1. Kali Charan Mukerji has been convicted on four charges under Section 506 and Section 507, Indian Penal Code, and sentenced to nine months’ rigorous imprisonment, and a fine of Rs. 75 on each charge. The sentences were to run concurrently. Two letters were delivered in Simla on the 25th of June last. They were enclosed in the same envelope. One of the letters is headed “The Lord Minto Governor General India,” and the other “the Harvie Edmison tyrant European.” The covering envelope is addressed Mr. Edmisin Esqr., Simla.” The letters are undoubtedly of a threatening nature. It is, however, unnecessary, in the view we take of the evidence, to refer at any great length to their contents. The post-mark shows that the letters must have been posted in Aligarh on the 22nd of June.
2. The charge against the accused is that he was the writer and sender of these letters. In consequence of the post-mark the letters were sent to the police authorities at Aligarh. The Superintendent of Police looking up the visitors’ books of the Lyall Library, Aligarh, discovered or thought he discovered a similarity in the signature of Kali Charan Mukerji in the visitors’ books with the writing in the two anonymous letters to which we have already referred. Accordingly, a Head Constable went to the accused and asked him to write out a petition for him to his superior officer in the police. The object, of course, was to obtain an undoubted specimen of the handwriting of the accused for the purpose of comparing that with the anonymous letters. The accused admits his signatures in the visitors’ books, and he also admits that he wrote out the petition for the Head Constable. The alleged similarity between these writings and the writing in the anonymous letters is the only evidence against the accused. The different writings, if compared, would not be considered the same handwritings by a casual observer. On the contrary, they are very dissimilar. The case for the prosecution is that the two anonymous letters are in disguised handwriting and that the petitions are the natural handwriting of the accused. A witness of the name of Charles Hardless was examined as an expert. The case turns entirely upon the value that is to be attached to the evidence of this witness. It has been pointed out on behalf of the accused that if he had written the incriminating letters he would not so easily have fallen into the trap to supply the Head Constable with a genuine specimen of his handwriting within 20 days of the time when he had written the letters. The Head Constable says that he asked him (the accused), to write an application for him (the Head Constable) to be exempted from the examination of the Police Training School and he says that he handed him a draft of the application in pencil. This document has been produced in evidence. It commences; I hereby beg to say that you are our viceroy.” Evidently the writer of the draft thought that it might be useful to have the word Viceroy’ included in the petition. Perhaps he thought that this word occurred in one of the letters. The draft goes on to say : my affairs have been concealed from you. If you are angry, I am holding this post from 1848. According to the new rules, I being illiterate, cannot be admitted in the Police Training School. Therefore, I wish to be exempted from the Police Training School examination.” It was evidently intended to get some of the words in the petition, which were also in the anonymous letters. The word hidden appears in one of the anonymous letters, and it is evident that the person who made the draft made a mistake in putting in the word Viceroy’ instead of Governor General’ and concealed’ instead of hidden.’
3. The accused agreed to write and said that he would have the petition ready in the morning. The Head Constable told him that he had to leave by train that night and the accused said that he would have it ready in a short time. In a short time he came back to the Head Constable with the petition drawn up and said that such expressions as ‘Viceroy’ ‘Lord’ were not suitable to be addressed to a Superintendent of Police. The accused then sat down to write out in the presence of the Head Constable another copy of the petition for him, the same as the one which he had brought with him a few minutes before. The learned Judge in dealing with the argument on behalf of the accused, that if he was guilty of writing the letters, it is not likely that he would have fallen into the trap prepared for him by the Head Constable, says that although the accused is neither insane nor imbecile he is somewhat deficient in mental powers.” He also relies upon the fact that accused when examined before the Magistrate said that he had taken some drink when he wrote the petitions for the Head Constable. Now if the accused was a clever man, it is certainly not very likely that he would so easily have given the Constable a specimen of his writing, and he does not appear to have been drunk; according to the evidence he at once saw the mistake of using the word Viceroy in the Head Constable’s petition. We have already mentioned that to an ordinary observer the two anonymous letters are wholly dissimilar to the two petitions. There is no doubt that the expert has found a considerable number of matters which he says point to the fact that all four documents were written by the accused.
4. If this is so, the two anonymous letters are in a disguised handwriting. We find that the writing generally in the anonymous letters is of a much bettor character than the writing in the two petitions. Any one looking at them would say that the writer of the anonymous letters had been much better taught than the writer of the petitions. Furthermore, we find that there area great many matters in which the general characteristics of the handwriting in the anonymous letters differ from the petitions. In some instances we find this difference in the very letters of the words relied upon by the expert. In the case of Sri Kant v. King Emperor 2 A.L.J. 411 a Bench of this Court set aside a conviction based on the evidence of the same expert who was examined in the present case. That case was a very much stronger one than the present and the skill of the expert had been put to a much severer test than in the present case. Mr. Justice Blair, in delivering the judgment of the Court said: we need hardly point out that to base a conviction upon the opinion of an expert in handwriting is, as a general rule, very unsafe. There may be cases in which the handwriting concerned is of such a peculiar character and discloses so many variations from the ordinary standard that the conclusion would be morally irresistible. Such cases, however, are very rare.” We quite agree with the opinion thus expressed and we are certainly unable to say that the present case falls under the exceptions referred to by the learned Judges. It is impossible for us to say in the present case that we are satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused wrote the anonymous letters. The result is that we allow the appeal, acquit the accused, and setting aside the convictions and sentences, direct that the appellant, so far as this case is concerned, be set at liberty forthwith. The fine, if it has been realized, is to be refunded.