Excerpt:The word ‘makes’ in Section 499 refers to the originator of the defamatory matter. I can usefully refer here to Volume III, 6th edition of Dr. Sir Had Singh Gour’s Penal Law of India page 2340 where the learned author has noted that the word ”makes” in Section 499 has been used in its etymological sense as connoting “to make public” or to make known to people in general. Publication implies communication to at least one person other than the person defamed. In other words, communication must be to a third party, that is, to a party other than the person defamed (vide Khima Nand v. Emperor 38 Cri L J 806 (All). T
“Reputation” has been used to denote the estimation in which a person is held by others, the character imputed to him in the community or the society to which he belongs
The plea of good faith can be negatived on the ground of recklessness and want of due care and caution. The onus lay on the respondent to prove affirmatively that there were reasonable grounds for making those imputations. Good faith has to be ascertained on the facts and circumstances of each case and honesty of purpose has to be found out in such cases.
Patna High Court
Sardar Amar Singh vs K.S. Badalia on 7 July, 1964
Equivalent citations: 1965 CriLJ 693
Bench: T Nath
JUDGMENT Tarkeshwar Nath, J.
1. This appeal by the complainant is directed against a judgment of acquittal by the Munsif Magistrate, first class, Patna. The complainant has preferred this appeal under Section 417 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, His case, in brief, was that he was a member nominated by the District Judge, Patna of the supervising Committee of Takht Harmandirji, Patna City, and he was held in high esteem in society by the other nominated and elected members, office bearers and the Public at large. On 21-8-1959 the respondent sent a letter to Sardar Surjit Singhji Majithia, Deputy Defence Minister, Government of India, New Delhi, making baseless and scandalous imputations against the appellant. The appellant alleged in the petition, of complaint that the letter contained defamatory statements which had caused considerable loss of prestige and harm to him. The appellant took strong exception to the following statements made in that letter:
What this Sardar Amar Singh was and is, is not unknown to old police officers who are now, at the top posts, and how he has amassed some wealth by hook and by crook, and how he rose from a mere transport worker as Khalasi or driver to the present position. This man who barely can sign, has a big gang of Khalasies and drivers and criminals at his command who can be utilised for any purpose at any time. Is it not a fact that Sardar Amar Singh in conjunction with Sardar Arjun Singh, Sardar Sohan Singh and Sardar Ramautar Singh and others devised a scheme to grab properties and engineered false cases and had banked (?) them by false affidavits and statements on oath which had resulted in criminal action against 38 out of 41 witnesses for committing perjury and fabrication of false evidence? Who is the man who managed such a large number of false witnesses and how?
Is it not a fact that he is befooling all the members of the Prabandhak Committee for his own ends by his tacts and he along, with Ramautar Singh, the Law Agent, are utilising the Gurudwara funds for their own purposes out of litigation costs and Sardar Amar Singh utilising the services of the law Agent and Gurdwara for his own cases and that is why he is interested in litigations. A thorough scrutiny of case accounts along with case diaries and order sheets will convince you about these facts and how Gurdwara funds are being utilised for personal gains. There are dozens of personal cases of Amar Singh and they are being supervised by Ramautar Singh and that is why he is a daily attender of courts. Is it not a fact that he by keeping some criminals and bullies, is playing a roll of ‘king Makers’ in the management and the gentry keeping aside being afraid of inviting unnecessary troubles to themselves by opposing him, as many have met in the past. Who is responsible for bringing in Gurbachan Singh Funchia as member and President of Curdwara Management and this Punchia being convicted of theft of Government properties is absconding still? Who engineered criminal false cases against Major Lochan Singh, the then P. M. G. Bihar and President of the Gurdwara Supervising Committee and Bhai Bhagwan Singh, the then Manager through Bir Singh a disgruntled and dismissed servant of the Gurdwara and banked (?) that on false evidence ? Were they bad people or they become hindrance to his nefarious activities which were responsible for disrepute to the Management? The learned Magistrate in his judgment has held this man responsible for all troubles.
Many gentlemen have been insulted, humiliated and put to unnecessary troubles and harassments and humiliation. Those who opposed him or criticised his conducts as the undersigned is suffering at his instance. And all these for what, whether to serve the Gurdwara honourably or serve himself in the name of Gurudwara? Can the Gurdwara Management engage criminals and bullies as employees as is the case at present? If an account into the incidents of the Gurdwara is taken it will be exposed who is what?
