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SILVA 9. BANDA.
21$—P. C. Atturadhapura, 40t$$4.
March 20, 1914* Db Sampayo A.J.—
The accused has been convicted of the offence of having cleared Crownland for chena cultivation without a permit, in breach of rule 1 framed undersection 21 (a) and (6) of the Ordinance No. 16 of 1907. The accused has beenfined Be. 15, and he appeals on certain matters of law. The accused claimsto be entitled to a half share of the whole village Pallekagama, in which theparticular lot of land is situated, on a sannas which is produced. It appearsthat this sannas was produced in 1905 in a series of previous cases, in whicha number of villagers of Pallekagama were prosecuted for the same offence,and that after a long delay the Crown in 1912 proceeded with one of thesecases as a test case. There one Wannihamy, a brother of the accused, wasprosecuted, and the Magistrate after trial held that the sannas was notgenuine, but the conviction was set aside by the Supreme Court in appeal inconsequence of the improper postponement of the trial and the long delay.One of the grounds taken in the appeal in this case is that the Magistrate hadgone upon the judgment in the previous case in holding that the sannas wasnot a genuine document. The objection is- good so far as it goes. But thereal question is whether the accused has proved any title as against the Crown,and on this point it is sufficient to say that, for the purposes of the Ordinance,when an accused person seekstoupset the presumptionin favour of the
Crown on the strength of a sannas or similar document, he must show thatthe document was registered in accordance with law. See the definition of" Land at the disposal of the Crown" in section 6 of'the Ordinance. It isproved by the Chief Clerk of the Court, who was called by the accused, andwho produced the sannas in question from the record of the previous case,that the document was not registered at all. I think, therefore, that thisparticular objection falls to the ground. The prosecution also called evidenceto show that villagers of Pallekagama had for many years chenaed portionsof * the village on permits fromtheGovernment, and thatsince1909, when
Pallekagama was surveyed., portions of the village were from time to timesold by the Crown and purchased by the villagers themselves, without anyobjection being made by any one claiming under the sannas. I think thatthis was relevant evidence on the question of title, and I cannot hold that itwas inadmissible against the accused. It was finally urged that the accusedacted under a bona fide claim of title, and was not liable to be convicted. IfI had to decide the question of fact, I would have felt bound to say that thecircumstances of the case indicate that the accused and others of the samefamily honestly believed they had a right to this village, though the existenceof the sannas may not have been known to all of them before its productionin the case against Wannihamyin1905. Whether mens -rea isrequired in
the case of breaches of the ruleinquestion is a matter ofsomedoubt. The
Ordinance gives jurisdiction to the Magistrate to inquire into and decide theclaim of title for the purposes of the criminal prosecution; and that being so,it may be suggested that the question of offence or no offence turns Uponthe fact of title, snd not upon the accused person's state of mind. But I am
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in entire agreement with the broad principles enunciated by LasceUes C.tT. in55—P. 0. Anuradhapura, 40,400 (Supreme Court Minutes, February 5, 1914)9with regard to the extent to which a Criminal Court should go in adjudicatingupon civil claims. I am, however, precluded from giving effect to theargument in this case, because the accused can only support the appeal onthe specific grounds of law taken and certified in the petition of appeal, andthis is not one of them.
For these reasons I think the appeal fails and should be dismissed.
SILVA v. BANDA