Skip to content

Rustom K. Karanjia and anr. Vs. Krishnaraj M.D. Thackersey and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMedia and Communication;Civil
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberAppeal No. 20 of 1965 and Suit No. 319 of 1969
Reported inAIR1970Bom424; (1970)72BOMLR94; ILR1971Bom324; 1970MhLJ404
ActsCode of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Sections 35 - Order 41, Rules 4 and 33; Constitution of India - Article 39; Customs and Foreign Exchange Regulations
AppellantRustom K. Karanjia and anr.
RespondentKrishnaraj M.D. Thackersey and ors.
Appellant AdvocateA.S. Chari, ;L.M. Zaveri and ;L.R. Chari, Advs., i/b., Kantilal Parekh and Co. Solicitors
Respondent AdvocateM.J. Mistree, ;P.P. Khambata and ;S.P. Bharucha, Advs., i/b., Mulla and Mulla and Cragie, Blunt and Caroe, Solicitors
tort - defamation--libel--qualified privilege--journalist's right to comment on public interest, limits to--malice in law, what is--damages in actions on tort--whether such damages to be punitive or compensatory--practice--high court (o.s.) --practice to be followed in awarding damages for torts--costs--whether costs to be included in compensatory damages.;a journalist like any other citizen has the right to comment fairly and, if necessary, severely on a matter of public interest, provided the allegations of facts he has made are accurate and truthful, however defamatory they may be otherwise. since his right to comment on matters of public interest is recognised by law, the journalist owes an obligation to the public to have his facts right. where the journalist himself makes an.....palekar, j.1. this appeal by defendants 1 and 2 arises out of a libel suit filed by the plaintiff-respondent no. 1, on the original side of this court in respect of an article published in the english weekly ''blitz' in its issue of 24th september 1960. the plaintiff sought to recover rs. 300000/- as general damages and prayed for an injunction. a decree has been passed for the full claim with costs and future interest against defendants 1, 2 and defendant no. 4 who is respondent no. 2(a) in the appeal.2. the plaintiff is a prominent businessman and industrialist of bombay. at the time of the suit he was a partner in, a firm which had been carrying on the business of managing agents of four textile mills. he was a director of the bank of india and of several other well-known companies. he.....

Palekar, J.

1. This appeal by defendants 1 and 2 arises out of a libel suit filed by the plaintiff-respondent No. 1, on the original side of this Court in respect of an Article published in the English Weekly ''Blitz' in its issue of 24th September 1960. The plaintiff sought to recover Rs. 300000/- as general damages and prayed for an injunction. A decree has been passed for the full claim with costs and future interest against defendants 1, 2 and defendant No. 4 who is respondent No. 2(a) in the appeal.

2. The plaintiff is a prominent businessman and industrialist of Bombay. At the time of the suit he was a partner in, a firm which had been carrying on the business of Managing Agents of four textile mills. He was a Director of the Bank of India and of several other well-known companies. He was also the Chairman of the Textile Control Board which had been set up by the Government during the last World War. He was also the Chairman of the Indian Cotton Mills Federation.

3. Defendant No. 1 Is the Editor of the 'Blitz' and has accepted responsibility for the Article referred to above. Defendant No. 2 is a Private Limited Company which owns the newspaper. Original defendant No. 3, with whom we are no longer concerned, was the printer of the issue of the 'Blitz', but since at an early stage of the suit he tendered an apology, the plaintiff withdrew his suit against him defendant No. 4 was joined subsequently in the suit as a Joint tort-feasor since it was, principally, upon material furnished by him and with his agreement that the article was published in 'Blitz'.

4. The plaintiff claimed that the Article aforesaid, which is separately exhibited as Exhibit 6, was grossly defamatory of him. The whole of the Article was reproduced in the plaint. He alleged that the allegations and imputations made in that Article along with the several innuendoes set out in detail in the plaint were false and malicious, and as a result of the same, the plaintiff was injured in his character, credit and reputation and in the way of his business and had been brought into the public hatred, contempt and ridicule. Therefore, he alleged, he had suffered damages which he assessed at Rs. 3,00,000/-. As the Article itself showed that the defendants contemplated publishing a series of similar articles, the plaintiff further asked for a permanent injunction.

5. The suit was, principally, contested by defendants 1 and 2. That the Article was defamatory was not seriously disputed. The principal defences offered were, (i) justification (ii) fair comment on a matter of public interest; and (iii) qualified privilege. It was also contended that the damages claimed were excessive and disproportionate.

6. After a trial, which, we are told, went on for 101 days, in which most of the evidence was produced by the defendants and very little on behalf of the plaintiff, the learned Judge negatived the three defences referred to above, and holding that the plaintiff had been grossly defamed by that article and punitive damages were awardable in this case, decreed the full claim of damages of Rs. 3,00,000/- with costs. He also Rave the Injunction asked for.

7. It is from this decree that the present appeal has been filed by defendants 1 and 2. Learned counsel for the appellants did not press their appeal against the finding of the learned Judge on the pleas of justification and fair comment, but confined their arguments to the plea of 'qualified privilege'. They also pressed the plea that the damages awarded to the plaintiff were excessive, disproportionate and unreasonable.

8. The defence of 'qualified privilege' is set out in the written statement at para 11A and is as follows:

'11A, Without prejudice to the aforesaid contentions of the defendants and in the alternative, these defendants say that the said Article appearing in the issue of Blitz dated 24th September 1960 is protected as being on an occasion of qualified privilege in that the defendants honestly and without any indirect or improper motive and for general welfare of society published the said Article as it was the duty as Journalists to do and believing the allegations contained in the said article to be true.'

Mr. Chari in his address assured us that he would stick to this defence as set out in the written statement. The law with regard to 'qualified privilege', which holds good to this day, has been stated by Parke, B. in Toogood v. Spyring 18341 (149) ER 1044, as follows:

'In general, an action lies for the malicious publication of statements which are false in fact, and injurious to the character of another (within the well-known limits as to verbal slander), and the law considers such publication as malicious, unless it is fairly made by a person in the discharge of some public or private duty, whether legal or moral, or in the conduct of his own affairs, in matters where his interest is concerned. In such cases, the occasion prevents the inference of malice, which the law draws from unauthorized communications, and affords a qualified defence depending upon the absence of actual malice. If fairly warranted by any reasonable occasion or exigency and honestly made, such communications are protected for the common convenience and welfare of society, and the law has not restricted the right to make them within any narrow limits.'

9. Before we proceed to determine whether the Article containing defamatory allegations was published on a privileged occasion, we have to see what precisely the Article would convey to its reader. See the speech of Lord Reid at page 153 in Lewis v. Daily Telegraph, Ltd. (1963) 2 All ER 151.

