1. This appeal is filed by the Public Prosecutor against the order of acquittal passed by the District Magistrate (Judicial), Cuddapah, in C. C. No. 42 of 1953. The complainant, J. Purushotham, a Government employee in the Revenue department, filed a private complaint under Section 500, Penal Code, against the accused-Respondent who is the President of the Co-operative Stores, Owk. The case of the complainant is that the accused made defamatory allegations against him in the petitions sent to the Collector, District Supply Officer, Kurncol and other officers.
The specific allegations which were relied on by the complainant as defamatory were : (1) that the complainant demanded a bribe of Rs. 2,000 from the accused to hush up the fraud, etc., committed by the accused and to drop further enquiry in the matter (ii) that the complainant took a bribe of Rs, 100 from one Vogeti Balanna of Tadpatri for releasing his lorry which was carrying Bengalgram from Kurnool district to Tadpatri; (iii) that the complainant demanded a bribe of Rs. 200 from one Ch. Narasimhayya who was a ration shop dealer and also a retail dealer in sugar, and as he did not pay, even without cancelling his licence, he gave it to another trader Pullayya and further that he got Narasimhayya prosecuted before the Stationary Sub-Magistrate Koilkuntla; and (iv) that the complainant was going to the villages and taking false statements from ryots against the accused with reference to his procurement work and that their signatures or thumb impressions were being taken on blank papers to be used later against the accused.
The District Magistrate found that the allegations were defamatory in character and that they were duly published but that he was not liable to be punished as the terms of Exception 9 to Section 499, Penal Code, were duly satisfied. As against the order of acquittal, the appeal has been filed,
2. The simple question that arises for decision is, whether the case falls within Exceptions 8 and 9 and whether the accused is duly protected. The complainant is a law graduate and has put in long period of service in Government employment. At the relevant period, he was the Taluk Supply Officer of Koilkuntla, Owk was in his jurisdiction and the complainant who found serious irregularities in the accounts maintained by the President of Co-operative Stores of Owk submitted two reports, dated 5th September, 1950 and 22nd October, 1950, to the District Supply Officer, marked as Exhibits P-7 and P-8. Thereupon the accused sent a petition to the District Collector, Kurnool, marked as Exhibit P-1 making the several defamatory statements already extracted above.
The last sentence in the petition is that an independent enquiry might be made as to the allegation made in the petition. It appears that, the District Supply Officer enquired into the several allegations and found them all to be false. The complainant applied to the Collector for permission to file a complaint under Section 500 and the Collector granted sanction and also legal aid as appears from Exhibit P-4. I have been taken through the relevant evidence in the case. I am satisfied that the allegations as to bribery have not been made out and that the complainant is innocent of the charges made against him. Unfortunately, his subordinate, the Firka Supply Officer, Ramanarao, was not one of good repute. He was dismissed from service by the Government.
The evidence of D. W. 6 who is a cousin of the accused is to the effect that the accused called him and said that if the accused paid Rs. 2,000 the irregularities complained of against the accused would be squared up. P. W. 2 is examined by the prosecution to deny that the complainant ever demanded a bribe of Rs. 2,000. A reading of the deposition of p. W. 2 shows that he is not speaking the whole truth. It appears that he also signed the petition marked as Exhibit D-1 in Which the allegations as to bribery are made. In the re-examination he wanted to explain away Exhibit D-1 as a mahazar for wheat, rice, etc., for the stores, that he did not know its real contents and that he signed it out of confidence.
In cross-examination he admitted that he went to the office of the District Supply Officer for giving evidence but that he was not examined. From the evidence of P. W. 2 and D. W. 6, I am led to think that though the complainant did not demand a bribe, it was represented to the accused that if he gave a bribe of Rs. 2,000 to the complainant no enquiry into the irregularities alleged against the accused would be proceeded with. It may be that Ramanarao gave rise to such an impression and the accused who was informed by P. W. 2 and D. W. 6 about the demand of a bribe sent the petition to the Collector and other officer requesting that an enquiry might be held.
I find it difficult to hold that the accused had maliciously and in conspiracy with P.W. 2 and D.W. 6 intended to defame and injure the reputation of the complainant. It may be that he was irritated by the conduct of the complainant in sending reports against him ; but, when P. W. 2 and D. W. 6 agreed to sign the petition, Exhibit D-1 corroborating the statements made by them regarding the complainant, he was apparently satisfied with the truth of the allegations and sent Exhibit P-1 to the Collector.
