T.G. Goswami Vs The State

IN Judgements Database | 04/08/2018



Criminal Revn. Petn. No. 118 of 1951

Decided On: 03.03.1952

Appellants: T.G. Goswami
Respondent: The State


Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
G.L. Chopra, J.


G.L. Chopra, J.


1. The petitioner Shri T.G. Goswami was convicted by the Additional District Magistrate, Patiala under Section 500, I.P.C. for publishing two defamatory libels in the issue dated 7-5-50 of a weekly paper known as Malwa Gazette, Patiala, of which he is the printer and publisher, and was sentenced to two months S. I. and a fine of Rs. 300/-. His appeal to the Sessions Judge having failed he has presented this petition for revision. The complainant was S. Mangal Singh, Director of Publicity of this Union and also the Officer in charge Bhupindra. State Press, Patiala and he alleged that he had been brought into contempt and hatred and defamed by publication in the said paper of an editorial which contained the following passages:

(a) Iska natija yeh suna jata hai keh S. Mangal Singh, Director Publicity ne bhi do makan musalmano ke apne qabze men rakhe hue hain; koi bhi zummewar afsar puchhnewala nahin.

(d) Mazid Sarkari press main jo chhape ki machine mangwai gayee hai aur kuchh arsa peshtar staff wagon kharidi gayee hai. Donon cheezon main kayee hazar ki raqm ura li gayee.

The imputations made against him were described by the complainant as incorrect and baseless. The Courts below have found that the petitioner was responsible for publication of the editorial, that the passages quoted above related to the complainant, that they were libellous and that the case did not fall under any of the exceptions to Section 499, I. P. C.

2. In the first instance Shri Puran Chand, the learned counsel for the petitioner, urged that the trial was vitiated because the accused had not been allowed to produce his entire evidence in defence. In this connection he has drawn my attention to the list of defence witnesses submitted by the accused after the charge was framed on 29-1-1951. The contention is that the learned trial Judge without recording any reasons, refused to summon the witnesses mentioned at Nos. 13, 18, 19, 20 and 21. It is correct that these witnesses were not summoned and no detailed reasons for doing so, were given. But I cannot accept the argument that the conviction should be set aside simply on the ground that no reasons were recorded, particularly when, as will be presently seen, they are so obvious and self-evident. Nos. 18 and 19 were merely blank spaces without mentioning the name of any witness. A note appended at the close of the application stated that the names were intentionally omitted because of the danger of the persons, who were intended to be produced, being won over by the complainant.

At Nos. 20 and 21 also no person was named or required to be summoned by virtue of his office. Bhupindra Press, Patiala, mentioned at No. 20, was not an individual who could be summoned. Record of Assistant Custodian's Department, Patiala, was called for at No. 21. The name of the officer who was to be sent for, and the particulars of the record that was required to be produced were not mentioned. The accused, if he wanted to summon some record from that office, should have mentioned its particulars; the entire record of that officer could not, and was not required to be produced in the case. One Mr. Mohd Aziz Sadiqi, Lahore, was mentioned at No. 13. The address of the gentleman or his official designation, if he was in service, was not given. The note made against his name showed that he was intended to prove that certain articles belonging to him were taken possession of, by the complainant. The witness was the resident of a foreign country and was not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Court. There was no effective means of procuring his attendance and without the necessary address of the gentleman no process could be issued.

The purpose for which he was required to be examined did not appear to be relevant, and the court under the circumstances could have very well presumed that his name was added for the purpose of vexation or delay. The accused himself does not appear to have been very keen to get him served. After examination only six of the 21 witnesses cited he preferred to close his defence. The defects in the original application were not cured even in the revised list which he presented under orders of the Court on 29th January 1951.

3. Another grouse of the petitioner is that Ranbir Singh, D.W. 4 was not allowed to produce and place on record a copy of the paper "Guru Ghantal" dated 11-9-1950. The learned trial Judge in his detailed order dated 28th March, 1951 had observed that the paper which was sought to be produced with a view to prove bad reputation of the complainant, had no relevancy to the facts in issue and that it contained more serious defamatory matter against the complainant than the one in Question. I do not think the accused was in any way prejudiced in his defence by the refusal to be allowed to bring on record this issue of the paper. The mere fact that some such or similar accusation against the complainant had been made by some other person as well would not be a valid defence for the accused. Wrong is not to be justified or excused by wrong. Because one man does an unlawful act to any person, other is not permitted to do similar act to the same person.