10. The first thing to be noted while reading the Article is that the Article is not an attack on the personal or private character of the plaintiff. The attack is directed against the business organisation doing by the name of 'House of Thaeker-sey' of which, it is alleged, the plaintiff is the head. According to Mr. Chari, the Article is not an aimless literary composition. The writer under the pen-name of 'Blitz's Racket-Buster' wanted to expose in a series of articles, first how this 'House of Thackersey', that is, the business organisation, consisting, principally, of the plaintiff, his brothers, their wives and close relations and friends, built up, thanks to the official position held by the plaintiff as the chairman of the Textile Control Board -- a vast Empire of wealth by -- having recourse to unlawful and questionable means, involving tax-evasion on a colossal scale, financial jugglery, im-port-export-rackets, and customs and foreign-exchange violations. Secondly, he wanted to suggest that owing to conditions prevailing at the time and owing to the enormous power and prestige wielded by the plaintiff, investigations into the operations of the 'House' got bogged down for years leaving the 'House of Thackersey' free to acquire great wealth,

11. According to Mr. Chari, the several individual allegations made in the article are merely incidental or subsidiary and fall squarely in the general pattern of the two purposes mentioned above. The main part of the Article begins with a historical narration giving some details about the 'House of Thackersey.' It is mentioned there that the business carried on by this 'House' was on the brink of disaster in 1988 but it got a boost like any other business in the early War years. The plaintiff's position in the textile trade was recognised by the Government who appointed him as the Chairman of the Textile Control Board. This gave the plaintiff a chance not only to further the interest of his satellite concerns but also to exert pressure to smother investigations made with regard to the operations of the 'Thackersey House' and the plaintiff's personal involvement as a Director in the affairs of the Sholapur Mills. Owing to the inaction of Government, and being emboldened by such inaction, the 'House of Thackersey' was left free to build its vast cartel and mint untold wealth. That was the position of the 'House of Thackersey' before it embarked, according to the Article, on a career of building a financial empire.

12. This empire was built by the 'House' by embarking on a new line of business in the import-export field. Bogus factories and firms were brought into existence with a view to wangle fabulous licences for unlawfully importing art-silk yarn. This yarn was sold through the media of these bogus factories. Enormous profits were made in these transactions which were concealed by financial jugglery which enabled the 'House of Thackersey' to evade income-tax, which, with penalty, was computed at Rs. 4,66 crores. In order to manage these operations on a large scale, bank credits were obtained from obliging banks by the two firms of China Cotton Exporters and Laxmi Cotton Traders which had been recently started. Laxmi Cotton Traders was supposed to be practically owned and managed by the ladies of the house-hold who knew little business. The Article suggested that these concerns were really the Concerns of the plaintiff, and enormous credits had been obtained from the banks not on the standing of the Concerns themselves but on the standing of the plaintiff who had become, in the meantime, a Director in a couple of Insurance Firms, two Banks, and several other Concerns for this purpose.

13. That was one way how the 'House of Thackersey' accumulated vast wealth in India. Another way to which they had recourse was to accumulate large funds of foreign currency in foreign countries which the 'House of Thackersey' surreptitiously brought into India in violation of Customs and Foreign Exchange Regulations. This part of the case, however, was reserved for the Article to be published in the next week. 'Blitz' promised that in the next Article, it would narrate (i) how these funds were brought to India from China and even Pakistan; (ii) how the Reserve Bank, the Finance Ministry and the Special Police Establishment got the scent and started investigations way back in 1953-04: (iii) how investigations had still remained incomplete, (iv) how investigating officers were frequently transferred; and (v) how one officer, just on the eve of leading a mass police raid on the 'Thackersey Empire' unfortunately met with a fatal car-acci-dent.

14. Special reference was also made to the inaction of Government with regard to tax evasion by pointing out in the first two paragraphs of the Article that though income-tax evaded together with penalty was computed at about Rs. 4,66 crores and the case had passed through the Finance Ministry during the regimes of three successive Finance Ministers, Government had not succeeded in collecting the amount. On the other hand, it is suggested in paragraph 3 that the vast Industrial Empire of the Thackersey continued to flourish and prosper, while its supreme boss, the plaintiff, as the Chairman of the Indian Cotton Mills Federation lorded over the entire textile-trade and openly defied the Government's plans to reduce cloth prices.

15. Thus, on a reading of the Article, Mr. Chari submits, the several allegations and imputations in the Article complained of as defamatory were made in the context of dealing with two principal objects of the Article, one being to show how an influential business organisation amassed wealth by unlawful and questionable means, and secondly, how, when a probe into their unlawful activities was undertaken, the investigation somehow got bogged down for years on end with no tangible results.

16. If, as Mr. Chari submits, these were the objects with which the Article was written--and we shall assume for the purposes of his argument that it was so--there is no escape from the conclusion that the subject-matter of the Article was of great public interest. The public are vitally interested in being assured that great concentration of wealth which is discouraged by Clauses (b) and (c) of Article 39 of the Constitution does not take place, and if it does, either because of Government's inaction or because of deliberate violation of the law on the part of any business organisation, the public have a legitimate interest to know about it. If again, owing to corruption, inefficiency or neglect on the part of the State investigating machinery, offenders are not speedily brought to book, that would also be a matter of vital public interest.

17. Mr. Chari, therefore, contends that this particular situation gave the newspaper 'Blitz' a privileged occasion, that is to sav, an occasion giving rise to a duty on the part of the newspaper to address a communication to its readers, the citizens of India, who were interested in receiving the communication. Therefore, any defamatory matter incidental to the subject-matter of the communication wag protected by law unless express malice was proved by the plaintiff.

18. On the other hand, it was contended by Mr. Murzban Mistry, on behalf of the plaintiff, Respondent No. 1, that a privileged occasion cannot be created by a person for himself to enable him to publish a defamatory statement which he cannot sustain or justify. According to him, a man publishing, without undertaking an obligation to justify, that on his own investigation tie had found a public officer to be corrupt cannot claim immunity from liability for defamation by saying that he published it on an occasion of qualified privilege. If the contrary were true, he urged, public or private life would become impossible, because a journalist claiming to investigate for himself facts about an individual in his private or public affairs would be entitled to publish grossly defamatory statements about him on the ground of public interest and claim protection under the principle of qualified privilege. Mr. published with any such high purpose, Mistry does not agree that the Article was but in order to meet the argument of Mr. Chari, he is prepared to assume that the Article was published in the public interest. But in his submission, the law does not permit publication of a defamatory matter even in the public interest when the journalist is not in a position to show that he has any duty to communicate the defamatory matter to the general public,

19. The proposition for which Mr. Chari contends, when reduced to general terms, would be that, given a subject-matter of wide public interest affecting the citizens of India, a newspaper publishing to the public at large statements of facts relevant to the subject-matter, though defamatory in content, should be held to be doing so on an occasion of qualified privilege.

