Ram Ratan Alias Ratan Ahir & Ors Vs.
The State of Bihar & ANR  INSC 198 (22 September 1964)
22/09/1964 DAYAL, RAGHUBAR DAYAL, RAGHUBAR
CITATION: 1965 AIR 926 1965 SCR (1) 293
Cattle Trespass Act, (1 of 1871) s. 10-Cattle
damaging crops-Seizure under statute-Seizure not justified-Whether amounts to
theft --Owner whether can rescue cattle invoking right of Private defence of
property-Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860), ss. 97, 378.
The appellants seized cattle from a field
which they claimed to be in their ion. They were taking them to the
cattle-pound, purporting to act under s. 10 of the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871.
The complainants to whom the cattle belonged tried to rescue them and in the
fight that ensued several persons on both sides were injured and one member of
the complainant-party died. The Sessions Judge found that the cattle had been
seized illegally as the field from which they had been taken belonged to the
complainants. However he acquitted the appellants on the ground that they hail
the right of private defence of person against the complainants who wanted to
rescue their cattle by force, having no right of private defence of property.
The High Court, in appeal against the acquittal held that the complainants had
a right of private defence of property and could rescue the cattle by force. On
this finding it convicted the appellants who came to the Supreme Court by
The main question for consideration was
whether a person who seizes cattle illegally, purporting to act under s. 10 of
the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871, commits offence of theft or robbery or not, for
on that would depend which side had the right of private defence.
HELD : (i) When a person seizes cattle on the
ground that they were trespassing on his land and causing damage to his crop or
produce and gives out that he was taking them to the pound, he commits no
offence of theft however mistaken he may be about his right to that land or
Queen v. Preonath Banerjee, 5 W.R. 68
(Criminal), Wazuddin v. Rahimuddin, (1917) 18 Cr. L.J. 849, Abdul Khatiq v.
Emperor, A.I.R. 1941 Lah. 221, Paryag Rai v. Arju Mian, I.L.R. 22 Cal. 139 and
Queen Empress v. Sri Churan Chungo, I.L.R. 22 Cal. 1017, held inapplicable.
Empress v. Ramjiawan, (1881) 1 All. W.N. 158
and Dayal v. Emperor, A.I.R. 1943 Oudh 280, approved.
(ii) Mere seizure of cattle is not theft. For
theft dishonest movement of cattle stolen is also necessary. The person who
seizes cattle found to be damaging his crops and takes them to the pound does
so in accordance with the specific direction given in s. 10 of the Act. His act
being in accordance with the provisions of the Act cannot be considered, prima
facie, to be dishonest. Nor can an intention to cause wrongful loss to the
owner of the cattle or wrongful gain to himself be attributed to him unless his
avowed intention of taking the cattle to the pound is found to be a cover for
some other intention which may be inferred from circumstances. There is, in fact,
no wrongful gain or wrongful loss to either party by the impounding of cattle.
K. N. Mehra v. State of Rajasthan 
S.C.R. 623, relied on..
sup/.64--6 294 (iii) The remedy of the owner
of cattle seized under s. 10 of the Act is to take action under s. 20 of the
Act. He has no right to use force to rescue the cattle so seized.
The complainants who went armed with
sharp-edged weapons and lathis to rescue the cattle had no right of defence of
their property against the appellants. [305B-C].
(iv) In the circumstances the appellants who
could reasonably apprehend that the complainants would cause them grevious hurt
for the purpose of rescuing their cattle, had the right of private defence and
they committed no offence in causing injuries to the other party and the death
of one of its members. [306F-G].
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Criminal
Appeal No. 29 of 1963.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated December 13, 1962, of the Patna High Court in Government Appeal No.
24 of 1960.
Nuruddin Ahmed, B. P. Singh and U. P. Singh,
for the appellants.
B. P. Jha, for respondent No. 1.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Raghubar Dayal J. This appeal, by special leave, raises the question whether a
person who seizes cattle illegally, purporting to act under S. 10 of the Cattle
Trespass Act, 1871, hereinafter the Act, commits the offence of theft or
robbery or not. The question arises in this way.