The argument that the paper was meant to prove that the complainant had no reputation has no substance. That a couple of months after publication of the alleged libel another man took into his head to repeat the imputation would not go to show that the complainant had no reputation which he could have lost by the act complained of. If the complainant has been wronged by another person also, it does not absolve the accused from the responsibility. The accused could not be allowed to lead evidence of rumors and suspicions to the same effect as the defamatory matter complained of or of facts tending to show the general character of the complainant. For all these reasons, I do not think the accused was in any manner prejudiced by shutting out evidence which he was entitled to produce.

4. On merits, Shri Puran Chand contended that one of the imputations did not specifically mention the name of the complainant and that the publication of the articles was covered by more than one of the exceptions to section 499 and was, therefore, not actionable under Section 500, I.P.C. Ex. PB which stated that several thousands of rupees had been embezzled in the purchase of printing machinery for the State Press and the staff Wagon no doubt did not expressly mention that the complainant was responsible for the embezzlement or was the person who actually did it. But to the readers of the paper, who knew that the complainant, as the head of the Department, was the chief or the sole authority to effect the two purchases, nothing more need have been said to impress that the complainant was the person who was accused of misappropriation. It has been brought into evidence that the purchases were actually made by the complainant and since he was at the head of the affairs he could generally be known to have made them. M/S Amolak Ram, Manohar Singh, Raja Shiv Dayal Singh, Jaswant Singh and Vaid Kanti Chander P.Ws. have deposed that no sooner than they read the article in the Malwa Gazette they concluded that the imputation was made against the complainant. Their evidence can readily be accepted when the publication objected to is read in its context. The officer in charge of the Department was expected to have been responsible for negotiating and completing the two deals and any one who knew the complainant to be at the head of the affairs must have connected the insinuation to him. The identity of the complainant to be the target of the accusation was not a thing that could not be known to the readers of the paper. The standard to be applied in proof that the defamatory matter refers to the complainant is, would a reasonable man so understand it. A complainant can often be able to make good this part of his case even though his name is not mentioned in the libel. If the readers of the publication can know well who is aimed at, the very same injury is inflicted if his name was clearly mentioned. I have no doubt in my mind that the imputation was leveled against the complainant and that it could easily be understood to have been meant for him.

5. It was not disputed before me that the accused was responsible for the publication of the articles and that the matter thereof was defamatory. To bring the publication of a scandalous imputation under the penal law, it is not necessary to prove that it was done out of any ill-will or malice or that the complainant had actually suffered from it. It would be sufficient to show that the accused intended, or knew or had reason to believe, that the imputation made by him would harm the reputation of the complainant. Every sane person is presumed to have intended the consequences which normally follow from his act. The accused, a journalist of some standing can very well be presumed to know or to have reason to believe that the imputation published by him would harm the complainant's reputation. The position taken by the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the accusations were true, and the publication of them was permissible under the exceptions appended to Section 499 I.P.C. No evidence was led to prove that the accusation of misappropriation of several thousands of rupees in purchase of the machinery for the press and the Station Wagon was true or could possibly be true.

An attempt, however, was made to prove that the general reputation of the complainant among the journalists was not good and that similar libels were published in some of the other local newspapers or posters. But that can be no defence to an accusation of the present character. If one chooses to write, print and publish libels imputing the commission by the complainant of a criminal offence he must be prepared to prove that all he has said is true in substance and in fact. This is an onerous burden and it is for the accused to discharge it. To say or prove that the accusation was one which the accused generally heard from others would be no justification for publishing it. Even if the libel is in the form "I heard a rumors to such and such effect", the accused must prove that the fact is true and not merely that it is true that he had heard the rumour. The stings of the libel should be made out.