20. In our opinion, such a broad proposition is not recognized by the law. The question arose before the Court of Appeal in England in Adam v. Ward (1915) 31 TLR 299 . In that case. Major Adam, as Member of Parliament, made certain defamatory observations about Major-General Scobell relating to the latter's discharge of his official duties. Scobell was the Brigadier and Major Adam's superior when Major Adam formerly held a commission in the 5th Lancers being a regiment commanded by Scobell. While Major Adam enjoyed absolute immunity for his speech made in Parliament, Major-General Scobell could, under the statutory regulations, only appeal to the Army Council to make an inquiry into his own conduct. The Army Council made the necessary inquiry and absolved Major-General Scobell from all blame. The Secretary of the Army Council, Ward, made the communication to Major-General Scobell and the same was published by Ward in all the newspapers through the usual media. This communication contained some references to Major Adam. They were admitted to be defamatory. The libel action commenced by Major Adam against Ward on the basis of this publication was resisted by Ward on the ground of qualified privilege, In the judgment delivered by Lord Justice Buckley, in which the other two Lord Justices concurred, it was distinctly accepted that the matter was of general public interest. The question was whether, assuming that the matter was of general public interest. Ward had any duty to communicate to the general public. Dealing with this question, Lord Justice Buckley observed-

'Involved in this question of duty is the question of the subject-matter being such as there exists a duty to communicate. If the communication be to the public, this question may be whether the matter is matter of public interest ..... In Cox v. Feeney, (1862) 4 F&F; 13 a dictum of Chief Justice Tenterden is quoted in the following terms -

'A man has a right to publish, for the purpose of giving the public information that which it is proper for the public to know.'

With great respect, I doubt whether there is contained in those words an accurate statement of the circumstances in which a privileged occasion arises for the publication of matter interesting to the public. I am not prepared to hold that the publication even by a public body of its proceedings or conclusions in a matter of public interest is on that account and without more privileged. Purcell v. Sowler (1877) 2 CPD 215 is, I think an authority to the contrary. I doubt whether in Mangena v. Wright 25 TLR 534: (1909) 2 KB 958 Mr. Justice Phillimore was right in saying, at p. 978, that 'where the communication is made by a public servant as to a matter within his province, it may be 'the subject of privilege in him' if those words are intended to convey that those facts without more will create a privileged occasion.'

It is clear, therefore, that Lord Justice Buckley was clearly of the opinion that the mere fact that the subject-matter was of general public interest did not afford any protection to the publisher, because he proceeded-

'More, I think, is wanted. But the following proposition, I think, is true that if the matter is matter of public interest and the party who publishes it owes a duty to communicate it to the public, the publication is privileged, and in this sense duty means not a duty as matter of law, but, to quote Lord Justice Lindley's words in Stuart v. Bell 7 TLR 502 : (1891) 2 QB 341, 'a duty recognized by English people of ordinary intelligence and moral principle, but at the same time not a duty enforceable by legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal'. It is upon these principles, I think, that I have to determine whether in the present case the publication was upon a privileged occasion .....'.

21. It is clear from the above observations of Lord Justice Buckley that the Court was clearly of the opinion that it was not sufficient to attract the protection of qualified privilege that the subject-matter is one of general public interest. The person or the newspaper who wants to communicate to the general public must also have a duty to communicate, and if no such duty, apart from the fact that the matter is one of public interest, can be spelt out in the particular circumstances of the case, the publication could not be said to be upon a privileged occasion. This case went in appeal to the House of Lords and is reported in Adam v. Ward (1917) AC 309. It is noteworthy that the proposition put forward in the judgment of Buckley L.J. was not only not disapproved by the House of Lords, but, in fact, the whole argument turned upon the question whether Ward had a recognizable duty to perform to the public. On the facts, the House of Lords agreed with the view taken in the Court of Appeal and held that Ward had a duty to communicate the same to the public, because it was only in vindication of the character of Major General Scobell, which had been unjustly and unfairly attacked in Parliament. In fact, Lord Dunedin in his speech at p. 324 observed-

'He (Major-General Scobell) is bound to refer the matter to the Army Council and await their verdict. The verdict is in his favour. What would that avail him unless there was a right in the Army Council to publish the result at which they had arrived? If it were not so, then the absolute privilege of the House of Commons, intended to safeguard the Liberty of discussion, would be really turned into an abominable instrument of oppression.'

On a more or less similar grounds the other Law Lords accepted that Ward, as the Secretary of the Army Council, had a duty to communicate the subject-matter to the public. If it were the law that given a subject-matter of great public interest everyone has an interest or duty to communicate and to receive the communication, then it would not have been necessary for both the courts, viz. the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, to deal with the question at great length as to whether Ward, the Secretary of the Army Council, had a duty to communicate. We may here further note that while examining the law on the question of qualified privilege Lord Atkinson in his speech at p. 334 has clearly denned when a privileged occasion arises. He observed:--

'...... a privileged occasion is, in reference to qualified privilege, an occasion where the person who makes a communication has an interest or a duty, legal, social, or moral, to make it to the person to whom it is made, and the person to whom it is so made has a corresponding interest or duty to receive it. This reciprocity is essential ......'.

Nothing turns upon the question as to whether a matter is of general public interest. The real question is whether the person making the communication has a duty or interest and whether the person receiving the communication has a corresponding interest or duty.

22. The duty aforesaid giving rise to a privileged occasion may arise in a variety of ways, and it would be idle, as pointed out by Lord Buckmaster L.C. in London Association for Protection of Trade v. Greenlands, Ltd., (1916) 2 AC 15, to put any limits on the same. However, it is always necessary to remember in that connection the observations of Parke, B. in (1834) 149 ER 1044 already referred to which not only define what a privileged occasion is but also the principle on which it is based. The principle is that such communications are protected for the common convenience and welfare of society. Where the common convenience and welfare of the society are not involved, no occasion could be regarded as a privileged occasion. It is for this reason that qualified privilege is denied to a defamatory statement in a newspaper. For example, in The Globe And Mail Ltd. v. Boland, 22 DLR (2d) 277, the Pull Court of the Supreme Court of Canada held-

'While newspapers may rely on the defence of fair comment in publishing allegedly defamatory statements about a candidate's fitness for office during an election campaign, they cannot invoke the defence of qualified privilege in so publishing defamatory statements.' It was further pointed out in that case-

'There is no such duty on a newspaper during an election campaign as to permit it to defame a candidate, subject to liability only if express malice is shown.'