His case was that these imputations were purposely made by the respondent with a view to defame him inasmuch as ha (respondent) knew full well that there was no justification for those defamatory statements. The respondent further intended that the said letter should be read by others. The appellant got this letter dated 21-8-1939 from the General Secretary of the Parbandhak Committee of Takht Harmandirji and produced it in Court along with his petition of complaint. The appellant filed a petition of complaint before the Subdivisional Magistrate, Patna City. On 15-12-1959 and on the same date he was examined by the Magistrate on solemn affirmation.
2. A charge was framed against the respondent under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code and the respondent was put on trial.
3. The respondent was examined under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code and he stated that he neither committed any offence nor did he write any letter with an intention to cause damage and loss of prestige of the appellant. He proposed to file a written statement, but learned Counsel for the appellant informed me that no written statement was filed.
4. On a consideration of the evidence, the Magistrate held that the prosecution failed to prove that the letter in question was either typed at the instance of the respondent or it bore the signature of the respondent. He thus held that that letter was inadmissible and it could not be taken into consideration. His other conclusion was that the said latter was not intended to be published at all by the writer of the same and the prosecution has failed to adduce any evidence for proving publication, His other finding was that the prosecution did not prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the defamatory expressions had harmed the prestige of the appellant. Lastly, he took the view that the letter in question came within the purview of Exception 8 to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and on that score as well the letter, even if written by the respondent, did not make him guilty of the offence under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. In view of these conclusions, he acquitted the respondent. Hence the complainant has preferred this criminal appeal.
5. Learned Counsel for the appellant has assailed all the findings of the Munsif Magistrate. The respondent had filed appearance in this case at an earlier stage choosing to appear in person and he even deposited the cost of the paper book, but at the time of the hearing of this appeal he has not appeared. Learned Counsel for the appellant has even in the absence of the respondent placed the evidence oral and documentary, quite fairly. The first question which arises for consideration is as to whether the letter dated 21-8-1959 bore the signature of the respondent. This letter is purported to have been written by the respondent who happened to be a member of the Bihar State Board of Swetamber Jain Religious Trusts, Patna City, and it was addressed to Sardar Surjit Singh Majithia, Depury Defence Minister and President of Parbandhak Committee of Sri Takht Harrnandirji, Patna City. It appears that the addressee is the President of the Managing Committee and he was addressed in that capacity by the respondent. The opening lines of this letter indicate that the sender had received a letter dated 25-8-1959 from the addressee.
The Magistrate disbelieved the evidence of the witnesses who deposed about the signature of the respondent on this letter. Learned Counsel for the appellant has laid stress before me on the evidence of P. Ws. 1 and 3i who, according to him. have definitely and clearly proved the signature of the respondent on this letter dated 21-8-1959. Gurbaksh Singh (P. W. 1) is an Honorary Manager of the Gurudwara. He stated that he received a letter in August 1959 written by accused K. S. Badalia which contained allegations against Sardar Amar Singh. In view of this evidence) the letter was marked X. The witness further said that the letter contained defamatory abuses against Sardar Amar Singh. His evidence further is that he knew the signature of Sri Badalia on the petition and then this signature was marked Ext. 1. He identified the respondent in dock. It appears from his cross examination that he knew the respondent for the last one year and he saw him first in the police station at Chowk. After that the witness had met the respondent in Court compound and in market. The letter marked X is a typed one arid runs into two pages. He stated in cross-examination that it was not a fact that he had made false statement about the signature of the respondent marked Ext. 1. Apart from this suggestion to this witness, he was not asked anything as to how he was competent to know the signature of the respondent and whether he had seen his other signatures on some other papers.
Jagat Singh (P. W. 3) as well was a member of the managing committee of Harmandirji, Patna City, and he knew that the appellant was a nominated member of that committee. His evidence is that the respondent wrote a letter to Sardar Surjit Singh Majithiai Deputy Defence Minister, Government of India, and he (the witness) read that letter. He knew the respondent and he deposed that this letter marked X was written by the respondent to the Deputy Defence Minister. Me further added that false allegations were made in this letter against Sardar Amar Singh and Ramautar Singh. In examination in-chief he did not indicate as to how he was competent to say that the letter marked X was written by the respondent, but the matter has been made clear in cross examination itself. He stated as follows:
I have stated that the letter in question was written by accused since I know his signature as 1 had seen his signature also previously.