On the morning of November 28, 1957, a number
of cattle belonging to several persons, including Shamnarain Singh, were
observed by a number of persons, including Ramnandan Singh and Ram Rattan alias
Ratan Ahir, grazing in a kurthi field about which there was a dispute between
the authorities of the Basic School and Shamnarain Singh each of them claiming
the field. Ramnandan Singh and others seized those cattle and proceeded to take
them to the pound at village Tilauthu. These persons were armed with
sharp-edged weapons and lathis.
The report of the seizure of the cattle
reached Shamnarain Singh and other people in the village. A number of people,
variously armed, started from the village to rescue the cattle. They were
joined by others on the way. This party, including Sukhari Mahto, Deocharan,
Sheodutt, Hari Mahto and Ramdeo, caught up with the other party a short
distance from the cattle pound and asked that party to release the cattle.
Altercation took place between the parties
and then they fought together. According to the prosecution case, members of
the appellants' 295 party attacked Shamnarain Singh and his companions. According
to the appellants it was the other party which attacked them. As a result of
the fight five persons got injured on the side of Shamnarain Singh. Of them,
Ramdeo got one gaping punctured wound in the right thigh with a spear. He died
as a result of the injury received. Sukhari Mahto received 16 injuries
including 4 incised wounds. The other three injured persons received ordinary
injuries. Deocharan had an abrasion, Sheodutt Singh got a lacerated wound, a
swelling and an abrasion and Hari Mahto had a lacerated wound. On the side of
the appellants, four persons got injured. Ramnandan Singh received 12 injuries,
including 4 incised wounds and 3 punctured wounds. Ratan Ahir got three injuries
including 2 punctured wounds. Sheorattan got 5 injuries including 2 punctured
wounds. Rajkumar Singh got 2 injuries including one punctured wound.
Reports were made at the police station on
behalf of the two parties. Hari Mahto lodged a report on behalf of the
complainantparty against 20 persons. Ratan Ahir lodged a report against 26
persons. The police, as a result of investigation, sent up 28 persons for
trial. The Additional Sessions Judge, Arrah, acquitted all of them. He found
that (1) Shamnarain Singh was in, lawful possession of the kurthi field in
question on the date of occurrence and that the supposed claim thereto raised
on behalf of the defence was not in good faith; (2) the cattle were seized in
the presence of the charwahas in spite of their protest; (3) even though the
seizure of the cattle from the kurthi field by the accused party in these
circumstances was an unlawful act, the conduct of the complainant-party, who
were fully armed, in following them in order to release the cattle, was not
justified as it showed a determination on their part to get their cattle
released by use of force and that therefore there did not exist any right on
the part of the owners of the cattle to the extent of securing the release of
their cattle from the hands of those who had seized them earlier by use of
force; (4) there was strong Probability in favour of the view that it was the
prosecution-party which created the crisis and took the aggression to initiate
the assault and that the prosecution narration as to the manner in which the
assault commenced at the scene of occurrence where the assault took place, did
not commend itself to him and that part of the prosecution story appeared to
suffer from material Suppression, and that, in these circumstances, the accused
party had the reasonable apprehension of suffering grievous hurt or death at
the hands of the prosecution party and they were justified in the exercise of
their right of private defence of their bodies in 296 causing such injuries to
the men on the prosecution side as might cause death, the death so caused being
The State of Bihar appealed against the
acquittal of the 28 accused. The High Court allowed the appeal against 13
respondents and convicted Ratan Ahir under S. 302 I.P.C. and the others under
s. 326 read with s. 149 I.P.C. and of some other offences. It may be mentioned
that one of the respondents had died and 14 others were acquitted. The High
Court agreed with the Sessions Judge that the plot in suit was in the possession
of Shamnarain Singh and that the seizure of the cattle by the accused-party was
illegal. The learned Judges, however, were of opinion that the Sessions Judge
had taken a wrong view of the law in thinking that the members of the
prosecution party were not entitled to rescue the cattle by gleans of force
only because the respondents had succeeded in taking away the cattle for some
They held that once the seizure of cattle was
found to be illegal, members of the accused party were in the position of
thieves-rather dacoits-when they had seized the cattle by show of force to the
cowherd boys, and that therefore the members of the prosecution party had the
right of private defence of property and could recover their cattle by use of
force, subject to the limitation that force in excess of what was necessary be
not used. It also found that the prosecution party, in their attempt to rescue
had been violently attacked by the party of
The learned Judges probably did not agree with
the view of the Sessions Judge that the attack was opened by the prosecution
party as there was no material in support of the view on the record, but held
that even the opening of the attack by the prosecution party would not give any
justification to the defence party for it was bound to defend itself in the act
of rescuing the cattle.
