It shall be the duty of every“ ‘ headman to inform himself,’ clearly showing that he must not“ omit to be informed, but must take steps to inform himself.
“ The accused admits that he did not send a report of the birth“ till the 27th February. His excuse as to not sending the report“ on a printed form is frivolous. If he had no printed forms in“ stock, he should have applied to the registrar before the stock in“ hand was exhausted. I find the accused guilty of a breach of“ section 47, and fine him Rs. 5 under sub-section (1) of section“ 48.”
The accused appealed.
H. Jayawardena, for appellant.
A. Drieberg, for respondent.
In this case the Police Magistrate has construed section 47 ofthe Ordinance No. 1 of 1895 in a way which does not commenditself to me. That section is as follows:—“ It shall be the duty“ of every police officer and village headman to inform himself“ of every birth and of every death occurring within his juris-“ diction, and to give within seven days information thereof in“ writing in the Form S or T in the second schedule thereof, with“ the particulars required by this Ordinance to be registered, to“ the registrar of the division.” Section 48 provides that any
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person who omits to give any information or notice, or makeany report required of him by this Ordinance, shall be guilty ofan offence, and shall be liable on conviction before a PoliceCourt to a fine not exceeding Rs. 100, or to simple or rigorousimprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to bothfine and imprisonment, or on conviction before a District Courtor the Supreme Court to such sentence as such Court is authorizedby law to pass. It would appear that the intention of theLegislature was to limit the punishment to be inflicted by aPolice Court, but to give a District Court or Supreme Courtpower to pass any sentence to the full extent of its powers. Nowthe Supreme Court is authorized to pass the sentence of death,so that it would- seem that the Legislature has authorized it topass sentence of death on a person for omitting to give informationas to the birth of a child.
The question raised in this case was, what is the meaning ofthe words “ within seven days ”—seven days from what point oftime? The Magistrate thought that the Legislature had expresseditself rather vaguely, but was of opinion that the Legislature musthave meant seven days from the date of the birth or death, as thecase may be, but not, as was contended on behalf of the accused,within seven days of the receipt of the information. He says thepurpose of the section would be defeated if the time were to bereckoned from the date of the headman receiving the information,for that the date of his receiving information would be knownonly to himself. I must say that I cannot follow that contention.
The parents or the persons who gave the headman theinformation could be called to speak to the date on which theyinformed the headman, and, if within seven days from that date,he omitted to report the matter to the registrar, then he would beguilty of an offence. The Magistrate has held that the Legisla-ture intended that the headman should be held guilty of anoffence if he did not within seven days from the birth or death ofthe child, whether he knew of it or not, report the fact to theregistrar. In my opinion, the Legislature never intended anythingso unreasonable. If two constructions are possible, one of whichis reasonable and the other unreasonable, it is the duty of theCourt to choose the one which makes the Legislature to express areasonable intention.
The form of the report given in the schedule shows clearlythat the headman is only to report such information as he is ableto obtain. The parents are also bound by this Ordinance toreport the birth of a child. They are allowed, for that purpose,forty-two days from its birth; and within that time apparently
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they have to give it a name; but I do not find any provision thatthey are to give it a name until they make their report. Theheadman, however, according to Form S, is bound within sevendays from its birth to report the name of the child. He is alsobound to report the father’s name. But if the child is illegi-timate, he has no means of ascertaining who the father is. He isnot entitled to hold an inquisition into the paternity of the child.He is only bound to report the information he receives. Thatconfirms me in the view that he is not bound to report the birthof a child when he is not aware that it has taken place.
In the present case there is evidence, upon which the Magistratehas not adjudicated, that the headman had information of thebirth of the child, and that he did not make his report withinseven days of receiving it.
I therefore send the case back for the Magistrate to adjudicateupon this question of fact.
GUNAWARDANE v. ALEXANDER