Section 47 of the Evidence Act provides that when the Court has to form an opinion as to the person by whom any document was written or signed, the opinion of any person acquainted with the handwriting of the person by whom it is supposed to be written or signed that it was or was not written or signed by that person, is a relevant fact. The explanation to that section indicates as to in what circumstances a person can be said to be acquainted with the handwriting of another person. P. W. 3 had seen the signature of the respondent on previous occasions as well and as such, having seen his signature on the letter marked X he proceeded to state that that letter was written by the respondent. P.W. 3 further stated in cross examination that he had met the accused once In the circuit house when Sardar Surjit Singhji Majithia had gone there, but on that occasion he (P. W. 3) had not seen the respondent writing anything. The learned Magistrate made a comment while referring to the evidence of this witness that ha had not seen the accused writing anything and as such his evidence was not satisfactory for proving the signature of the respondent on that letter. It is true that at the time the witness saw the respondent in the circuit house he did not see him writing anything, but that does not by itself rule out the possibility of the witness having seen the signature of the respondent on an earlier occasion. The cross-examiner himself brought out what was not stated by P. W. 3 in his examination in chief.
Apart from the evidence of P. W. 3, there is another cogent reason which leads to the inference that the letter marked X bore the signature of the respondent. Proceeding with the sequence of events, I find that on the letter marked X dated 21-8-1959 the President of the Managing Committee made an endorsement asking the General Secretary Sardar Arjun Singh to report in detail about the events referred to in that letter. In answer to this, Arjun Singh (P. W. 8) sent a letter (Ext. 2) dated 27-8-1959 and he (the Secretary) was very much Painad to read the contents of the letter dated 21-8-1959 reiterating the various grievances against the Gurudwara. On September 2, 1959, the President of the Managing Committee (Sardar Sarjit Singh Majithia) sent a letter (Ex. C/2) to the respondent and the contents are as follows:
I have received your letter dated 21-8-1959 regarding the land dispute with the Parbandhak Committee of Sri Takht Harmandirji, Patna Sahib.
I think the best course would be to refer the matter to an arbitrator acceptable to both the parties. I will, therefore, request you to send me the name of some arbitrators acceptable to you immediately as I am very anxious to have this matter settled once for all.
This letter was with the respondent and he produced it at the time of trial. P. W. 3 was asked about this letter and he proved it. This letter refers to the letter dated 21-8-1959 marked X. A reasonable inference can be drawn that the respondent had sent the letter dated 21-8-1959 to the President. He got an answer to this on 2-9.1959. The respondent had preserved this letter dated 2-9-1959 and unless he had written the letter dated 21-8-1959 there can be no earthly reason for his getting a reply to the said letter from the President. This letter (Ext.C/2) has not been considered in its proper aspect and the oral evidence of P. Ws. 1 and 3 taken along with this letter (Ex. C/2) proves conclusively that the letter marked X bore the signature of the respondent and it was he who had sent it to the President for the redress of his grievances,
6. Next question for consideration is as to whether there was any publication of this letter marked X. Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code defines “defamation” in the following manner:
Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.
The case of the respondent was that the word “personal” was mentioned on that letter and it was not intended to be published, This was the view taken by the learned Magistrate, but learned Counsel for the appellant has contested it. He has referred to the evidence of the prosecution witnesses who said that the said letter was placed in the meeting of the Managing Committee, the matter was discussed, enquiries were made into the allegations contained in that letter and they were found to be false. Gurubaksh Singh (P. W. 1) no doubt said that the letter marked X was not published in any newspaper to his knowledge, but Shatnbhu Singh (P. W. 2) was the Secretary of the All India Parbandhak Committee and his evidence is that the said letter was produced by the General Secretary in the meeting of the Committee. But he could not remember as to who were the members present in that meeting and whether he himself was present in that meeting. His evidence is not very much helpful on this point to the appellant inasmuch as he (P. W. 2) could not recall whether he himself was present in that meeting.
Jagat Singh (P. W. 3) as well was a member of the Managing Committee and his evidence is that the said letter was put up before the Managing Committee. It appears from his cross examination that he could not remember as to when he had seen that letter, but he was definite that he was present in the meeting in which the letter was taken into consideration. Amar Singh (P. W. 6) was the complainant and he stated that the said letter was read out before the members of the Managing Committee.
