(1.)This appeal, which has come before us, on a certificate granted by the High Court of the State of Punjab at Simla, under Article 134(1)(c) of the Constitution, raises a short point of law. On the 3rd of March 1948, an Ordinance (being Ordinance No. 7 of 1948) was promulgated by the Governor of East Punjab, under Section 88 of the Government of India Act, 1935, making provisions for the registration of land claim of the East Punjab refugees. On the 17th March 1948 the respondent Mohar Singh, who purports to be a refugee from West Pakistan, filed a claim in accordance with the provisions of this Ordinance, stating therein, that he had lands measuring 104 kanals situated within the district of Mianwali in West Punjab. On the 1st of April 1948 this Ordinance was repealed and Act 12 of 1948 (hereinafter called 'the Act') was passed by the East Punjab Legislature re-enacting all the provisions of the repealed Ordinance.
The claim filed by the respondent was investigated in due course and it was found after enquiry, that the statement made by him was absolutely false and that as a matter of fact there was no land belonging to him in West Pakistan. Upon this, a prosecution was started against him on the 13th of May, 1950, under Section 7 of the Act, which makes it an offence for any person to submit, with regard to his claim under the Act, any information which is false. The accused was tried by S. Jaspal Singh. Magistrate. First Class, Jullundur before whom he confessed his guilt and pleaded for mercy. The trying Magistrate by his order dated the 20th of July 1951 convicted the respondent under Section 7 of the Act and sentenced him to imprisonment till the rising of the court and a fine of Rs. 120, in default of which he was to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one month.
(2.)The District Magistrate of Jullundur considered the sentence to be inadequate and referred the case to the High Court at Simla under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code with a recommendation that a deterrent sentence might be imposed upon the accused. The matter first came up before a single Judge of that court and a preliminary point was raised on behalf of the respondent that it was not within the competence of the trying Magistrate to convict him at all under the provisions of the Act, as the offence was committed against the Ordinance before the Act came into force and the prosecution was started long after the Ordinance had come to an end.
Having regard to the diversity of judicial opinion on the point, the single Judge referred the case for decision by a Division Bench. The learned Judges constituting the Division Bench accepted the contention raised on behalf of the respondent and by their judgment dated the 7th of August 1952 set aside the conviction of the respondent and the sentence imposed upon him under Section 7 of the Act. It is against this judgment that the present appeal has been taken to this court by the State of Punjab.
(3.)It is not disputed that the respondent did submit, with regard to the claim filed by him under the provisions of the Ordinance, an information which was false and that such act was punishable as an offence under Section 7 of the Ordinance. The Ordinance however was repealed soon after the filing of the claim and was substituted by the Act which incorporated all the provisions of the Ordinance. The High Court in deciding the case in favour of the respondent proceeded on the ground that as Act 12 of 1948 was not in existence at the date when the claim was filed by the respondent, he could not possibly be convicted of an offence under a law which, was not in force at the time of the commission of the offence. The State Government attempted to meet this argument by invoking the provisions of Section 6 of the General Clauses Act which is in the same terms as Section 4 of the Punjab General Clauses Act.
Section 6 of the General Causes Act lays down the effect of the repeal of an enactment. The section runs thus :
"6. Where this Act or any Central Act or regulation, made after the commencement of this Act, repeals any enactment hitherto made or hereafter to be made, then, unless a different intention appears, the repeal shall not
...... ....... ...... ...... ...... ......
(c) affect any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued or incurred under any enactment so repealed: or
(d) affect any penalty, forfeiture or punishment incurred in respect of any offence committed against any enactment so repealed: or
(e) affect any investigation, legal proceeding or remedy in respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, penalty, forfeiture or punishment as aforesaid".
On the strength of this provision in the General Causes Act it was contended on behalf of the State that the repeal of the Ordinance could not in any way affect the liability already incurred by the respondent, in respect of an offence, committed against the provisions of the Ordinance and any penalty or punishment consequent thereon.