1. In this case the Presidency Magistrate, 4th Court, has submitted under Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code for the opinion of this Court a question of law arising in a ease pending before him. The question submitted by him In as follows :-
Do abusive words (granting that they are insulting) conveyed in a letter seat by post constitute an offence under Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code so as to make the -writer of that letter liable for the intentional insult and thereby giving provocation to the receiver of that letter, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace or to commit any other offence.
2. It is conceded on both sides that the letter in the present case was not sent by post but was sent by a messenger. Under Section 504 the ingredients of the offence are (1) intentional insult, (2) provocation to any person, and (3) an intention or knowledge that such provocation will cause the person insulted to break the public peace or commit any other offence. There is nothing in the section which confines the insult to spoken words and would not cover words written in a letter.
3. We agree with the view of Sir Shadi Lal, Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, in Gul Muhammad v. Fir Akbar Ali (1926) 28 Cr. L.J. 172 that a person n is within the ambit of Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code not only if the provocation offered by him is of such a character as to cause the person provoked to commit a breach of peace but even if it is of such a nature as to cause him to commit any other offence. In that case the insult or the abuse was conveyed by a letter and was not delivered face to face. Similarly, in the case of The Queen v. Adams (1888) 22 Q.B.D. 66, where the accused was tried and convicted on an indictment charging him with having unlawfully and maliciously written and published to a young woman of virtuous and modest character a defamatory letter concerning her character for virtue and modesty it was held that the conviction could be sustained, as under those circumstances, the defamatory letter might reasonably tend to provoke a breach of the peace. According to the English law defamatory matter even if published only to the person defamed will support an indictment if it might reasonably and probably tend to provoke a breach of the peace. See Halsbury's Laws of England, Vol. XVIII, para. 1216, page 656.
4. In the present case the letter was sent by a messenger and it is not beyond the range of possibility that the complainant might lose his temper and break the public peace, or assault the messenger and commit an offence, The decision in the case of King Emp. v. Chumbhai (1902) 4 Bom. L.R. 78 is not inconsistent with this view.
5. Mere abuse unaccompanied by an intention to cause a breach of the peace or knowledge that a breach of the peace is likely does not come within Section 504 (see Re Kuppuswami Aiyar I.L.R. (1915) 39 Mad. 561. On the other hand an insult which under ordinary circumstances would be likely to provoke the person insulted to cause a breach of the peace is within the provisions of the section although the person insulted may have been reduced to a state of abject terror so as to render improbable that he would commit a breach of the peace (see Empress v. Jogayya I.L.R. (1887) 10 Mad. 353. The insult again may be of such a character that a person of ordinary temperament would not complain of the abuse and the abuse might come within the terms of Section 95 of the Indian Penal Code.
6. It is, therefore, for the Magistrate to consider whether, under the circumstances of the present case, the insult which was conveyed to the complainant by the written letter is of such a character as to come within the ambit of Section 504. It is not possible to give a categorical answer to the question submitted to us, 'With this expression opinion we will return the papers to the Magistrate.