1. The short point that arises in this Revision petition is whether the Court of Munsif Magistrate, Ongole has jurisdiction to try this case.
2. The complainant has alleged against his father that he was defamed as the latter wrote a letter to one Karnam Jayarao Pantulu Garu residing at Doulatabad in Kodangal Taluk, Mahaboobnagar District. Both the complainant and the accused are the residents of Karavadi in Ongole taluk of Guntur District. The letter containing imputations was written on 26-3-58 and sent to the addressee by post and as the addressee was suffering from paralysis, the letter was opened by one of his sons, Shambu Krishnarao and the contents were read out at the direction of the said Karnam Jayarao Pantulu Garu.
It is alleged that this highly defamatory letter which is to harm, undermine and ruin the long established reputation of the complainant as an almanac publisher and which already gained publicity was shown to the complainant when he went on tour to Doulatabad. The accused took the plea that the court of the Munsif-Magistrate at Ongole has no jurisdiction to try the offence as the gist of the offence of defamation consisted in publication which took place, according to the accused, only when the delivered letter was opened at Doulatabad. The Munsif-Magistrate overruled the objection. Hence the revision petition.
3. The Madras High Court dealt with this question in more than one decision. The earliest of the decisions is that of Spencer J., reported in Krishnamurthi Iyer v. Parasurama Iyer, AIR 1923 Mad 666. That was a case of posting of a letter containing defamatory matter from Madras with a view to be read in Tinnevelly. The learned Judge held that that offence of defamation is triable either in Madras or in Tinnevelly under Sections 179 and 182 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Further Spencer J. has relied upon three English cases R. v. Burdett, (1820) 4 B. and Ald. 95; R. v. Williams, (1810) 2 Camp. 505 and Queen v. Ameer Khan, 17 Suth WR Cr. 15: 9 Beng LR 36, for the proposition that when an accused posted a defamatory letter he has done all in his power towards publication and lost control of the letter when he committed it to post.
In Burke v. Skipp, AIR 1924 Mad 340, a Division Bench consisting of Odgers and Hughes JJ. again referred to (1820) 4 B and Ald. 95 as an authority for the position that letter is deemed to be published both where it is posted and where it is received and opened and also approved of the dictum of Spencer J. in AIR 1923 Mad 666. However, the learned Judges held that Ex. A-1, the letter of defamation which the accused was alleged to have written from Bangalore has not emanated from that accused and therefore the District Magistrate of Bangalore had no jurisdiction to try the case. In In re Antony D' Silva, 61 Mad LW 503 : (AIR 1949 Mad 3), Happell and Govindarajachari JJ., were considering the jurisdiction of Courfs in entertaining complaints under Section 420, Indian Penal Code and held that where both the deception and deprivation of property took place within the jurisdiction of the same Court, Section 177 Criminal Procedure Code alone will apply; but have further observed at p. 504 (of Mad LW); (at p. 4 of AIR) as follows:
'If on the other hand deception is practised within the territorial jurisdiction of one Court and the consequence, namely, payment of money occurs within the jurisdiction of another court, either Court can, by virtue of Section 179 of the Cr. P.C. try the case subject, of course, to the applicability o the Criminal Procedure Code to both the Courts.'
They, thus, affirmed the principle that where the consequence of the commission of an offence occurs within the jurisdiction of another Court, such offence may be enquired into or tried by any of the Courts.
4. Mr. Advi Rama Rao cited a number of single Bench decisions of the Madras High Court which he contends by varied reasonings have lent support to the opposite view. But in my opinion some of them are quite distinguishable. The earliest of these is that of Horwill J., in In re Abdul Shukur Sahib, AIR 1943 Mad 500. It is not clear from the report whether the offence is one of defamation. But what is stated is that the accused sent a petition containing various allegations which were subsequently found to be false. The offence of preferring a false and frivolous charge could, in the circumstances of that case, be committed only when the letter posted by the accused at Polur reached the District Superintendent of Police at Vellore.
