1. Genda Ramand Ganga Dutt have been convicted under Section 500, I.P.C., for defaming the complainant firm National Emporium, Roorki, by a Magistrate, 1st Class, Saharanpur, and fined Rs. 250 and Rs. 100, respectively. The alleged defamation is contained in two letters, one dated 10th December 1934, and the other dated 23rd December of the same year, and in an advertisement mainly published in Lahore in leaflets distributed broadcast. The learned Sessions Judge upheld the conviction and the sentences but ruled that the letter of 23rd December 1934, did not contain any such imputation as could amount to defamation. Genda Ram and Ganga Dutt have applied to this Court in revision, challenging the view taken by the Courts below of the character of the alleged imputations.
2. It is no longer in dispute that both the applicants are criminally responsible for the imputations, if any, contained in the letter dated 10th December and the advertisement, if such imputations amount to defamation. The important question which has been argued at length before me and which I aim called upon to decide is whether the contents of the letter and the advertisement, properly construed, amount to such imputation as is contemplated by Section 499, I.P.C. To appreciate the language used in the letter and the advertisement in question, a few surrounding circumstances must be mentioned. The applicant Ganga Dutt give out that he and Raja Ram are the proprietors of a firm styled 'E.G. Union Mart' of which the applicant Ganga Dutt is the manager. R' stands for Raja Ram and ' G' for Ganga Dutt. The complainant's is a well-known firm styled as the 'National Emporium' of Roorki. Ganga Dutt, Raja Ram and Genda Ram are all residents of Roorki. The National Emporium is owned by Lachman Prakash, at whose instance the prosecution of the applicants was launched. This firm is of some standing and reputation and has extensive business of supplying survey, drawing and mathematical instruments. Among their important customers the Roorki College-is one. That Raja Ram and Ganga Dutt worked for the National Emporium for a considerable lengh of time in the manufacture of instruments supplied by the latter was not disputed. It was however alleged by the complainant that they were; merely servants of the National Emporium, and in that capacity, made certain parts of the instruments supplied by it and that there was then no firm of the name of E.G. Union Mart, which was started recently in 1934. The applicants' case, on the other hand, was that Raja Ram and Ganga Dutt, the partners of the firm E.G. Union Mart, used to manufacture and supply instruments to the National Emporium, who put their own . labels on them and sold the same to their customers. The learned Sessions Judge has definitely found that Raja Ram and Ganga Dutt were 'piecework contractors having their own workshop, machines and-staff for the manufacture of finished articles sold by the National Emporium-There can be no doubt that the complainant's allegation that Raja Ram and Ganga Dutt were their servants is not correct.
3. Another point in controversy in the trial Court was whether the applicants-assumed the firm name of E.G. Union Mart for the first time in 1934, as alleged by the complainant, or the firm has-been in existence since 1919 and carried on under that name and style ever since. The learned Sessions Judge has recorded no definite finding. on this point, but, according to the Magistrate, Raja Ram and Ganga Dutt -were discharged by the National Emporium sometime in 1934, and it was sometime after their connection with the National Emporium was severed that they assumed the firm name of E.G. Union Mart. The learned Magistrate, however, found that for a number of years before 1934 the applicants worked as piecework contractors for the National Emporium not as partners of a firm but as two individual contractors. It has also been found that they had given an undertaking to the National Emporium that they would not sell any instruments manufactured by them to anyone except the firm National Emporium. It is clearly borne out by the evidence that the applicants manufactured survey, drawing and mathematical instruments, which they were under an obligation to sell to the National Emporium, who were to pay for each article supplied, and then the instruments thus supplied by the applicants were labelled as articles manufactured by the National Emporium. The applicants did not take any exception to the advertisement of these instruments in that manner. Misunderstandings arose between the parties when Raja Ram and Ganga Dutt, after their connexion with the National Emporium was severed, started a firm of their own name and offered to sell survey, drawing and mathematical instruments of the same kind as those supplied by the National Emporium and at much less prices. It is perfectly clear that the E.G. Union Mart tried to undersell and gain an advantage in the market for the instruments manufactured by them. The National Emporium naturally resented the attempt of the E.G. Union Mart to become a rival firm. There is some reason to believe that they, in their turn, attempted to checkmate the efforts of the E.G. Union Mart by informing the customers of the comparatively recent and insignificant origin of the firm E.G. Union Mart.