To consider the question of law raised in
this appeal, we accept the findings of the High Court to the effect that the
plot in suit was in the possession of Shamnarain Singh, that the appellants and
others seized the cattle grazing in that plot alleging that they were damaging
their crops and that they would take them to the pound, that Shamnarain Singh
and others armed, went to rescue the cattle and on meeting the accused party
asked them to release the cattle and that after some altercation the accused
party opened the attack.
It is not disputed-and it has been alleged
from the very beginning in the reports lodged by both the parties-that the
appellants and others had seized the cattle alleging that they 297 were
damaging their crops. It follows that they purported to seize the cattle in
pursuance of the provisions of s. 10 of the Act. In view of the finding that
the plot was in possession of Shamnarain Singh and that he had raised the crop,
such seizure was illegal. It is thus that the question arises whether by so
seizing the cattle the appellants committed the offence of theft. It is
necessary to determine this point as it is only when the appellants and others
had committed the offence of theft in so seizing the cattle that any right of
private defence of property arises in favour of Shamnarain Singh and his party
who went to rescue the cattle. If the act of the appellants and others did not
amount to theft, they committed no offence and therefore no right of private
defence of property arose in favour of Shamnarain Singh and others as such a
right arises against the commission of an "offence" as defined in s.
40 I.P.C. i.e., an act which amounts to a thing made punishable by the Code. It
may be mentioned that no other offence is alleged to have been committed by the
appellants and others which would have given the right of private defence of
property to Shamnarain Singh and others.
To determine the question raised, it is
desirable to refer to the provisions of the Act in order to find what actions
of the appellants would be in accordance with its provisions, what would be
against them and to what they would be liable if they acted against such
Section 10 authorizes certain persons having
interest in the crops grown on any land to seize or cause to be seized cattle
trespassing on it and doing damage thereto or to any crop or produce thereon.
It requires them to send the cattle so seized, within 24 hours, to the pound
established for the village in which the land is situate. It further provides
that all officers of police shall, when required, aid in preventing resistance
to such seizures and rescues from persons making such seizures.
Section 11 authorises certain persons to
seize cattle which damage public roads, canals, embankments and other things
mentioned in that section. Section 12 provides for the levy of fine for every
head of cattle impounded.
Chapter V deals with complaints of illegal
seizure or detention, and has four sections, ss. 20 to 23. Section 20 reads:
Power to make complaints. Any person whose
cattle have been seized under this Act, or, having been so 298 seized, have
been detained in contravention of this Act, may, at any time within ten days
from the date of the seizure, make a complaint to the Magistrate of the
District or any Magistrate authorized to receive and try charges without
reference by the Magistrate of the district." Section 21 deals with the
procedure on such complaint and S. 22 reads:
"Compensation for illegal seizure or
detention. If the seizure or detention be adjudged illegal, the Magistrate
shall award to the complainant, for the loss caused by the seizure or
detention, reasonable compensation, not exceeding one hundred rupees, to be
paid, by the person who made the seizure or detained the cattle, together with
all fines paid and expenses incurred by the complai nant in procuring the
release of the cattle.
Release of cattle. And, if the cattle have
not been released, the Magistrate shall, besides awarding such compensation,
order their release, and direct that the fines and expenses leviable under this
Act shall be paid by the person who made the seizure or detained the
cattle." Section 23 provides that the compensation and expenses mentioned
in s. 22 maybe recovered as if they were fines imposed by the Magistrate.
Section 24 provides penalty for forcibly
opposing the seizure of cattle liable to be seized under the Act or for
rescuing such cattle after seizure, either from a pound or from any person
taking or about to take them to a pound.
The punishment on conviction is not to exceed
six months' imprisonment or a fine of five hundred rupees.