There Horwill J., held that the post-office acted as agent of the accused in carrying the letter and that Section 177 Cr. P.C. applied. The ease of preferring a false and frivolous charge thus stands on a different footing. In re Sivaprakasam Pillai, AIR 1948 Mad 292, Govinda Menon J., was dealing with the case concerning an offence under Section 211, where in the accusation that a certain officer had received illegal gratification, was found to be groundless. The complaint made by the accused was posted at Kumbakonam and addressed to the Inspector General of Police, Madras. Adopting the same line of reasoning of Horwill J., the learned Judge held that the Court at Kumbakonam had no jurisdiction. In In re Papayyaswamy, 1949-2 Mad LJ 152: (AIR 1949 Mad 833), Somasundaram J., decided that when the accused posted an application to the Madras Public Service Commission from Vijagapatnam he could be said to have committed the offence under Section 465 read with Section 471, Indian Penal Code only at Madras and not at Vizagapatnam on the ground that the real user of the document comes only when the Madras Public Service Commission looks into the application and considers it, and it is open to the petitioner to withdraw his application even before it is considered by the Public Service Commission. Having regard to the ingredients of the offence under Section 471 this decision is unexceptional.
5. But in Aravamutha Iyengar v. Rajarathna Mudaliar : AIR1957Mad572 , Somasundaram J., while dealing with the jurisdiction of a Court concerning an offence under Section 500, Indian Penal Code lays stress only on the aspect of publication of the implication as the essence and gist of the offence, and doubts the correctness of the decision in AIR 1923 Mad 666. He considers the question from the point of a case where the letter which was posted may not reach the other side. The possibility of such a contingency has been made the reason by this learned Judge to hold that the posting of the letter could not have resulted in publication; and therefore the learned Judge has not 'agreed with Spencer J., in the reliance placed upon the English decisions. He distinguished the decision of the Division Bench in AIR 1924 Mad 340, as one where the question whether the posting in a particular place amounts to publication has not arisen.
But if the real difference between instances where letters of defamation are posted but did not reach the other side and those where the letters posted reach the other side is borne in mind, as in the one case the offence is not committed and in the other there is commission of the offence, the class of cases where the offences are not committed could not be taken as illustrative of cases where the actual offences have been committed. In other words, when an offence which can be committed in parts has been fulfilled partly and something or other prevents the completion of the other part of the offence, in such a case, no question of jurisdiction to enquire or try the case would arise. But where a part of it has taken place in one locality and other part in another locality the mere possibility of the letter being lost in transit would not make it appear that the offence was not committed in parts in different localities, when actually the offence happens to be completed.
But Spencer J., was not looking at this matter even from the point of Section 182 Cr. P.C. This learned Judge was only stating that the posting of the letter being publication in cases where the letter reaches- its destination, the offence itself is completed with the posting and the consequence which consisted in gaining publicity at the opening of the letter at the other end also gives jurisdiction to the Court where the addressee resided. The possibility of the letter being missed in transit only makes, in certain cases, the commission of the offence uncertain.
Therefore in my view, this cannot be made such a consideration as to become the prime factor in determining the jurisdiction of Courts. Further the Division Bench which decided the case in AIR 1924 Mad 340 held that the place where the letter of defamation was posted had jurisdiction to try the case; but it is only while applying that test that court found that there was no satisfactory proof that the particular letter Ex. A-1 had been at all posted at Bangalore. Moreover though in 61 Mad LW 503: (AIR 1949 Mad 3), the question of jurisdiction in regard to offences under Section 420 was dealt with, the observations generally apply to offences under Section 500 which is allied to Section 420, in that it is capable of being committed in parts.
6. For the aforesaid reasons, I find that there are no grounds to interfere with the order of the Addl. Munsif-Magistrate who held that he had jurisdiction to try the case. This petition is, accordingly dismissed.