4. It appears that the applicant Genda Ram offered to supply certain instruments to Messrs. Bengal Stores of Benares at very cheap rates. The latter addressed a letter, dated 6th December 1934, to the R.G. Union Mart asking for information in respect of the standing of the firm, JR. G. Union Mart. The letter states;
The only thing which strikes us most now is that you have printed on your letter-head that your firm is established since 1919, even a year before the National Emporium, but you Were not known to us four months before. We have to place an order worth Rs. 500, and the only thing which prevents us to send the same to you is that unless we are made sure of the genuineness of your firm, we feel afraid to place Such substantial order with you lest there may be some trouble afterwards. So will you please let us know what you have to say in the matter and how old your firm actually is?
5. At another place it is stated in the letter:
If the date of your inception, 1919, as given in your letter-head, had not created any doubts in our mind, we would have passed on our order to you without any such questioning.
6. The letter goes on to mention that the terms offered by the E.G. Union Mart are tempting and in case satisfactory explanations of the questions raised in the letter are given, orders of substantial value would be placed by the Bengal Stores. There is some suspicion that this letter was inspired by the National Emporium. It was in reply to this letter that the applicant Ganga Dutt wrote the letter, dated 10th December 1934, which is said to contain defamatory matter. The letter is in English; but the language employed is so involved, ungrammatical and unidiomatic that material portions of it have to be read more than once to ascertain the sense of the writer. I quote it in full:
We acknowledging receipt of your letter of the 6th instant, containing doubts with regard to the establishment of our firm, the most effective proof we can give for this is that when the stone of its foundation placed in due course, Messrs. N.E. made such friendly alliance with us that they began to buy instruments without stamp from us. They put their name stamp on them and thus misled the people by advertising that they are the only manufacturers of drg. instruments, tee Square, etc. By and by they became so well known to the public that big orders have ensued them. They placed such substantial orders to us that we were over head and ears by work. We were so bent after earning money that we have to stop our advertisements, which prove a source of great loss to us. This is the real fact, why we have been unknown to you. As a well-known proverb goes 'Every tide hath its ebb.' At last it leaked out that Messrs. N.E. have dug out a well for us by putting their stamp on the drg. instruments when they buy without stamp from us, thereby advertising themselves that they are the only manufacturers of drg. instruments in Roorkee; to make the matter still clear you may come if you are interested in it to visit our workshop and we will very gladly show you.... In the last hope it will quite assure you. , Trusting that good orders will ensue which will have our careful attention. We have no any banking reference as we have out our supply with the aforesaid fellows only a few months passed. Then the whole work was given upon his shoulders. Reality have been stated to you. Ready stock is always kept at hand lest there may be little delay in executing big orders at an early date. Hoping that you will place the order to us without any hitch putting off this doubt away from your mind.
7. Sometime afterwards certain dealers of instruments in Lahore appear to have raised the same question as is mentioned in the letter of the Bengal Stores. An advertisement in the form of lithograph notices in vernacular were distributed broadcast in Lahore and Saharanpur. The English translation of that advertisement is as follows:
REWARD RUPEES ONE THOUSAND IN
We proclaim by beat of drum that Messrs. National Emporium have always had their stock-in-trade manufactured by us, and are even now soiling stores, the bulk of which has been turned out by us. Only for a few months past they have employed our workmen and started working independently. Anyone proving this statement to be false will be given a reward of Rupees one thousand.