The Act does not make the illegal seizure of
cattle punishable as an offence. The person seizing cattle illegally is made
liable to pay compensation for the loss caused to the owner of the cattle on
account of the illegal seizure of cattle or of detaining the cattle in
contravention of the Act. He is also liable to pay the fine-, and expenses paid
in procuring release of the cattle.
The expression "under this Act" in
S. 20 does not mean "in accordance with the provisions of the Act"
but means "purporting to be in accordance with the provisions of the
Act" as "seizure" under the Act i.e., "seizure in
accordance with the provisions of the 299 Act" could never be illegal, and
S. 20 deals with complaints of illegal seizure or detention. The expression
used in S.
24 is different and makes the forcible
opposition of the seizure of cattle punishable when the cattle seized were
liable to be seized under the Act. If the cattle were not liable to be seized,
forcible opposition to their seizure would not be punishable under s. 24.
Section 25 of the Act provides a mode for the
recovery of penalty for mischief committed by causing cattle to trespass. It
thus takes notice of the offence under the Penal Code committed by the person
who causes cattle to trespass on other's land, and provides that any fine
imposed for the commission of that offence can be recovered by sale of all or
any of the cattle by which trespass was committed, whether those cattle were
seized in the act of trespassing or not and whether they were the property of
the person convicted of the offence or were only in his charge when the
trespass was committed.
Section 26, inter alia, provides for penalty
for damage caused by pigs through neglect or otherwise to crops etc., or public
roads or damage by cattle generally if the State Government so notifies.
Section 29 expressly provides that nothing in
the Act prohibits any person whose crops or other produce of land have been
damaged by trespass of cattle from suing for compensation in any competent
Court, and S. 30 provides that any compensation paid to such person under the
Act by order of the convicting Magistrate shall be set off and deducted from
any sum claimed by or awarded to him as compensation in such suit. There is no
provision in the Act for the award of compensation to the person whose crops or
other produce of land had been damaged by trespass of cattle. Section 30,
therefore, appears to refer to the award of compensation to such person under
S. 545 Cr. P.C. by the Magistrate convicting the person, whose cattle had
caused damage, of the offence of mischief under the Penal Code or of the
offences under ss. 24 and 26 of the Act.
The Act has not any provision, comparable to
the provisions of ss. 29 and 30, stating that a person whose cattle had been
illegally seized or detained may sue for compensation in a competent Court and
that compensation awarded by the Magistrate under s. 22 of the Act be deducted
from any sum awarded to him in such proceedings. The Act does not make the
illegal seizure or detention of cattle an offence.
It appears that the legislature intended that
the provisions of Chapter V of the Act would deal comprehensively with the 300
case of illegal seizures or detentions of cattle and that the remedy available
to a person whose cattle had been so seized or detained would be the one
provided by S. 22 of the Act and no other and that illegal seizure or detention
of cattle would amount to no offence under the Penal Code.
There appears to be good reason for this as
the object of the Act was the protection of crops and other produce of land
from the damage by cattle trespassing on the land and of the cultivators and
occupiers of land from consequent loss and injury.
The Cattle Trespass Act of 1871 was enacted
to consolidate and amend the law relating to trespass by cattle. The first
Cattle Trespass Act was Act ITT of 1857 and its preamble reads:
"Whereas loss and injury are suffered by
cultivators and occupiers of land from damage done to crops and other produce
of land by the trespass of cattle; and whereas damage is done to the sides and
slopes of public roads and embankments by cattle trespassing thereon; and
whereas it is expedient to authorize the seizure and detention of cattle doing
damage as aforesaid and also to make provision for the disposal of cattle found
straying in any public place : It is enacted as follows:
Section II of the 1857 Act empowered the
cultivator or occupier of any land to seize or cause to be seized any cattle
trespassing on his land and doing damage to any crop or produce thereon.
