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Purna Chandra Sen Gupta Vs. Supdt & Remembrancer of Legal Affairs [1993] INSC 415 (8 October 1993)

REDDY, K. JAYACHANDRA (J) REDDY, K. JAYACHANDRA (J) RAY, G.N. (J) CITATION: 1994 SCC (1) 429 JT 1993 (6) 112 1993 SCALE (4)36

ACT:

HEADNOTE:

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by K.JAYACHANDRA REDDY, J.- Both these appeals are filed against the common judgment of the High Court of Calcutta reversing the order of acquittal passed by the Sub- Divisional Judicial Magistrate, Siliguri.

2.Six accused were tried by the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate for an offence punishable under Section 3(a) of the Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1966 ('Act' for short). According to the prosecution, on August 20, 1972, M.K. Tewari, PW 1 was posted at Siliguri Junction Diesel Shed as S.I. of R.P.F. On that day at about 3.30 hrs.

he found 6/7 persons pushing a hand trolley towards gate No. 5 leading to shunting neck which was loaded with-,some heavy materials. PW 1 suspected the activities of those persons and raised an alarm by blowing his whistle. As soon as he came out of gate No. 3 he also found A.S.I., PW 3, and another Rakshak near Y.M. Office. He told them to arrest the persons for moving the trolley. All of them rounded them up but three of them managed to escape and they +From the Judgment and Order dated February 10, 1982 of the Calcutta High Court in Govt. Appeal No. 17 of 1975 430 could arrest three accused persons namely P.C. Sen Gupta, K. Appanaidu and Budhi Kr. Routh, original accused 4 to 6. PW 1 and the other officer found that the trolley was loaded with two radiator cores. PWs 1 and 3 blew their whistles obviously to attract the attention of other Rakshaks on duty. Original accused 1 to 3 who were the Rakshaks and were on duty on that night, came 15 to 20 minutes late. The prosecution case against them is that they wantonly derelicted their duties of keeping watch with a view to facilitate other culprits to take away the railway property in the trolley and thus they committed an offence under Section 114 IPC read with Section 3(a) of the Act. The accused pleaded not guilty. The learned Magistrate acquitted A-1 to A-3 on the ground that there was no proof of abetment of the offence by them. He also acquitted A-4 to A-6 on the ground that all the ingredients of Section 3 of the Act are not made out. The High Court held that A-1 to A-3 were not found on duty at the time allotted to them and it is only after blowing of whistles by PW 1 and others that they came and their conduct in coming late would show that they facilitated the commission of the offence. The High Court also held that A-4 to A-6 were actually found moving the trolley with the railway property after removal and therefore an offence under Section 3(a) was proved and accordingly set aside the order of acquittal and convicted all the six accused, A-1 to A-3 were convicted under Section 3(a) of the Act read with Section 1 14 IPC and sentenced to undergo three years' rigorous imprisonment. A-4 to A-6 were convicted under Section 3(a) of the Act and sentenced to undergo three years' rigorous imprisonment. Questioning the same, the present appeals have been filed. Criminal Appeal No. 266 of 1982 is filed by A-1 Beda Nand Yadav and A-2 Monilal Dutta and Criminal Appeal No. 713 of 1983 is filed by A-4 to A-6. A-3, Charu Bhushan Dass is not before us.

3.Learned counsel appearing for A-1 and A-2, Rakshaks, submitted that there is no material whatsoever that they along with another Rakshak Charu Bhushan Dass abetted the commission of the offence by the other accused. It is also submitted that Siliguri Loco Shed is very big one and the mere fact that these Rakshaks who were on allotted duty on that night came a little late after hearing the whistles, would not necessarily lead to a conclusion that they abetted the offence. PW 1 is the main witness in this case. He deposed that he saw six persons pushing the trolley and he blew the whistle and rounded them up but only three could be arrested. His evidence establishes that A-4 to A-6 were caught red-handed along with others who escaped and they were moving the trolley loaded with railway property namely two radiator cores. The reasoning of the learned Magistrate that the possession as such was not proved is incorrect.

When once they moved the property from a proper place that itself shows that they came into possession and were moving the same out of the shed. Therefore A-4 to A-6 have rightly been convicted.

4.PW 1 also stated that he whistled several times but A- 1 to A-3 came only after 15 to 20 minutes. In the cross- examination he stated that after 431 blowing the whistle, he rushed through gate No. 3 outside the shed which was about 70 to 80 yards away. PW 3, A.S.I., who joined PW 1 also deposed that three persons could be apprehended. Then he also stated that after arresting the accused he again blew the whistle and A-1 to A-3 came and the arrested accused were handed over. In the cross- examination he did not say that A-1 to A-3 came after 15 to 20 minutes. In any event the question is whether the dereliction of duty as such would amount to abetment. In the instant case, A-1 to A-3 tried to explain away by stating that they were patrolling a large area of the shed.

But admittedly it was their duty which they have grossly derelicted and the same amounted to culpable negligence which resulted in the offence being committed by the other accused. But the same may not amount to abetment. In that view their conviction cannot be sustained. However, we are of the view that the gross dereliction of duty on the part of these accused, whose duty was to protect, is a serious act and they are accordingly admonished. We also make it clear that they do not deserve to hold such posts and the question of their being going back and joining the service does not arise. Subject to these directions Criminal Appeal No. 266 of 1982is partly allowed.

5.A-4 to A-6, appellants in Criminal Appeal No. 713 of 1983, were caughtred-handed. An offence under Section 3(a) of the Act is punishable with imprisonment or with fine or with both. In this case the possession of the property in the strict sense was not there. However, an offence under Section 3(a), as already held, is made out. The offence itself took place in the year 1972 and the appellants have undergone some imprisonment. Therefore while confirming their conviction, we reduce the sentence to the period already undergone. In addition, we sentence each of them to pay a fine of Rs 1000 in default of payment of which to undergo RI for three months. Accordingly Criminal Appeal No. 713 of 1983 is also partly allowed.

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