Evidence, on the other hand, was led by the complainant that the accusation was, in fact, not true. Shri Krishan Das, Managing Director of Messrs. Printers Ltd. Delhi, from whom the printing press had been purchased, was examined and he deposed that he had received payment for the bargain directly from the Government and that no commission or reward had been paid by his company to the complainant. He also produced the relevant papers relating to the contract. Shrl Madan Lal Puri, Manager of Messrs. Piare Lal and Sons, Delhi, from whom the staff Wagon had been purchased, was also produced and he, on the basis of the entries in their books, averred that they had received Rs. 9250/- in full and final settlement of the bargain. He was quite clear that no commission, discount or reward was paid by his firm to the complainant who had settled the deal.

To prove truth of the accusation regarding the unauthorised occupation by the complainant of two Muslim evacuee's houses the petitioner examined Ram Murti and Som Nath in defence. They stated that the house of one Maula Bux adjoined that of the complainant and that on several occasions they had seen the complainant standing in that house. They, however, admitted that they did not know who was actually residing in the house, whether it was the complainant or some one else. S. Mangal Singh unequivocally denied the allegation and on being particularly questioned with respect to the house of Maula Bux. deposed that it had never been in his possession but was occupied by one Shri Prehlad Singh Puri. The petitioner has thus hopelessly failed to prove the truth of either of the allegations and he cannot, therefore, take resort to exception 1 to Section 499 I. P. C.

6. It is next contended that the accused was a journalist, he had only expressed his opinion on the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions and that it had been done for good of the general Public. Exceptions 2 and 9 are thus stated to be applicable to the case. The fact that the accused is a journalist does not make any difference, for the simple reason that the press have no special privileges and are in no better position than any other man. They have rather greater responsibilities and should be more cautious in making scandalous imputations. Their high position and status and the method of publication at their disposal are apt to do more harm than if the imputation was made or published by an ordinary individual, because some sanctity is generally attached to what is published in a newspaper. The defence of fair comment only protects statements of opinion, it does not extend to defamatory allegation of facts. It is one thing to comment upon or criticize, even with severity, the acknowledged or proved facts of a public servant and another to assert that he has been guilty of particular acts of misconduct or misappropriation.

The caption, in very bold prints, under which the two articles were published leaves no doubt in my mind that they were not comments and opinion of the author respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions. The prominent head lines seated

Challenge; Criminal prosecution be started in Court; Embezzlement of more than a lac of rupees; illegal possession of Muslim property....

The caption was followed by clear and definite assertion of facts, as opposed to mere comments or expression of opinion of the publisher on the conduct of a public servant. And then again, one of the essential conditions for the application of either of the exceptions (Nos. 2 and 9) is that the accused should have acted in good faith. For that he has to establish that he acted in the exercise of due care and attention. In the present case, as already observed, there appears to be no truth in the two imputations made against the complainant. There is no evidence to indicate that before they were made the accused exercised reasonable care and caution to ascertain whether the facts set forth were true or not.

In considering whether the privilege contemplated (by the exceptions was exercised with due care and attention, the Court has also to look, among other things, at the mode of publication which is adopted and to see whether it indicates a conscious and criminal disregard of the complainant's legal right and vitiates the privilege. The publication of the articles in a weekly newspaper, particularly under the said heading, was certainly not made in good faith, nor could it be said to have been made for the public good, which is another essential ingredient of exception 9. It was not necessary to resort to publication in a newspaper if the imputations were to be made for the protection of the interest of the person making it, or any other person, or for the public good. In view of these facts, I have no hesitation to agree with the courts below that the case is not covered by any of the exceptions.

7. As regards the sentence, I am inclined to be a bit lenient. The accused had already undergone a week's imprisonment when he was released on bail by this Court and I do not consider it expedient to send him back to jail. The paper in which the publication was made is a weekly newspaper and probably of a poor circulation. The petitioner has not been shown to be a habitual black-mailer; this may have been his first default and it is hoped it would be the last also. He has also tendered a written apology, though a qualified one, expressing regret. The imprisonment that he has already undergone and the sentence of fine would, I think, be sufficient to act as an eye-opener and would meet the ends of justice. The object of the complainant is attained by getting a decision that the publication of the imputations was defamatory, and that has been held in unequivocal terms. Relief for damages can more appropriately be obtained by the civil remedy available to the aggrieved party. The sentence is consequently reduced to the imprisonment already undergone and a fine of Rs. 300.'-. The direction of imprisonment in default of payment of fine shall stand. With this modification in the sentence the petition is dismissed. The bail bonds stand cancelled.


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