It is true that the minute book of the Managing Committee has not been produced, but when a letter of this kind containing various allegations was sent to the President, he had to call for a report, draw the attention of the members of the Managing committee to the prevailing state of affairs in the Gurudwara and take suitable steps for setting things right, Arjun Singh, the General Secretary of the Managing Committee (P. W. 8) also stated that he had put up this letter marked X before the Managing Committee and he sent a reply to the President. The evidence discloses beyond doubt that the letter marked X was placed before the members of the Managing Committee.
One of the ingredients of the offence of defamation is that there should be making or publication of any imputation concerning any person. Such imputation may be words either spoken or written. The defamatory matter has to be published. In other words, it has to be communicated to a person other than the person defamed. The word ‘makes’ in Section 499 refers to the originator of the defamatory matter. I can usefully refer here to Volume III, 6th edition of Dr. Sir Had Singh Gour’s Penal Law of India page 2340 where the learned author has noted that the word ”makes” in Section 499 has been used in its etymological sense as connoting “to make public” or to make known to people in general. Publication implies communication to at least one person other than the person defamed. In other words, communication must be to a third party, that is, to a party other than the person defamed (vide Khima Nand v. Emperor 38 Cri L J 806 (All). The question whether the defamatory matter in this particular case was communicated to a third person is, therefore, material. The letter dated 21-8-1959 (Ex. X) was addressed to the President of the Managing Committee of Sri Takht Harmandirji and after receiving it he made a note on it and directed the General Secretary to report to him about the affairs of the Gurudwara. Later on, the President sent a reply to the respondent (vide Bit, C/2). There can be thus no doubt that the defamatory statements made in the letter were communicated to the President of the Managing Committee and he was a person other than the appellant who was defamed in that letter. I am thus of the view that there was publication as contemplated in Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. The steps which the President and the General Secretary took after the receipt of the letter do not seem to be very material, inasmuch as the respondent may not have intended that the letter should be placed before the members of the Managing Committee.
It is true that the President took certain steps after the receipt of the letter, but even without that there was communication of the defamatory statements to the President. The learned Magistrate has relied on a decision in the case of Devi Dial v. King-Emperor AIR 1923 Lah 225. The petitioner in that case was convicted for defaming the complainant. One of the grounds urged against the conviction was that the publication of the libel was not proved by the prosecution. The prosecution had alleged in that case that the accused had published an imputation against the Extra Assistant Commissioner that he had compelled him to pay a bribe of Rs. 1000 in order to avoid a prosecution for a certain offence. The prosecution gave no evidence to prove that the petitioner had either made or published the imputation complained of but the Courts below had held the publication to be proved because the petitioner when examined had admitted the publication. This view of the Courts below was repelled and it was held that the prosecution must make out its case by evidence, and a gap in the evidence could not be filled up by any statement made by the accused in his examination under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In absence of any evidence on behalf of the prosecution to prove that the petitioner had made or published the imputation concerning the complainant of that case, the conviction could not be sustained in that case.
In the present case, I have already indicated that there was communication and publication of the imputation made by the respondent and thus this decision relied upon by the Magistrate is of no avail to the respondent. The Magistrate was not right in holding that there was no evidence on behalf of the prosecution to prove the publication of the defamatory statements.
7. Section 499 further envisages that the imputation must be made with the intention to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation would harm the reputation of the person defamed. Harm has to be to the reputation itself of the person defamed. “Reputation” has been used to denote the estimation in which a person is held by others, the character imputed to him in the community or the society to which he belongs. On the question of reputation, the Magistrate’s view was that the appellant had little prestige in society, that is, nominal prestige”) but the appellant could not be said in any way ”to possess no prestige.” Learned, counsel for the appellant has assailed this finding and has placed the evidence of several witnesses.
It appears from the evidence of P. W. 1 that the District Judge had nominated the appellant as a member of the Prabandhak Committee. P. W. 2 deposed that the appellant was a rich man, bore good moral character and was a responsible citizen of Patna being respected in the Sikh community. He stated in cross-examination that neither he knew about the education of the appellant Amar Singh nor did he know his native place nor his relations. The witness had not seen any document regarding the properties of the appellant and he similarly never came across the appellant’s pass book of any bank. The witness may not be knowing the details of the properties possessed by the appellant but having come to know the appellant since 1956, as a member of the Managing Committee, it was open to him to form his own opinion about the character and respectability of the appellant.