In that case, the editor of the daily newspaper 'Globe & Mail' wrote an editorial on 27th May 1957 containing allegations defamatory of the plaintiff Boland who was a candidate for election to the Federal Assembly from Parkdale constituency in the City of Toronto. The Editorial commented on his fitness for office with certain innuendoes. In the suit filed by Boland. the newspaper put forward the plea of qualified privilege. It pleaded that it was the duty of the defendant newspaper to publish and in the interests of public to receive the communications and comments with respect to the candidature of Boland, the plaintiff, and by reason of this, the words complained of were published under such circumstances and upon such occasion as to render them privileged. The learned trial Judge upheld the pleas of qualified privilege in the following words:

'I have come to the conclusion that a Federal election in Canada is an occasion upon which a newspaper has a public duty to comment on the candidates, their campaigns and their platforms or policies, and Canadian Citizens have an honest and very real interest in receiving their comments, and that therefore, this is an occasion of qualified privilege.'

The Supreme Court of Canada held that this was an erroneous statement of the law. It was pointed out by Justice Cart-wright, who delivered the judgment of the court, that the learned trial Judge had confused the right which the publisher of a newspaper has, in common with all Her Majesty's subjects to report truthfully and comment fairly upon matters of public interest with a duty of the sort which gives rise to an occasion of qualified privilege. In that connection, he quoted the well-known passage of Lord Shaw in Arnold v. King Emperor (1914) 30 TLR 462 : 41 Ind App 149 :AIR 1914 PC 116 as follows:

'The freedom of the journalist is an ordinary part of the freedom of the subject, and to whatever lengths the subject in general may go, so also may the journalist, but, apart from statute law, his privilege is no other and no higher. The responsibilities which attach to this power in the dissemination of printed matter may, and in the case of a conscientious journalist do, make him more careful; but the range of his assertions, his criticisms, or his comments, is as wide as, and no wider than, that of any other subject. No privilege attaches to his position.' Proceeding further, Justice Cartwright observed-

'To hold that during a Federal election campaign in Canada any defamatory statement published in the press relating to a candidate's fitness for office is to be taken as published on an occasion of qualified privilege would be, in my opinion, not only contrary to the great weight of authority in England and in this country but harmful to that 'common convenience and welfare of society' which Baron Parke described as the underlying principle on which the rules as to qualified privilege are founded. (See (1834) 1 CM & Rule 181 at p. 193 = 149 ER 1044. It would mean that every man who offers himself as a candidate must be prepared to risk the loss of his reputation without redress unless he be able to prove affirmatively that those who defamed him were actuated by express malice. I would like to adopt the following sentence from the judgment oi the Court in Post Pub. Co. v. Hallam (1893) 59 Fed 530 : 'We think that not only is such a sacrifice not required of every one who consents to become a candidate for office, but that to sanction such a doctrine would do the public more harm than good.'

In the same connection. Justice Cartwright referred to the opinion of Gatley at page 242 of his book on 'Libel and Slander', Sixth Edition, under footnote No, 53-

'It is, however, submitted that so wide an extension of the privilege would do the public more harm than pood. It would tend to deter sensitive and honourable men from seeking public positions of trust and responsibility, and leave them open to. others who have no respect for their reputation.'

The view thus taken was further supported by Justice Cartwright by referring to the words of Cockburn, C. J. In Campbell v. Spotiswpode (1863) 122 ER 288.

'It is said that it is for the interests of society that the public conduct of men should be criticised without any other limit than that the writer should have an honest belief that what he writes is true. But it seems to me that the public have an equal interest in the maintenance of the public character of public men and public affairs could not be conducted by men of honour with a view to the welfare of the country, if we were to sanction attacks upon them, destructive of their honour and character, and made without any foundation.' After quoting the above passage. Justice Cartwright has tersely remarked:

'The interest of the public and that of the publishers of newspapers will be sufficiently safeguarded by the availability of the defence of fair comment in appropriate circumstances'. This principle was applied bv the same court in Banks v. Globe & Mail Ltd. 28 D LR S43, where it was held that the proposition of Law that given proof of the existence of subject-matter of wide public interest throughout Canada, without proof of any other special circumstances, any newspaper in Canada (and semble therefore, any individual) which sees fit to publish to the public at large statements of fact relevant to that subject-matter is to be held to be doing so on an occasion of qualified privilege, is untenable. In that case the same newspaper Globe & Mail published an editorial defamatory of one Mr. Harold C. Banks, Canadian director of the Seafarers' International Union. On a suit filed by Banks, qualified privilege was claimed on the ground that it was the duty of the newspaper to publish and in the interests of the public to receive communications and comments with respect to the strike and the resultant transfer of eight vessels from Canadian Registry, and by reason of this, the said words were published under such circumstances and upon such occasion as to render them privileged. The learned trial Judge held that the matter was of great public interest. He observed;

'The members of the public have a real, a vital I might go so far as to say -- a paramount interest in receiving those comments.'

He also pointed out that it was a matter of vital interest to all the citizens of Canada and, therefore, the defence of qualified privilege was available. The Supreme Court held that there was no qualified privilege and again pointed out that the learned Judge had confused the right which the publisher of a newspaper has, in common with all Her Majesty's subjects to report truthfully and comment fairly upon matters of public interest with a duty of the sort which gives rise to an occasion of qualified privilege. After referring to its earlier decision in 22 D LR 277 (SC Canada) referred to above, it held that in the absence of proof of special circumstances, there is no defence of qualified privilege with respect to defamatory statements of facts made as comments upon a matter of public interest, and the same holds Roods for newspapers as for anyone else. The 'special circumstances' obviously refer to circumstances giving rise to a legal, social, or moral duty, and recall to mind the words of Buckley L. J. in (1915) 31 TLR 299 (C. A.) referred to above where he said 'More, I think, is wanted.'

23. That the existence of a duty for qualified privilege is more fundamental than the existence of a matter of public interest as asserted by Lord Justice Buckley is emphasised by Lord Dunedin in appeal in that case ..... , .,,... (See 1917 AC 309. After stating at the beginning of his speech at p. 322 that the Judgment of Buckley L. J. in the Appeal Court was entirely satisfactory to his mind, he observed at p. 331 as follows:

'The second matter is more serious. In order to dispose of the question of privilege he (i.e. trial Judge) put to the Jury certain questions, of which three were as follows; Was the publication--that is, the document published -- of a public nature? Was the subject-matter of that publication by defendant, matter about which it was proper for the public to know? Was the matter contained in the letter proper for the public to know? To all of which the jury returned a negative answer, and upon that the learned Judge said: 'Upon these findings I hold that the publication was not a privileged publication nor a publication on a privileged occasion.' It is clear that so far as the questions go they assume that the foundation of the duty or right which was invoked to support the privilege was that the matter discussed was one of public importance: whereas the true foundation in this case was the duty of the Army Council to 'make publicly known their vindication of General Scobell's honour. .....'