8. It is complained by the National Emporium that the letter dated 10th December 1934, and the advertisement quoted above both contain reflection on it and that the applicants, who took responsibility for publishing them, are guilty of defamation. The learned Magistrate appears to have allowed the parties to introduce a large amount of irrelevant matter. He has written a lengthy judgment, but appears to have missed the real issue in the case. He makes, no distinction between an attempt on the part of the applicant to exaggerate their own position and their act of casting reflection on the National Emporium. In the course of evidence there was a good deal of mud-throwing on either side, and the conclusions arrived at by the Magistrate were influenced by irrelevant considerations. The learned Sessions Judge has pointed out this drawback in the judgment of the Magistrate and has clearly mentioned facts on which the right decision of the case depends. In his view however the contents of the letter dated 10th December 1934, and the advertisement amount to defamation. The learned Judge appears to have based his finding on the general effect created by the two documents on his mind. He has not referred to the specific words and phrases which amount to such imputation as is referred to in the definition of 'Defamation' in Section 499, I.P.C.
9. It seems to me that the letter, dated 10th December 1934, cannot be properly construed, unless the contents of the letter to which it is a reply are borne in mind. It would be seen that the Bengal Stores had some doubts as regards the standing of the firm E.G. Union Mart and desired to be satisfied on the question whether that firm could be relied upon for an order of substantial value. The whole object underlying the letter dated 10th December 1934 was to satisfy the Bengal Stores that the E.G. Union Mart could be safely relied on so far as the quality of the goods manufactured by them was concerned. The letter puts in the forefront the fact that the National Emporium utilised the service of the partners of the firm R.G. Union Mart ever since it started its business. It goes on to say that the whole output of the partners of the E.G. Union Mart was supplied to the National Emporium, who put their own labels and sold them as articles manufactured by them, and that it was due to the co-operation of the partners of the E.G. Union Mart that the National Emporium were able to establish their prestige in the market. It is complained in the letter that by taking a monopoly of purchasing all articles manufactured by the partners of the E.G. Union Mart, the National Emporium were able to establish their business, but the real manufacturers remained in the background and that was the reason why they were not known to the Bengal Stores. Two statements in the letter were particularly relied upon before me by the learned advocate for the complainant. One is contained in the para. 2, in which it is said that the National Emporium misled the people by advertising that they (the National Emporium) were the only manufacturers of the drawing instruments, etc. Taking the sentence in the setting in which it occurs, it is clear to me that the writer merely meant that the fact that the articles were manufactured by the partners of the E.G. Union Mart but were sold by the National Emporium with their labels had a misleading effect on the mind of the public, who believed that the National Emporium alone were entitled to the credit of manufacturing those instruments, though as a matter of fact the partners of the firm E.G. Union Mart contributed largely to the reputation of the National Emporium as to the manufacture of those instruments. Another sentence, which is referred to as containing defamatory matter, is the matter in which reference is made to the National Emporium to have dug a well for the E.G. Onion Mart. I am satisfied that all that the writer meant by it was that the arrangement under which the National Emporium and the partners of the E.G. Union Mart worked and co-operated with each other has had disastrous effect on the latter, who are not known to many people.
10. The advertisement, like the letter, proclaims that the National Emporium used to have their instruments manufactured by the partners of the E.G. Onion Mart; and if anybody can disprove this allegation a reward of Rs. 1,000 will be given to him. So far as the truth of this allegation is concerned, it has been found by the learned Sessions Judge to have been amply established. It may be that the contents of the advertisement are offensive to the National Emporium; but there is nothing which can be construed as a reflection on them. A statement in praise, even exaggerated praise, of oneself does not necessarily imply a reflection on some other. What the prosecution have to establish is not that the accused have indulged in exaggeration, or even falsehood, in respect of their own position and importance, but that the letter and the advertisement contain an imputation concerning the National Emporium calculated to harm its reputation. In my opinion, the letter and the advertisement do not contain any such imputation. On the other hand, the whole object of the writer is to show that the partners of the E.G. Union Mart largely contributed to the success which the National Emporium have attained. In a manner they acknowledge the superiority of the National Emporium but claim credit for the success which the Emporium have attained. In this view, the applicants cannot be held to be guilty of defamation. Their application for revision is allowed, and the conviction and sentences are set aside. The fines, if paid, shall be refunded.