Section 10 of the Act gave such right to other persons is well. It did not
however give the right to seize cattle damaging the crops to everyone who might
notice the cattle damaging the crops. Though the power to seize cattle
trespassing on a person's land was given only when the cattle were damaging the
land or the crop the,-eon, it should have been considered a difficult matter
for the person authorized to seize cattle to determine first whether the cattle
had caused damage to his land or crop and thereafter to seize them. The person
so authorized would instinctively first seize the cattle on his land presuming
that they must have damaged the crop or the land and that any further presence
of the cattle in the field without their being seized would lead to further
damage. Further, s. 10 of the Act directs all officers of police, when required
to do so, to aid in preventing resistance to such seizures and rescues from
persons making such seizures. The person seizing the cattle is thus given
'Me police officers required to aid would
not, in the circumstances, be 301 determining, before rendering aid, whether
the seizure of cattle Was legal Or not. They have to prevent resistance to
seizures and rescue of cattle from persons making seizures if they are called
upon by the persons seizing the cattle to prevent resistance, to the seizure or
the rescue. This emphasizes the view that seizures of cattle whether legal or
illegal are protected from interference. The remedy of the person whose cattle
are illegally seized is contained in the provisions of Chapter V.
In view of these realistic considerations,
the person happening to seize the cattle which had not actually caused damage
was considered to be acting under the Act as expressed in S. 20, so that no
action not authorized by the Act be taken against him for conduct which be not
strictly legal. At the same time the interest of the person whose cattle are
seized even when they had not caused damage to the crop had to be protected. It
was also bound to happen at times that persons not authorized to seize cattle
in the exercise of their larger duty to the people whose crops were being
damaged,, may be inclined to take action against the cattle they might notice
damaging the crops. Such persons would be actuated by good intentions., but
actually they would not be acting in accordance with the provisions of the Act
and might be liable for damages in civil courts or possibly also criminally if
the seizure of cattle could amount to an offence under the Penal. Code or any
other law. It was on a balancing of the interest of the persons purporting to
seize the cattle to protect crops and the interest of the owners of the cattle
that these provisions of Chapter V seem to have been made.
In view of these considerations, we are of
opinion that the provisions of Chapter V comprehensively deal with the cases of
such seizure of cattle which had been seized in the exercise of the power
conferred by the Act or in furtherance of its objects though not in full
accordance with the provisions of the Act. In view of these considerations
based on the provisions of the Act it does not appear that illegal seizure of
cattle by persons. purporting to act in accordance with the provisions of the
Act could be an offence of theft under the Penal Code. We arrive at the same
conclusion by a scrutiny of the provisions of the Penal Code.
We may now consider what acts constitute the
offence of theft under the Penal Code. 'Theft' is defined in s. 378 thus:
"Whoever, intending to take dishonestly
any movable property out of the possession of any person 302 without that
person's consent, moves that property in.. order to such taking, is said to
commit theft." This Court had occasion to consider at length what
commission of theft consists of, in K. N. Mehra v. The State of Rajasthan(1).
It said at p. 630:
"Commission of theft, therefore,
consists in (1) moving a movable property of a person out of his possession
without his consent, (2) the moving being in order to the taking of the
property with a dishonest intention. Thus, (I) the absence of the person's
consent at the time of moving, and (2) the presence of dishonest intention in
so taking and at the time, are the essential ingredients of the offence of
theft." At p. 631 it said :
"It is rightly pointed out that since
the definition of theft requires that the moving of the property is to be in
order to such taking, 'such' meaning 'intending to take dishonestly' the very
moving out must be with the dishonest intention." After stating the
provisions of ss. 23 and 24 of the Indian Penal Code, this Court said:
"Taking these two definitions together,
a person can be said to have dishonest intention if in taking the property it
is his intention to cause gain, by unlawful means, of the property to which the
person so gaining is not legally entitled or to cause loss, by wrongful means,
of property to which the person so losing is legally entitled. It is further
clear from the definition that the gain or loss contemplated need not be a
total acquisition or a total deprivation but it is enough if it is a temporary
retention of property by the person wrongfully gaining or a temporary 'keeping
out' of property from the person legally entitled. This is clearly brought out
in illustration (1) to s. 378 of the Indian Penal Code.... " The Court did
not express an opinion with respect to the submission that the Penal Code makes
a distinction between intention to cause a particular result and knowledge or
likelihood of causing a particular result and that the maxim that every person
must be taken to intend the natural consequence of his act is a (1) 
303 legal fiction which is not recognized for
penal consequences in the Indian Penal Code.