This is exemplified by an older case reported in Allbutt v. The General Council of Medical Education and Registration (1889) 23 QBD 400. The facts are that the General Medical Council published a book containing the minutes of the proceedings of the Council including a statement that the name of the plaintiff had been removed from the register of medical practitioners on the ground that he had been guilty of grave professional misconduct, and a report of the proceedings before the Council in relation to the charge. It was held, having regard to the character of the report, the interests of the public in the proceedings, and the duty of the Council towards the public, the publication of the report was privileged. Gatley in his book 'Libel and Slander', Sixth Edition, at para 532 (p. 245) has put the matter as follows:

'Duty to the Public necessary. But where no duty to the public can be proved, no privilege will attach to the publication of libellous matter in a newspaper......'

24. fine more case referred to by Mr. Chari remains to be noted, and, that is Webb v. Times Publishing Co. Ltd. (1960) 3 WLR 352. In that case, a wife felt defamed by a fair and accurate report in the 'London Times' of a judicial proceeding in a Swiss Court in which her husband made a confession containing matter defamatory of the wife. The learned Judge held that the defendant, the Proprietor of the Times, was protected by qualified privilege not on the ground that the 'Times' had a duty to the English public to report on a matter of public interest but on the ground that the report was based on a judicial proceeding in a foreign court which gave it sufficient status, and that plea of 'fair information on a matter of public interest' on the analogy of 'fair comment on a matter of public interest' was open to the defendant under the law. It is easy to see how the facts in that case are distinguishable. As a matter of fact, Gatley in his book at page 245 in footnote 67 has stated that in spite of 1960 (3 ) WLR 352 , the correct statement of English Law is what is laid down in 28 DLR 343 (Canada) referred to above.

25. It was, however, contended for the defendants that in a case like the present where a journalist honestly believes that the public exchequer is deprived of a large sum of money and the Government is seized with paralysis in bringing the culprit to book speedily, this court, haying regard to the conditions obtaining in this country, should recognize in the journalist a duty to bring the facts to the notice of the public with a view to put pressure on the Government to act. In this connection, reference was made to certain passages in the Report of the Press Commission, Part 1, 1954, particularly, paragraphs 910 and 911 in Chapter 19 at page 339. The Chapter is headed 'Standards and Performance'. We have gone through the paragraphs referred to, but we find there nothing to justify the contention that such a need was felt by the Press Commission. On the other hand, after stating in paragraph 914 that the newspapers ought to be accurate and fair, it sternly condemned Yellow Journalism (paragraph 929), 'Sensationalism' (Paragraph 931) and 'Malicious and irresponsible attacks (paragraph 936) even when such attacks had been made on the plea that the newspapers wanted to expose evil in high places. We do not, therefore, feel the need of recognizing any such new duty, because the journalist like any other citizen has the right to comment fairly and, if necessary, severely on a matter of public interest, provided the allegations of facts he has made are accurate and truthful, however defamatory they may be otherwise. Since his right to comment on matters of public interest is recognized by law, the journalist obviously owes an obligation to the public to have his facts right Where the journalist himself makes an investigation, he must make sure that all his facts are accurate and true, so that if challenged, he would be able to prove the same. We think, public interests are better served that way. In our opinion, therefore, the plea of qualified privilege put forward on behalf of the defendants fails.

26. Mr. Mistry, on behalf of the plaintiff, further argued that even if qualified privilege was assumed in favour of the defendants, he was able to show that the attack on his client was malicious. The law is clear in the matter. Malice in law, which is presumed in every false and defamatory statement, stands rebutted by a privileged occasion. In such a case, in order to make a libel actionable, the burden of proving actual or express malice is always on the plaintiff. Malice in that sense means making use of a privileged occasion for an indirect or improper motive. Such malice can be proved in a variety of ways, inter alia (i) by showing that the writer did not honestly believe in the truth of these allegations, or that he believed the same to be false; (ii) or that the writer is moved by hatred or dislike, or a desire to injure the subject of the libel and is merely using the privileged occasion to defame. ..... (See Watt v. Longsdon (1930) 1 KB 130 and the observations of Greer, L. J. at p. 154.....) and (iii) by showing that out of anger, prejudice or wrong motive, the writer casts aspersions on other people, reckless whether they are true or false, ....... (See observations of Lord Esher, M. R. in Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Gardens Society v. Parkinson (1892) 1 QBD 431 . Mr. Mistry contends that almost all the material defamatory allegations in the Article come under one or more of the above categories.

27. In this connection, he first refers to the episode of 1947 set out in the plaint itself. It appears that on 31st May 1947 defendant No. 1 printed and published an Article in the 'Blitz' under bold headings:

(1) 'Cloth Control Boss in Black-Market Swoop' 'Thackersey Mills were involved in Bombay's Biggest Black-market Swoop';

(2) 'Anti-Corruption Branch follows Blitz' clues 'Phony' Cloth Control Proved by Latest Black Market Swoop';

(3) 'Textile Control Boss, too, in Thick of it';

and alleged that certain bales of cotton cloth were found in a certain godown in a raid by the police and these bales of cloth were the product of Crown, Hindustan and Great Western Mills which are under the agency of Mr. Krishnaraj Thackersey (the plaintiff), the Chairman of the Textile Control Board. Since the plaintiff was not responsible for the destination of these cloth bales after the Mills had sold the same in accordance with the Control Order he, through his solicitors, served a notice on 16th June 1947 requiring defendant No. 1 to publish a full and unqualified apology in his newspaper in a prominent manner with the approval of the plaintiff's attorneys. After receipt of this notice, defendant No. 1 published in the issue of 21st June 1947 what he called an explanation. In this explanation, while he made it clear that he stood by the report, he explained that only the cloth manufactured by those mills had been seized in the black-market raid and that the Mill-owners and the Mills concerned were no way engaged in or guilty of black-market operations. This explanation apparently did not satisfy the plaintiff. So, he filed a criminal complaint in the Court of the Chief Presidency Magistrate for defamation. It is the case of the plaintiff that after the complaint was filed, defendant No. 1 completely surrendered himself to the mercy of the plaintiff and entreated the plaintiff to accept an unconditional and unqualified apology for having wrongfully published the said statement and the Article in the 'Blitz'. On such apology being accepted by the plaintiff, defendant 'No. 1 was discharged. It is the plaintiff's submission that this episode rankled in the mind of defendant No. 1, and, therefore, when in 1960 some material was brought to him by defendant No. 4, the plaintiff (defendant?) took advantage of that opportunity to write the Article in suit maliciously. Mr. Chari submitted that more than 13 years had elapsed after this episode of 1947 and that it was more natural for defendant No. 1 to treat the episode as closed after the apology than to entertain any grouse against the plaintiff. He argued that it was not unusual for journalists to publish news or reports based upon what they thought was a reliable source, but later when they find that the source was unreliable they would be only too eager to make amends by apologising for the allegations made. That is exactly what happened, according to Mr. Chari, in 1947. The defendant No. 1 honestly believed that the plaintiff who was the Chairman of the Textile Control Board was concerned with the black-market-operations, but when it was brought to his notice that the plaintiff, after the Mills had sold the cloth, had nothing to do with the destination of those goods, defendant No. 1 made an ample apology by publishing two explanations. As the first explanation did not satisfy the plaintiff, he made the second explanation which satisfied him and, therefore, after the same was accepted by the plaintiff, there should be nothing to rankle in the mind of defendant No. 1. The course of events, however, does not bear out Mr. Chari's plea, and it appears to us that defendant No. 1 must have nursed a grievance. His own written statement shows that he never surrendered himself to the mercy of the plaintiff, nor had he entreated the plaintiff to accept an unconditional and unqualified apology. According to him, what really made him give the second explanation, after the criminal complaint was filed was that it was the learned Chief Presidency Magistrate himself who intervened in the matter and told defendant No. 1 that as he had already published an explanation, he might as well publish another in a form desired by the plaintiff and then put an end to the matter. This, according to defendant No. 1, was the real background of what is deemed to be an apology in the criminal court. In his evidence before the court, he gives a different version. He says that when the complaint was filed against him, he had been legally advised that he had a good fighting case. The reason for the apology was that defendant No. 1 was at that time going abroad on an important mission and he had to obtain his freedom by apologising. He had applied to the Magistrate to postpone the hearing of the case, but since his application was opposed by the plaintiff, he accepted the suggestion made by the Magistrate that it would be desirable that he should go a little further than the first explanation, and hence he published the second explanation. That second explanation, which is called an -apology by the plaintiff, is at page 1674 of the paper-book. In this explanation, defendant No. 1 says that no allegations or insinuations of black-marketing should (by reason of the words or expressions used by him) be read into the said report or its headings as against Mr. Thackersey personally or his group of Mills. Then he said-

