Jadunandan Singh v. Emperor [1941 Pat]

Narain Dusadh and Sheonadan Singh, the gorait and gomasta respectively of a landlord, were returning after the inspection of some fields when the two petitioners and others came out of an ahar and assaulted them. The petitioner Alakh gave bhala blow to Narain on the right leg, and then other people assaulted him with lathis. The petitioner Jadunandan and others then assaulted Sheonandan. Jadunandan after this forcibly took the thumb impressions of Narain on one piece of blank paper, and of Sheonandan on three blank papers. On these findings the two petitioners and two others were convicted by the trying Magistrate, Jadunandan being sentenced under Section 384, Penal Code, to six months rigorous imprisonment and Alakh to four months rigorous imprisonment under Section 324.

It has been contended that no offence under Section 384 has been brought home. This contention is rested on the definition of ‘extortion’ in Section 383.

It is clear that this definition makes it necessary for the prosecution to prove that the victims Narain and Sheonandan were put in fear of injury to themselves or to others, and further, were thereby dishonestly induced to deliver paper containing their thumb impressions. The prosecution story in the present case goes on further than that thumb impressions were “forcibly taken” from them. The details of the forcible taking were apparently not put in evidence. The trial Court speaks of the wrists of the victims being caught and of their thumb impressions being then ‘taken.’ Cases frequently occur which turn on the difference between the giving and taking of thumb impressions.

In criminal Revn. No. 125 of 1931 heard by Sir Courtney-Terrell C. J., and myself, the victim was tied up on refusing to give his thumb impression on a piece of paper. He then consented to put his thumb impression on that piece of paper, and it was by that fear he was found to have been induced to put his thumb impression on the paper. The conviction under Section 384 was therefore upheld. This was contrasted with the case which had come before me sitting singly in 1930, Criminal Revn. No. 420 of 1930, 2 decided on 15th August 1930, where the finding of fact that, helped by two others, the petitioner took by force the thumb impressions of the victim-the man was thrown on the ground, his left hand pulled out and the thumb put into a kajrauta and then impression of that thumb taken on certain papers. I had held that in the circumstances there was no inducing the victim to deliver the pieces of paper with his thumb impressions. As to this, the late Chief Justice observed:

If the facts had been that the complainant’s thumb had been forcible seized by one of the petitioners and had been applied to the piece of paper notwithstanding his struggles and protests, then I would agree that there is good ground for saying that the offence committed, whatever it may be, was not the offence of extortion because the complainant would not have been induced by the fear of injury but would have simply been the subject of actual physical compulsion, and I venture to agree with the reasoning of my learned brother Dhavle in Cri. Rev. No. 420 of 1930.

The Assistant Government Advocate has drawn attention to 13 PLT 5883 where the petitioners were convicted under Section 347. It is said in one part of the report that the victim was laid down on the floor and gagged and only allowed to go after his thumb impressions were taken on several pieces of paper. Macpherson, J. upheld the conviction, after pointing out however that it had been found as a fact that the petitioners intentionally put the victim in fear of injury to himself and thereby dishonestly induced him to place his thumb impression upon certain pieces of paper.

There is no such finding in the present case. The lower Courts only speak of the forcible taking of the victim’s thumb impressions: and as this does not necessarily involve inducing the victim to deliver papers with his thumb impressions (papers which could no doubt be converted into valuable securities), I must hold that the offence of extortion is not established. The learned advocate suggested that in that event this may be a case of robbery, but it has not been asserted or found that the papers were taken from the victim’s possession. On the findings the offence is no more than the use of criminal force or an assault punishable under Section 352.

As regards his conviction under Section 384 which must be replaced by a conviction under Section 352, Penal Code, I sentence him to rigorous imprisonment in default.