A person may not possess property, but still he can have a good character and respectability. P. W. 3 deposed that the appellant was a respectable and rich man and bore good moral character. It is true that the witness had no concern with the business of the appellant and he was connected with him only in connection with the Gurudwara, but even then on account of his connection he could very well get an idea about the character and status of the appellant. P. Ws. 5 and 7 were not connected with the Gurudwara, but they were having separate business in the town of Patna. P. W. 5 deposed that the appellant had many houses besides land. The appellant was doing business and was owner of a truck. Similarly, P. W. 7 deposed about the respectability of the appellant and his owner. ship of various properties including buses. P. W. 8-was a Divisional Engineer of Railway. He happened to be the General Secretary of the Parbandhak Committee and he was Secretary of Gurugobind Singh College as well. His evidence is that the appellant was a well-to-do person, had a good financial position and was a respectable person in the Sikh Community. His testimony as well can be safely relied upon and the result of all this evidence is that there can be no doubt about the respect-ability and good reputation of the appellant.
8. Another point for consideration is as to whether there was any harm to the reputation of the appellant on account of the defamatory statements contained in the letter (Ex. X). It is not necessary to prove that actually harm was caused if the words are prima facie defamatory and it would be sufficient if it can be made out that the respondent knew or had reason to believe that the imputation made by him would harm the reputation of the appellant, When the expressions and words used in a particular letter or other document are clear enough to indicate that there would be a harm to the reputation, then one need not find out as to whether the imputation was likely to lower the moral or intellectual character of the person defamed. Explanation 4 to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code provides! No imputation is said to harm a person’s reputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person….
But this explanation would not apply when the, words used and forming the subject matter of the charge are per se defamatory. Here, again, the evidence adduced on behalf of the appellant has to be looked into for ascertaining as to whether any harm was caused to his reputation. P. W. I said in cross-examination that his experience was that the appellants’ prestige had gone down after the letter was written by the respondent against him. P.W. 2 deposed that on reading the letter (Ex. X) here-acted very contemptuously temporarily against the appellant, but later he came to know that the allegations were false. P. W. 3 stated that false and baseless allegations were made against the appellant and on account of those allegations there was a contemptuous feeling against the appellant. On the receipt of that letter, enquiries had to be made about those allegations. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the respondent caused harm to the reputation of the appellant by making those defamatory statements against him in the letter (Ex. X).
9. The Magistrate took the view that the respondent (accused) was entitled to take the benefit of Exception 8 to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Coda. Learned Counsel for the appellant contended that the view taken by the learned Magistrate was entirely erroneous. The reasons assigned by the Magistrate were that even if the letter was sent by the respondent to the President of the Managing Committee, the position was that the respondent was aggrieved by the conduct of the appellant, several cases were fought between the Gurudwara on one hand and the respondent on the other and hence accusations were made in good faith against the appellant. The Magistrate further took the view that there were in fact defamatory statements against the appellant (complainant),but the concluding paragraphs of that letter clearly indicated the purpose for which those statements were made and in tact the writer wanted the President to intervene for the efficient management of the Gurudwara by taking a personal interest in the matter.
He relied on a decision of the Madras High Court in the case of G. N. Subba Kao v. Venkatachalapathi A.I.R. 1938 Mad. 904. The defamation there consisted in the presentation of a certain petition to the Sub-Inspector of Police by the residents of a certain locality in Madura against the complainant alleging that he was in the habit of getting drunk and abusing people and threatening to do evil by the use of black art and praying for protection against the complainant. It was admitted in that case by the complainant that he did not know the accused personally and besides that there was lack of evidence with regard to any express malice or enmity. In those circumstances, it was observed that good faith had to be presumed. The other contention was that the offence, if at all, was one of giving false information to a public officer or of making a false accusation-an offence punishable under Section 182 or Section 21l of the Indian Penal Code, and offences of that nature could not be taken cognizance of by a Magistrate in the absence of a complaint by the public servant concerned or of some authority to whom the public servant was subordinate. This contention as well was accepted. The facts of the present case are entirely different. The respondent knew the appellant full well and they were arrayed on different sides in a number of cases. This decision thus is of no assistance to the respondent.