'We unequivocally withdraw all such allegations and insinuations which could be so read in our said report and express our regret to him.'

The evidence given by defendant No. I now would go to show that he had made this apology not because he was really satisfied about the truth of the matter but because of other considerations. As a matter of fact, he has stated in his evidence that even at that time, that is to say, prior to the publication of the Article dated 31st May 1947, he had information which led him to believe that the plaintiff was indulging In black-marketing. It is therefore, obvious that the regret expressed In the second explanation was much against his grain. He could not have easily forgotten that he had been compelled to make an undeserved apology to a person who to his own information was a black-marketeer. The things which he came to know about the plaintiff after 1947 would only help to keep this memory fresh in his mind, because in his evidence before the court he says at p. 398-

'.....I had a bad Impression about the plaintiff. My impression was that he indulged in a number of malpractices, that he was unscrupulous. ..... One of the general impressions which I had carried even prior to the reading of the article hi the 'Peep' was that the plaintiff was a black-marketeer. From the complaint which I received prior to reading the article in the 'Peep', I felt that the plaintiff was engaged in black-marketing, tax-dodging and trying to influence Government officials by underhand means, that is to say, corrupting Government officials. .... The information which led me to believe that he was concerned with tax-dodging and corrupting officials was received by me thereafter and before 1960. ..... From 1947 I had heard of serious complaints being made to the then Bombay Government by one Doshi and by others about the misuse by the plaintiff of his position as Chairman of the Textile Control Board .....'

It will be thus seen that although a long time had elapsed after 1947 before he wrote the Article in suit, defendant No. 1 must have been very grievously conscious that he had been made to apologise to the plaintiff in the complaint filed before the Presidency Magistrate in 1947 most undeservedly, especially, as his impression about the plaintiff as a Black-marketer had been confirmed after 1947. He carried the worst impression of the plaintiff even before defendant No. 4 came to him with his material. As a matter of fact, the very alacrity with which defendant No. 1 decided to publish a series of Articles on the plaintiff would go to show that the episode of 1947 had not been forgotten by him. His own evidence goes to show that sometime in July 1960 defendant No. 4 saw him with his material. His first interview lasted for about two hours. Most of the time was occupied in questioning defendant No. 4 and trying to understand his case. He had hardly any time to go through the voluminous documentary material that defendant No. 4 had brought. He only cursorily glanced through it. He then called his deputy, Mr. Homi Mistry, and asked him to prepare a series of articles. But what is pertinent to be noted is that even at the very first interview, even before any of the material had been checked, he had asked Mr. Homi Mistry to prepare a series of Articles, 'because his mind was made up to expose the plaintiff'. All this shows that the reason for writing this Article was not mere public Interest.

28. That brings us to the actual defamatory allegations made in the Article. (Then after dealing with the allegations (paras 28 to 36) His Lordship proceeded). Therefore, although Mr. Chari has tried to put the case on a high level, viz. that whole Article was written with a view to serve public interests, we find here that the writer himself did not intend to do so.

37. Having, therefore, given our careful consideration to the Article and the aspects of malice put before us by learned counsel for the plaintiff, we are satisfied that the whole Article was conceived in express malice and, therefore, no qualified privilege can at all be claimed,

33. That brings us to the question of damages. The plaintiff claimed general damages of Rupees three lacs, and the whole claim has been decreed. The learned Judge took the view that exemplary damages were necessary to be awarded and he has made it clear in the last but one para of his judgment that the deterrent aspect was not absent from his mind. It is contended on behalf of the defendants that the damages are excessive and unreasonable, and, in any case, exemplary damages could not have been awarded. It is now settled after the decision of the House of Lords in Rookes v. Barnard (1964) 1 All ER 367, and the decision of the Court of Appeal in McCarey v. Associated Newspapers, Ltd. (1964) 3 AH ER 947, that, at common law, damages for defamation are purely compensatory. There is no room hereafter for importing the concept of exemplary or punitive damages except in two well-defined categories of cases. The first category is of those cases where the plaintiff is injured by the oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional action by the executive or the servants of the Government. The second category is comprised of those cases in which the defendant's conduct has been calculated by him to make a profit for himself which may well exceed the compensation payable to the plaintiff. Except in these two types of cases, there is no departure from the ordinary compensatory principle for all torts, including libel. Where a newspaper is the defendant, it cannot be said without more that the publication has been made with a view to make profits. As pointed out in Broadway Approvals, Ltd. v. Odhams Press, Ltd. (1965) 2 All ER 523 , newspapers in the ordinary course of their business publish news for profits. Only when a more pecuniary benefit is shown to have been made by a newspaper would It become liable for punitive damages.