Till the property is moved, no offence of
theft can be committed even if the alleged offender had intended to take
dishonestly the property out of the possession of any other person without his
consent. Mere seizure of cattle found trespassing on land does not amount to
moving the cattle.
The act Of moving the cattle would be
subsequent to seizing them. It follows therefore that the seizure of cattle,
though illegal, cannot amount to the offence of theft.
It is after the seizure of cattle that the
person seizing them moves them in order to take them to the pound. This act of
taking them to the pound is what he is directed to do by the Act, Section 10
specifically directs so. Of course, the direction is in regard to the cattle
seized for damaging the land or crop, but the same direction will be deemed to
be operative when the cattle are seized in the purported exercise of the right
to seize them under s. 10 of the Act, specially when s. 20 speaks of such
seizure as being under the Act. An act done in accordance with the provisions
of the Act cannot be considered, prima facie, to be a dishonest act, and would
not justify the conclusion that the taking of the cattle to the pound amounted
to the offence of theft.
A person is said to do a thing dishonestly
when' he does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one
person or wrongful loss to another person. In the case of illegal seizures and
impounding of cattle, the person seizing the cattle does not gain anything. He
simply takes the cattle to the pound. He does not use them for his purpose. He,
in fact, exercises no greater dominion over those cattle than that of being in
their custody on their journey to the pound. It is said that it causes wrongful
loss to the owner of the cattle inasmuch as he keeps the owner out of
possession of the cattle as he was wrongfully deprived; of the property for the
time being, it being not necessary that the deprivation of property be of a
permanent character. We do not think that in such circumstances, the owner of
the cattle can be said to be deprived of his property. The person seizing the
cattle can act in either of these three ways. He can keep, them himself. This
may, in certain circumstances, make him guilty of theft. He can let them loose
after taking them out of the field. This action will not remove the danger of
the cattle trespassing again on the land. He can take them to the pound..
304 In so doing he not only acts as directed
by the Act but also in the interests of both himself and the owner of the
cattle. He avoids the risk of further harm to himself and protects the interest
of the owner by having the cattle in safe custody and keeping them from doing
any further damage to anyone's land or crop. The owner can get back the cattle
from the pound on payment of the fine and expenses in accordance with the
provisions of S. 15 of ,the Act.
Whatever he would have to pay for getting the
cattle released, he can reimburse himself by suitable action under S. 20 of the
Act, as the Magistrate dealing with his complaint is empowered under S. 22 to
order the payment of fines and expenses paid by him in addition to the
compensation for any loss that he suffers. The owner of the cattle illegally
seized is thus not only reimbursed for the fine and expenses which he paid but
also for any loss that he has suffered on account of illegal seizure. This
means that in the ultimate analysis the owner of the cattle, seized illegally,
suffers no loss and that therefore the act of illegal seizure of cattle does
not cause any wrongful loss to the owner of the cattle. It follows that the
person seizing cattle purporting to act under the provisions of the Act does
not cause any wrongful loss to the owner of the cattle.
Even if it be assumed that some sort of loss
which is wrongful in nature is caused to the owner of the cattle by illegal
seizure and impounding them, the question arises whether the person seizing the
cattle illegally from a field with the avowed object of taking them to the
pound on the ground that it was damaging the field or the crop can be imputed
the intention to take the cattle dishonestly. The effect of his seizing the
cattle illegally may be assumed to cause wrongful loss to the owner of the
cattle, but did he so intend? We are of opinion that he did not so intend.
His intention at the time, though based on
his wrong notions that he was entitled to seize the cattle, was to take them to
the pound as required by the Act so that no further damage be done to the land
or property. It is true that intention is mostly gathered from the consequences
of the act committed by the accused but that is so because it is not often that
the intention with which an act is committed can be definitely known from any
previous fact. When a person does a certain act by openly expressing his
intention in committing the act there seems no reason why his intention should
be gathered by the consequences of his act except in those cases where it is
found that the avowed intention was a mere cloak for some other real 305
intention which is then to be determined in the same way as it is determined in
cases of non-expressed intention.