10. It appears from the evidence of P. W. 3 that the brother of the respondent had sold some land to the Gurudwara and a dispute was going on in respect of that land which was adjacent west of that Gurudwara. The appellant (P. W. 6) as well admitted that many cases were pending between the Gurudwara and the respondent and he (P. W. 6) was in charge of litigation on behalf of the Gurudwara. The appellant was the General Secretary from 1944 to 1949 and he was nominated as a member of the Managing Committee in 1955 also. The appellant’s case was that as he was in charge of litigation, the respondent wrote the letter in question in order to defame him and get him turned out of the Committee. It further appears that a proceeding under Section 107 was pending against the appellant and a few others and the initial order under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was passed on 28-5-1959 (Vide Ex. G/4). The respondent was the first party in that proceeding, whereas Bir Singh and six others including the appellant were members of the second party. The second party was directed to execute an ad interim bond under Section 117 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Exhibit D contains the list of cases between the Gurudwara and the respondent. Cases were being instituted on behalf of the Gurudwara under the direction of the appellant who was in charge of litigation. The appellant (P. W. 6) admitted that there was a case regarding coal against him under the Essential Commodities Act and he was fined Rs. 15/- in that case in 1961. He further admitted that a case under Sections 406, 420, 485and 471 of the Indian Penal Code was pending against him. The general Secretary (P. W. 8) stated in cross-examination that a money suit was filed against the appellant in 1955 for Rs. 1000/- and in that suit it was alleged that the appellant had defalcated a certain amount. The learned Magistrate referred to certain Other exhibits, such as exhibits E, F, G, G/1, G/2 and G/3 and observed that these documents were not at all relevant for the purposes of this case. Learned Counsel for the appellant as well referred to these documents and pointed oat that these documents were not of any use to the respondent. There is enmity no doubt between the appellant and the respondent inasmuch as the appellant was in charge of litigation on behalf of the Managing Committee and several cases were still pending, but the question is as to whether the respondent was entitled to write this letter containing various imputations against the appellant. To begin with, the respondent regretted in this letter (Ext. X) that the nefarious activities on behalf of the Gurudwara Management engineered particularly by the appellant, the Member in charge of litigation and acquisition of properties, Sardar Arjun Singh, the General Secretary, and a few others had not till then stopped. Along with this letter, he enclosed true copies of the orders passed by the Sub-divisional Officer on certain dates and he referred to some criminal cases. He relied upon -a judgment dated 29-7-1959 of this Court in which it was observed that the attitude of the Sikhs was aggressive. This judgment, however, has not been filed in this case. Learned Counsel for the appellant fairly conceded that what was stated in the earlier part of this letter was not defamatory and the addressee being the President of the Managing Committee, it was open to the respondent to inform the President about the affairs of the Gurudwara for his intervention. In the concluding four paragraphs of this letter, the respondent indicated that the policy adopted by the appellant might again lead to a dispute between the two temples-Harmandirji and the Jain temple. He further indicated that during his father’s time the Gurudwara people attempted to usurp some land of the Jain temple which led to criminal cases, but the then authorities having taken strong attitude the Gurudwara people had to yield and settle matters immediately. He made a request to the President to intervene and take away the power of supervision of cases and litigations from the hands of the appellant in order to avoid future trouble. Learned Counsel again conceded that he could not take any objection to the statements contained in the last four paragraphs of that letter, inasmuch as the President was informed of the various activities of the appellant and other persons concerned. He, however, contended that certain other statements made in that letter were definitely defamatory and they caused harm to the reputation of the appellant, The passages to which he took strong exception are these:
(1) What this S. Amar Singh was and is, is not unknown to old police officers who are, now, at the top posts ; and how he has amassed some wealth by hook and by crook, and how he rose from a mere transport worker as Khalasi or driver to the present position.
(2) This man who barely can sign, has a big gang of Khalasies and drivers and criminals at his command who can be utilised for any purpose at any time.
Learned Counsel submitted that the respondent had absolutely no justification for alleging that the appellant had amassed wealth by hook and crook and that he had within his control a big gang of criminals for the nefarious activities. There is great force in this comment. The words used clearly indicate that the respondent impeached the character of the appellant and described him as leader of the gang of criminals. He also imputed that the appellant had amassed wealth by unfair means. The statements made by the respondent are definite and clear and it is not that he made these imputations on being told by some one or that he had a suspicion about these alleged nefarious activities of .the appellant. The manner in which he made these imputations clearly indicate that he was stating these facts from his personal knowledge taking upon himself the entire responsibility in respect of these imputations.