39. Mr. Mistry invited our attention to a recent decision of the Privy Council in Australian Consolidated Press, Ltd. v. Uren (1967) 3 All ER 523 in which the Privy Council did not apply the principle about exemplary damages as laid down by Lord Devlin in 1964(1) All ER 367 referred to above. The case, however, shows that the Privy Council did not purport to dissent from the view taken by the House of Lords. The question before them was, whether it was necessary to overrule the unanimous view of the Full Court of the High Court of Australia which had refused to follow 1964(1) All ER 367 on the ground that the High Court had for years accepted as part of the Australian law that punitive damages was an element to be considered in the award of damages in a libel action. The Privy Council held that it was not necessary. So far as this country is concerned, that is not the position. The research of learned counsel has not been able to show us that in India punitive damages had been always considered as a part of the Indian law of libel. On the other hand, having inherited the jurisdiction of the late Supreme Court, the Original Side of this Court has always followed the common law of England in matters of torts, including libel, and since 1964(1) All ER 367 explains what the common law is in this respect, we feel we should be guided by it though by no means the decision is binding on us.

40. The present position in law with regard to damages in a libel action is stated by Lord Justice Pearson in (1964) 3 All ER 947, as follows:

'If I may summarise shortly in my own words what I think is to be derived from that case, it is this, that from henceforth a clear distinction should be drawn between compensatory damages' and punitive damages. Compensatory damages in a case in which they are at large may include several different kinds of compensation to the injured plaintiff. They may include not only actual pecuniary loss and anticipated pecuniary loss or any social disadvantages which result, or may be thought likely to result, from the wrong which has been done. They may also include natural injury to his feelings: the natural relief and distress which he may feel in being spoken of in defamatory terms; and, if there has been any kind of high-handed, oppressive, insulting or contumelious behaviour by the defendant which increases the mental pain and suffering which is caused by the defamation and which may constitute injury to the plaintiff's pride and self-confidence, those are proper elements to be taken into account in a case where the damages are at large. There is, however, a sharp distinction between damages of that kind and truly punitive or exemplary damages. To put it in another way, when you have computed and taken into account all the elements of compensatory damages which may be awarded to the plaintiff and arrived at a total of X, then it is quite wrong to add a sum of Y by way of punishment of the defendant for his wrong-doing. The object of the award of damages in tort nowadays is not to punish the wrong-doer, but to compensate the person to whom the wrong has been done. Moreover, it would not be right to allow punitive or exemplary damages to creep back into the assessment in some other guise. For instance, it might be said: 'You must consider not only what the plaintiff ought to receive, but what the defendant ought to pay'. There are many other phrases which could be used, such as those used in the extracts which I have cited from some of the decided cases. In my view, that distinction between compensatory and punitive damages has now been laid down quite clearly by the House of Lords in (1964) 1 All ER 367 and ought to be permitted to have its full effect in the sphere of libel actions as well as in other branches of tort. .....'

41. Therefore, aggravated damages may be awarded within the compensatory principle in circumstances specifically referred to above, viz., if there has been any kind of high-handed, oppressive, insulting or contumelious behaviour by the defendant which increases the mental pain and suffering which is caused by the defamation and which may constitute injury to the plaintiff's pride and self-confidence. But these elements cannot be taken into consideration to award what are in law punitive or exemplary damages.

42. What are then the injuries for which the plaintiff should be compensated? That is explained by Lord Justice Diplock in that same case at page 959 as follows:

'In an action for defamation, the wrongful act is damage to the plaintiff's reputation. The injuries that he sustains may be classified under two heads: (i) the consequences of the attitude adopted to him by other persons as a result of the diminution of the esteem in which they hold him because of the defamatory statement; and (ii) the grief or annoyance caused by the defamatory statement to the plaintiff himself. It is damages under this second head which may be aggravated by the manner in which, or the motives with which, the statement was made or persisted in. There may also be cases where Lord Devlin's second principle is applicable, as, for example, if a newspaper or a film company (as in Youssoupoff v. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures, Ltd. (1934) 50 TLR 581 has, in the view of the damage-awarding tribunal, deliberately published a defamatory statement in the expectation of increasing its circulation and profits by an amount which would exceed any damages awarded by way of compensation alone. .....'

The plaintiff claimed in the present suit general damages of Rs. 3,00,000/- on the ground that the plaintiff has been injured in his character, credit, and reputation and in the way of his business and has been brought into the public hatred, contempt, and ridicule. The plaintiff, however, has not entered the witness-box or adduced evidence of his friends or associates in business to show to what extent he is avoided by friends or shunned by his associates in trade or business, nor has he shown the extent of diminution in the esteem in which he was held. There is no special damage alleged or proved in the way of business or trade. As to grief or annoyance caused to him, the plaintiff has not helped the court in making any accurate estimate by his evidence. As pointed out by both Diplock and Willmer, L. JJ. in 1964 (3) All ER 947 referred to above, the presence of the plaintiff in the witness-box gives the jury or the judge an opportunity which the Appellate Court does not have to form their view of his personality whether he is a particularly sensitive man, and 'to assess the grief and annoyance which it would cause him as a sort of person they thought him to be'. Thus, unfortunately in this case both the incommensurables, viz. diminution in esteem and the extent of mental distress which to some extent must have been, undoubtedly, caused by the publication, present a problem of evaluation or equation.

43. The learned Judge, however, has awarded the full claim of Rs. three lacs and damages describing the same as exemplary damages. In the first place, this was not a case for exemplary damages, because it is not the case that the defendants made any profit by the publication of the Article in his journal. Undoubtedly, he has referred to some substantial aggravating circumstances and that would justify awarding aggravated damages, but it would be difficult to say what the learned Judge may have awarded as aggravated damages if the punitive element had been excluded. Since exemplary damages have been awarded when they were not due, this court has the power and the duty to interfere with the decree for damages.

44. On the other hand, there is hardly any doubt that the Article, as admitted by the defendant No. 1, is grossly defamatory, A worse libel is difficult to imagine. The plaintiff is a prominent businessman and industrialist and was sometime or the other the Chairman of the Mill-owners Association, Chairman of the Textile Control Board, and the Chairman of the Federation of Textile Mills. That would be sufficient to show his standing in trade and industry, and yet he is accused in the Article of being involved in a 'Scandal bigger than Mundhra' and of being a tax-evader, financial juggler, and import-export-racketeer and a swindler. He is also accused of having smuggled foreign exchange in violation of the Customs and Foreign Exchange Regulations. He is further accused of having himself used his position as the Chairman of the Textile Control Board in order to assist his satellite concerns. He is also accused of having started bogus factories and firms with a view to obtain fabulous import-licenses for goods to be eventually sold in the black-market in order to evade the income-tax. These accusations are, undoubtedly, grossly defamatory. To add insult to injury, the defendants recklessly pleaded justification and improperly persisted in it when any reasonable person after being shown his error in the witness-box would have gracefully withdrawn the allegations and apologised. In the conduct of the litigation also they showed, as pointed out by the learned Judge, concentrated venom and hostility and augmented the injury caused by the defamatory article by making baseless new allegations that the plaintiff had corrupted officials engaged in investigation in the case against his concerns and even bribed a senior Minister of the Central Government. These matters were rightly taken into consideration by the learned Judge in not only awarding substantial damages but aggravated damages.

