1. This is an application for the revision of an order passed by the Sessions Judge of Meerut dated 10th December 1927, setting aside the conviction of Muhammad Siraj under Sections 500 and 501, I.P.C., and the sentence of fine of Rs. 50 passed in respect of each offence.
2. The facts of the case were briefly as follows: On 24th June 1927 an article appeared in the Risalat which is a weekly newspaper published in Meerut containing imputations calculated to harm the reputation of Lala Har Swarup, a respectable landholder and banker of Mowana, in the Meerut District. He instituted criminal proceedings against the Editor and Printer of the Risalat charging them with defamation. The Magistrate found that the Editor, Mohammad Nazir and the declared Printer Muhammad Siraj, were guilty of defamation under Section 500, I.P.C., and further found them guilty of subsidiary offences under Sections 502 and 501, I.P.C., respectively.
3. For the purpose of this application it is unnecessary to consider whether the publication of the article did or did not constitute an offence under Section 500, I.P.C.
4. Muhammad Siraj is the declared printer of the Risalat, but his defence was that he was absent from Meerut at the time when the defamatory article was printed. It was printed by another person during his absence and he knew nothing whatever about it until he received a notice from the complainant. He produced evidence which has been accepted by the trying Magistrate proving that he was in fact at Delhi at the time when the issue of the Risalat dated 24th July 1927 was printed. He also produced a witness who deposed that he had printed that issue of the Risalat during the absence of Muhammad Siraj. The Magistrate, however, held that although the printer had proved his absence from Meerut on the date when the paper was printed, nevertheless his absence could not absolve him of his liabilities as a declared printer of the newspaper unless he could show that he left a 'responsible man' in charge of his work in his absence, and that he had not produced any evidence to prove which 'responsible man' was in charge of his work during his absence. The Magistrate, therefore, found him guilty of technical offences under Sections 500 and 501, I.P.C.
5. In appeal before the learned Sessions Judge the same argument was raised on behalf of Muhammad Siraj, namely, that he was not criminally liable for printing the offending article since he was bona fide absent from Meerut on the date of the printing and the ruling of the Calcutta High Court published in Emperor v. Phanendra Nath Mitter  35 Cal. 945 was cited as an authority for the contention that his conviction was not justified. This argument was accepted by the learned Judge. He held that the accused was not merely absent from Meerut on the date of printing, but that he was 'bona fide absent' in the sense that he knew nothing of the article in question and did not know that it would be printed in his absence. In the Calcutta ruling, upon which the learned Sessions Judge relied, Mr. Justice Rampini in his charge to the jury refers to the provisions of Section 7, Act 25, 1867, which lay down that a declaration made by a person that he is the printer of a newspaper shall be sufficient evidence (unless the contrary be proved) as against that person that he was the printer of every portion of every issue of the newspaper named in the declaration. He pointed out that the effect of this section is to throw upon the declared printer the onus of proving that in fact he was not the printer if any issue of the newspaper which may form the subject-matter of legal proceedings. He explained to the jury that no doubt absence in good faith and without knowledge of the seditious article would be sufficient evidence to the contrary, but not absence in bad faith. He goes on to explain what he means by absence in bad faith.
6. In the present case there is no evidence whatever to suggest that Muhammad Siraj, the declared printer, was absent in bad faith, i.e., that he knew that a defamatory article was about to be printed, and that he merely absented himself with a view to escaping liability. We must take it, therefore, that Muhammad Siraj was absent in good faith and without knowledge of the defamatory article. Under the law, as laid down in the Calcutta ruling, this was sufficient for his acquittal and in our opinion the law is correctly set forth in that ruling. When the declared printer of a newspaper pleads absence in good faith he should, we think, prove who was in fact the printer of the newspaper in his absence. If he seeks to escape his presumptive responsibility then he should show who was in fact responsible. This is just what Muhammad Siraj has done in the present case. The defence witness Abdul Rahman clearly states. 'I printed the issue dated 24th June 1927 of the Risalat in my press' and thereby accepts whatever liability may attach to the printer. Muhammad Siraj has, therefore, fully discharged the onus of proving that he was not the printer of the issue in question.
7. The learned Sessions Judge was right in acquitting Muhammad Saraj and we dismiss the application for revision.