The other passages alleged to be defamatory are reproduced below:
Is it not a fact that he (appellant) is befooling all the members of the Prabandhak Committee for his own ends by his tacts, and he along with Ramautarsingh, the Law Agent, are (sic) utilising the Gurudwara funds for their own purposes out of litigation costs, and S. Amar Singh utilising the services of the Law Agent and Gurudwara lawyers for his own cases and that is why he is interested in litigations. A thorough scrutiny of case accounts along with case diaries and order sheets will convince you about these facts, and how Gurudwara funds are being utilised for personal gains.
The respondent in these lines complained to the President that the funds of the Gurudwara were being utilised by the Law Agent and the appellant for their own purposes and the accounts of the Gurudwara should be carefully checked. It was open to the President to get the accounts checked after this matter was brought to his notice and this allegation by itself cannot be said to be defamatory. I am therefore, of the view that so far as this passage is concerned, learned Counsel’s contention that this was defamatory is not correct.
Another passage objected to is as follows:
Is it not a fact that he by keeping some criminals and bullies, is playing a roll of ‘King. Makers’ in the Management and the gentry keeping aside being afraid of inviting unnecessary troubles to themselves by opposing him, as many have met in the past. Who is responsible for bringing in Gurbachan Singh Punchia as member and President of Gurdwara Management and this Punchia being convicted of theft of Government properties is absconding still ? Who engineered criminal false cases against Major Lochan Singh, the then P. M. G. Bihar and President of the Gurudwara Supervising Committee and Bhai Bhagwan Singh, the then Manager through Bir Singh a disgruntled and dismissed servant of the Gurudwara and banked (?) that on false evidence ? Were they bad people or they became hindrance to his nefarious activities which were responsible for disrepute to the management?
This passage as well indicates that the appellant had within his control some ruffians whose services he was utilising for his personal ends and neither any member of the Managing Committee nor any Other citizen had the guts to oppose him. The learned Magistrate has taken the view that these statements were defamatory and I am also of the same opinion.
In spite of the litigation between the Gurudwara and the respondent and enmity between the appellant and the respondent, the latter had absolutely no justification to make these sweeping imputations against the character and integrity of the appellant. Eighth Exception to Section 499 envisages that it is not defamation to prefer in good faith an accusation against any per-son to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject matter of accusation. It is a golden rule that person aggrieved should have free recourse to persons in authority and hence complaint in good faith against another to a person in lawful authority comes within the purview of this Exception. So far the affairs of the Gurudwara were concerned, it is true that the President had the power to intervene, settle the dispute, if any, between the Gurudwara on one hand and the respondent on the other, but he had no power to control the activities of the appellant unconnected with the Gurudwara.
If the appellant happened to be a leader of the gang of criminals and ruffians and was associating with that gang for committing various offences, the proper course was to bring those matters to the notice of either the police or the Magistrate concerned. The President could not take notice of offences, if any, committed by the appellant and the President had not the lawful authority as envisaged in the Eighth Exception to Section 499. This is one of the reasons for which the case of the respondent is not covered by the Eighth Exception.
Apart from it, the accusation has to be made in good faith. It is true that the respondent is not bound to prove that the allegations made by him were true and it can be enough if he establishes that on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true and in that belief he made the accusations to a lawful authority (see Ramesh Roy v. The King ). But there cannot be good faith when there is an express malice or evidence of culpable negligence or recklessness in the defamatory statements. The plea of good faith can be negatived on the ground of recklessness and want of due care and caution. The onus lay on the respondent to prove affirmatively that there were reasonable grounds for making those imputations. Good faith has to be ascertained on the facts and circumstances of each case and honesty of purpose has to be found out in such cases. The respondent has not been able to establish that these imputations were made in good faith and accordingly the Magistrate was not right in giving the benefit of the Eighth Exception to the respondent.
11. I have no doubt that the language employed by the respondent in the letter (Ex. X) was calculated to harm the appellant and lower him in the estimation of the President and other members of the Managing Committee who came to know the contents of that letter. In these circumstances, the respondent has defamed the appellant and he is liable to be punished under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.
12. In the result, the appeal is allowed, the judgment of acquittal passed by the learned Magistrate is set aside and the respondent Kamal Singh Badalia is convicted under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 50/-, in de-fault to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of one month.