45. Nevertheless, it appears to us that the learned Judge was in error in decreeing the full claim made by the plaintiff. It is the contention of the defendants that the damages are not only excessive but unreasonable and disproportionate in the circumstances of the case. We are aware that Appellate Courts are, and should be, most reluctant to interfere with the assessment of the learned trial Judge or a jury, but, that is so, because the latter have a unique opportunity of seeing the parties before them when equating the two incomrnensurables, viz., the diminution in esteem and the mental distress of the plaintiff. Where the plaintiff has not entered the witness-box or examined anybody for proving the same, it is quite open to the defendants to contend that the Appellate Court is in no worse position than the learned trial Judge in making the proper assessment. Even otherwise, what are proper damages is always a matter of impression, and, we should think that a claim of Rs. 3,00,000/- is much too high. We have only to bear in mind that a sum of three lacs is no mean sum by Indian standards. There are few persons in India who would save, after payment of taxes, that much sum in a lifetime of honest toil. Looked at that way, one may complain that this is almost a bounty.

46. Mr. Mistry for the plaintiff submitted that although at first blush rupees three lacs may appear to be a large sum, the court will also have to take into consideration the cost that his client had to undergo in order to vindicate his honour, It is true, he submitted, that he has been awarded costs in the trial court, but those costs are between party and party and are very much less than the cost which he has to pay to his Attorneys and counsel. There can be no doubt that the 'costs between an attorney and client are very much more than the costs between party and party, and costs actually incurred are much more than the costs awarded by the decree. The trial went on for 101 days and costs must have risen from day to day, and, therefore, the costs awarded in the decree will not cover the costs the plaintiff had incurred. But this consideration is extraneous to the question as to what damages are to he awarded for the injury caused. A party complaining about a tort like libel can only ask compensation for the injury sustained. It cannot include any part of the costs. Costs have to be decreed only in accordance with the rules of the court.

47. Mr. Zaveri for the defendants contended that there were certain matters in the evidence which ought to have been taken into consideration by the learned trial Judge in mitigation of damages. In this connection, he referred to the evidence which in his submission went to show (i) that China Cotton Exporters of which the plaintiff was one of the partners had paid Rs. 45,000/- to one Piloo Sidhwa in order to influence Central Ministers to lift the ban on the export of cotton or to obtain licences for export of cotton; (ii) that the same firm had, in the course of disposing of the imported art silk yarn in the market, purported to sell it to handloom factories, which were not in existence, the device of bogus factories being resorted to for the purpose of evading the condition of import which obliged them to sell the yarn to genuine handloom factories. Mr. Mistry objects that the defendants having given up, without any reservation, the plea of justification in this court, which the learned Judge found against the defendants, it would be incompetent for this court to consider the evidence bearing on the point of justification even for assessing damages. The danger is of inconsistent findings. To illustrate, the trial court held that no such amount was at all paid to Sidhwa. It also held that though Govardhandas & Co., who managed the yarn business on behalf of Messrs. China Cotton Exporters, had not made proper inquiries about the factories being genuine, none of the partners including the plaintiff had knowledge of the same. In other words, the finding of the learned trial Judge is that Messrs. China Cotton Exporters or the plaintiff had no knowledge that the Concerns, National Hand-loom Weaving Works and Rayon Hand-loom Industries, to which the yarn was supposed to have been sold, were not genuine Handloom factories. If on a consideration of that evidence in this court, even for the purposes of assessing damages, we were to come to a contrary conclusion, that would be tantamount to holding that justification was partially proved. That would result in inconsistent conclusions, viz., no justification whatever on merits but partial justification in mitigation of damages. Such a result ought not to be countenanced. Since the plea of justification has been entirely given up, the evidence which relates to justification cannot be reconsidered. It is true that we have some reported cases in which it has been held that though the whole justification may not be proved, partial justification may be taken into consideration for the purposes of mitigation of damages ..... (See for example the speech of Lord Denning at page 1142 in Plato Films Ltd. v. Spe-idel 1961 AC 1090 But in the present case, in the first place, there is no plea of general bad character of the plaintiff. Secondly, not even partial justification has been held proved. The utmost that can be said on behalf of the defendants is that we should take the findings of the learned Judge as they are and see if there is anything in those findings which can be properly urged in mitigation of damages. That attempt has failed.

48. On a consideration of the issues involved and discussed above, we think, the amount of damages awarded by the learned trial Judge will have to be reduced. We think that the proper damages to be awarded should be Rs. one and half lacs. The decree will have to be modified to that extent.

49. One thing more has to be noted. The decree was passed against defendants 1. 2 and 4. There was one decree against all of them,. Defendant No. 4 being held to be a joint tort-feasor. As a matter of fact, the whole Article admittedly was based upon the material and documents produced by defendant No. 4 and the evidence has revealed that even the final draft of the Article was approved by defendant No. 4, who, in his own hand, made some corrections in the draft. Defendant No. 4, however, has not come in appeal. He became an insolvent after the decree and the Official Assignee has been brought on record as respondent No. 2(a). The question is whether the decree against him also requires to be varied. Gatley in his Book on Libel and Slander, Sixth Edition, at para 1390 (p. 606) has pointed out that there must be one verdict and one Judgment against all: for the total damages awarded. What the plaintiff is entitled to receive is a Bum representing the damages that he has suffered from a single wrong inflicted by all. It would, therefore, follow that there cannot be two decrees for different amounts in respect of the same libel. The fact that defendant No. 4 has not appealed is not of much consequence in view of the principles underlying Rules 4 and 33 of Order 41, Civil Procedure Code.

50. In the result, the appeal is partially allowed, the decree of the trial Court is confirmed with the only modification that for the amount of Rs. 3,00,000/-, Rs. 1,50,000/- (Rs. one and half lacs) will be substituted. As regards the costs of the appeal, we are informed that the hearing of this appeal went on for about thirty days. The appeal was on all points decided against the defendants in the trial court, but at the hearing of the appeal, learned counsel for the defendants confined his arguments only to two questions, viz. (i) qualified privilege and (ii) quantum of damages. On the issue of 'qualified privilege', the arguments went on for very long, for more than 22 days, and on that point, the appellants have failed. It is true that they have succeeded in the appeal partially to the extent of reduction of quantum of damages by half, but if they had confined their arguments only to the quantum of damages, the appeal would have been disposed of in not more than five or six days. In these circumstances, therefore, we think that the appellants will have to pax four-fifth of the costs of the appeal to respondent No. 1 and bear their own costs.

51. Appeal partially allowed.

Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //