1. In this case the plaintiff sues the defendant for defamation. He charges the defendant, who is the chairman of the Hinganghat Company, with having defamed him in Bombay by publishing in the Bombay Gazette a notice of his dismissal from the office of secretary and agent to the Hinganghat Company, together with notice that certain entries in the minute book of the company, for which he was responsible, are fraudulent. The defence to the present suit is that, as a fact, the plaintiff was rightfully dismissed from his office, and that the publication of the two notices complained of was necessary in the interests of the company.
2. It. appears that, some time before the present suit was filed, the plaintiff had filed a suit against the Hingaoghat Company claiming damages for wrongful dismissal. This earlier suit was tiled in the Court of the Deputy Commissioner at Wardha, in the Central Provinces, the Court of the district in which Hinganghat is situated, and that suit is now pending in that Court. The defence of the company in that suit is that the dismissal of the plaintiff was justified by his misconduct.
3. The defendant has taken out the present summons under Section 20 of the Civil Procedure Code (Act XIV of 1882). He contends that the plaintiff should not be permitted to bring the present suit in Bombay; that it can be more conveniently tried at Wardha, and that, in fact, the question raised in this suit between him and the defendant will be practically decided by the decision of the earlier suit which is now pending at Wardha. He says that both he and the plaintiff are at present residing at or near Wardhfi, and that a material part of the evidence can only be procured there. On the other hand, the plaintiff claims that he has a right to institute this suit in Bombay; that the cause of action has arisen here; that the injury of which he complains has been inflicted on him here, and that the evidence on which he relies to prove the damage which he has sustained can only be procured in Bombay.
4. Now under Section 17 of the Civil Procedure Code (Act XIV of 1882) the plaintiff unquestionably has the right of bringing his suit in the Court within which the cause of action has arisen and it is clear, therefore, that inasmuch as the libel, of which the plaintiff complains, has been published in Bombay he has prime facie the right to file his suit in this Court. He might, no doubt have filed it at Wardha, where the defendant carries on business. That alternative choice of forum is given to a plaintiff by Section 17. The defendant contends that he ought to have filed it at Wardha, and by the present summons the defendant asks the Court to make an order the effect of which will be to compel the plaintiff to sue at Wardha if he persists in suing at all.
5. What is the consideration by which the Court is to be guided in deciding such a question as is raised by the parties in this case. We find it laid down in the second clause of Section 20, that the Court may make such an order as is now asked for if it 'is satisfied that justice is more likely to he done by the suit being instituted in some other Court.' The sole question, therefore, is whether, under the circumstances, justice is more likely to be done between the parties by refusing to allow the plaintiff to continue his suit in this Court.
6. There are no reported precedents in the Indian Courts. The English cases show that the Courts are exceedingly reluctant to make such an order as the defendant applies for. In McHenry v. Lewis L.R. 22 Ch. Div.406 Cotton L.J., says; 'It is a jurisdication which one ought to exercise with extreme caution. Stopping in the middle of a suit a plaintiff from going on when he has a right of action as against the defendant, is a jurisdiction which has to be exercised with very considerable caution.' In the Peruvian Guano Co. v. Bockwoldt L.R. 23 Ch. Div. 225 Jessel, M.R., says: 'It is very important in these cases that the Court should dearly see that in stopping an action it does not do injustice. Of course a man brings an action at the peril of costs if the action does not succeed, and as a general rule that is sufficient to protect defendants from ill-founded actions. There is another protection, which is that where the action is vexatious it may be stayed. Now it may be vexatious on many grounds. It may be so utterly absurd that the Judge sees it cannot possibly succeed, and that it is brought only for annoyance, and then the Judge has jurisdiction to stay the action. That is pure vexation. Or it may be vexatious in another way; that is the plaintiff not intending to annoy or harass the defendant, but thinking he would get some fanciful advantage, sues him in two Courts at the same time under the same jurisdiction - two of the Queen's Courts. That is vexatious, because whatever the intention of the plaintiff may be he cannot get any benefit in that way, and the defendant is harassed by two suits.'
7. Now in this case there is no question of vexing the same defendant with double litigation. In the two suits brought by the plaintiff the defendants are different, the causes of action are different, the questions raised between the parties are different. It would, no doubt, be much more convenient to the defendant to have the case against him tried at Wardha. Nearly all his evidence and probably a large portion of the plaintiff's evidence is only obtainable there. But is that a ground for depriving the plaintiff of his right to bring his suit in this Court? The injury and damage of which he complains have been inflicted in Bombay, and many of his witnesses (he say) are resident here. He desires to vindicate his character in the place where he alleges it has been defamed. I can find no authority for preventing him doing so. I am not satisfied (to use the words of the section) that justice is more likely to be done at Wardha or elsewhere than in this Court, and I must, therefore, discharge this summons.