In view of the various considerations
mentioned above, we are of opinion that when a person seizes cattle on the
ground that they were trespassing on his land and causing damage to his crop or
produce and gives out that he was taking them to the pound, he commits no
offence of theft however mistaken he may be about his right to that land or
crop. The remedy of the owner of the cattle so seized is to take action under
S. 20 of the Act. He has no right to use force to rescue the cattle so seized.
We may now briefly consider the cases
referred to in support of the contention that illegal seizure of cattle amounts
to theft. These cases were not of the seizure and impounding of cattle in, the
purported exercise of the powers under s. 10 of the Act. They are: Queen v. Preonath
Wazuddi v. Rahimuddi(2) ; Abdul Khaliq v.
Emperor ( 3 ) ;
Paryag Rai v. Arju Mian(4); Queen Empress v.
Sri Churn Chungo(5). In these cases seizure of cattle was not made even
ostensibly on account of their causing, damage to any land or crop. They were
seized and taken away by persons in order to get their claims against the
owners satisfied, or in order to cause them loss otherwise. Such seizures of
cattle, was rightly held to amount to 'theft.
On the other hand there are cases which held
that no offence is committed by a person seizing cattle illegally. In Empress
v. Ramjiawan(6) it was held that illegal seizure of cattle under the Act was
not an offence of mischief under the Penal Code and, that the, remedy of the
owner of the cattle was to be found in the provisions of ss. 20, 21 and 22.
In Dayal v. Emperor(7) persons who had seized
cattle from, a pound and impounded them in retaliation of the action of the
owners of the cattle in justifiably impounding their cattle a day earlier, were
held not to have committed the offence of mischief under s. 425 T.P.C. inasmuch
as driving the cattle to the pound did not in any way lead to the diminution in
the utility or value of the cattle and not to have committed the offence of
theft as no wrongful loss was caused to the owners of cattle even though they
would have had to incur expenses in order to get them released.
(1) 5 W.R. 68 (criminal).
(3) A.I.R. 1941 Lah. 221.
(5) I.L.R. 22 Cal. 1017.
(2) (1917) 18 Crl. L.J. 849.
(4) I.L.R. 22 Cal. 139.
(6)  1 All. W.N. 158.
(7) A.I.R. 1943 Oudh. 280.
306 We therefore hold that in the
circumstances of this case, 'Rattan and others, appellants, who had seized the
cattle from the .disputed field committed no offence of theft even if they had
no right to that field and that therefore Shamnarain Singh and others who went
armed with sharp-edged weapons and lathis to rescue the cattle had no right of
defence of their property, against Rattan and others.
The learned Sessions Judge was inclined to
the view that Shamnarain Singh's party was the aggressor. The view cannot be
said to be unreasonable even though the prosecution witnesses did not actually
state so. The circumstances of the case, however, indicate that normally
Shamnarain Singh's party would have been the aggressors. It is they who were
aggrieved at the conduct of Rattan and others and deliberately followed those
persons in order to rescue their cattle and therefore would have, in that state
started the attack.
The fact that four persons in Rattan's party
received more injuries than five persons in Shamnarain's party and the number
of serious injuries was also larger on their side support this view. These four
persons received 8 punctured wounds and 4 incised wounds out of the total of 26
injuries on them all. The five persons on Shamnarain's side received 22
injuries which included only one punctured wound, the only one on Ramdeo
deceased, and 4 incised wounds on Sukhari Mahto.
Even if Shamnarain Singh's party were not the
aggressors and the attack was started by the party of Rattan, as appears to be
the view of the High Court, that would not give any right of private defence of
person to Shamnarain's party as Rattan and others could have apprehended, in
the circumstances, that Shamnarain's party was not peacefully inclined and
would use force against them in order to rescue the cattle and that the force
likely to be used could cause grievous hurt. We are of opinion that Rattan and
others, appellants, committed no offence in causing injuries to persons in
Shamnarain's party and in causing the death of Ramdeo who was in that party. We
accordingly allow the appeal, set aside the conviction of Rattan Ahir under s.
302 I.P.C. and of others under s. 326 I.P.C. and also their conviction of the
other offences they were convicted of. They will be released forthwith from