3. Similarly, with regard to the bribe of Rs. 100, he must have got the information from P. W. 7. Exhibits D-1 and D-3 show that P. W. 7 informed the accused that he gave a bribe of Rs. 100 to the Taluk Supply Officer. Curiously, P. W. 7 examined on behalf of the prosecution deposed that he was not aware of the contents of the petition, Exhibit D-1 and that it was due to his friendship with the accused that he signed it. I am not prepared to accept this explanation. While I agree that it is not true that P. W. 7 gave a bribe to the complainant, I have no doubt in my mind that he informed the accused that such a bribe was taken from him. He even signed the petition Exhibit D-1 containing such an allegation. Exhibit D-3 is another application signed by P. W. 7 referring to the quarrel between Ramanarao and the vakil of the accused who appeared before the District Supply Officer.
4. In Exhibit P-1 it is stated that both the Firka Supply Officer and the Taluk Supply Officer demanded Rs. 200 from P. W. 2 and that as he refused to pay them, they threatened him that they would file a complaint for non-compliance with the conditions of the notice. P. W. 3 is no doubt examined on behalf of the prosecution and he says that no bribe was demanded from him. But in cross-examination, he admitted that a complaint was filed against him before the Stationary Sub-Magistrate, Koilkuntla and that the licence to sell sugar (which he held) was granted to Ganta Pullayya. Though the petition Exhibit D-1 was not signed by him, I am inclined to hold that the information as to the demand of bribe must have been conveyed to the accused by P. W. 3.
5. The two Exceptions relied on by the accused are in the following terms:
Exception 8 : - It is not defamation to prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject-matter of accusation.
Exception 9. - It is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another, provided that the imputation be made in good faith for the protection of the interest of the person making it, or of any other person, or for the public good.
6. Though the District Magistrate held that the case falls within the ninth Exception, I am inclined to take the view that the terms of that Exception are not complied with. Even assuming that the imputation was made in good faith I am not prepared to hold that it was for the protection of his own interest or for the public good that he made the allegations as to bribery.
7. I am, however, inclined to hold, that the accusation was made in good faith to the Collector and the District Supply Officer who had lawful authority over the complainant, the Taluk Supply Officer. Section 52, Penal Code, provides that nothing is said to be done or believed in 'good faith' which is done or believed without due care and attention. I am satisfied, on the facts of this case, that on the information supplied by P. Ws. 2, 3, 7 and D. W. 6 the accused believed in the truth of the allegations made by him in Exhibit P-1 (though as found by the District Supply Officer on enquiry the allegations are all baseless and without any foundation).
8. In Emperor v. Abdool Wadood Ahmed ILR 31 Bom 293 at p 298(A), Batty, J., delivering the Judgment of the Bench held as follows:
Good faith requires not, indeed, logical infallibility but due care and attention. But how far erroneous actions of statements are to be imputed, to want of due care and caution must, as indicated in Bhawoo Jivaji v. Mulji Dayal ILR 12 Bom 377 at p. 393(B), in each case be considered with reference to the general circumstances and the capacity and intelligence of the person whose conduct is in question. It is only to be expected that the honest conclusions of a calm and philosophical mind, may differ very largely from the honest conclusions of a person excited by sectarian zeal and untrained to habits of precise reasoning.
Rajamannar, J., (as he then was) held in Anthoni Udayar v. Veluswami Thevar 1948-1 Mad LJ 420 at p. 421 : AIR 1948 Mad 469 at p. 470(C), that there cannot be any rule of thumb to determine whether in any particular case an imputation is made in good faith or not. He observed as follows:
Good faith is relative to a great extent and must be determined by the circumstances under which the imputation was made, the social status and level of education of the persons making the imputation and their reasoning capacity. The Magistrate has held that it has not been established that the allegations contained in the statements made by the petitioners are true. That may be so. But that finding is not tantamount to an absence of good faith.
Applying the test laid down in the above two decisions as to what is good faith, I am inclined to hold that it is not proved by the prosecution that the accusations were made in bad faith, i. e., not with due care and attention.
9. Moreover, as the Magistrate acquitted the accused holding that he acted in good faith, I am not perpared to interfere with his conclusion in an appeal under Section 417, Criminal Procedure Code. The Supreme Court in Surajpal Singh v. The State : 1952CriLJ331 , has laid down the grounds on which the High Court might interfere with an order of acquittal in the following terms:
It is well established that in an appeal under Section 417, Criminal Procedure Code, the High Court has full power to review the evidence upon which the order of acquittal was founded, but it is equally well settled that the presumption of innocence of the accused is further reinforced by his acquittal by the trial Court, and the findings of the trial Court which has the advantage of seeing the witnesses arid hearing their evidence can be reversed only for very substantial and compelling reason.
10. Adopting those observations, I hold that the prosecution has not satisfied me that this is a fit case to reverse the Judgment of the District Magistrate acquitting the accused.
11. In the result the appeal fails and is dismissed.