Skip to content


Birjnath SarIn Vs. Sergeant F.M. Byrne - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtAllahabad
Decided On
Judge
Reported in13Ind.Cas.506
AppellantBirjnath Sarin
RespondentSergeant F.M. Byrne
Cases Referred and Shoobhagee Koeri v. Bakhori Ram
Excerpt:
defamation - words 'most insolent upstart,' whether defamatory. - - he does not complain of the rest of the words used. it seems to me quite clear that the words complained of were not intended to throw any reflection on the birth, reputation or general character of the plaintiff nor would it be understood by any reasonable person acquainted with the english language as throwing any such reflection upon him. as the learned judge held that the words complained of might, in certain circumstances, be defamatory but in this particular case were not, 1 doubt whether a second appeal is admissible at all. now it is easy to conceive cases in which the use of the words insolent upstart might be distinctly defamatory; ' best, c......defame and degrade him and render him odious and contemptible'. the district judge says that the words insolent upstart' might, in certain circumstances, be defamatory, but that they must be read with the context in which they appear and that they were not defamatory in the present case. i agree with the learned district judge that the endorsement on the process taken as a whole means no more than that the plaintiff had behaved rudely and had declined to wait to be paid or to give a stamped receipt. it seems to me quite clear that the words complained of were not intended to throw any reflection on the birth, reputation or general character of the plaintiff nor would it be understood by any reasonable person acquainted with the english language as throwing any such reflection upon him......
Judgment:

Chamier, J.

1. This is a second appeal in a suit for damages for defamation.

2. The Subordinate Judge gave the plaintiff a decree for Rs. 400 but his decision was reversed by the District Judge who held that the expressions used by the defendant, though intemperate, were not defamatory. The facts are that the plaintiff obtained a decree for a small sum against Tulsi, a Chamar employed in a grass farm managed by the defendant. He tock out execution and a process was issued to Tulsi which somehow or other came into the hands of the defendant who wrote on it: 'The amount Rs. 41-2-0 has been lying in my office since the date of my judgment (sic). It appears to me that this is a case of malicious prosecution and so it is a Government case and does not concern Tulsi whatsoever. The decree-holder is a most insolent upstart. He came to my bungalow on a Sunday and I told him my office hours and then he would not grant a stamped receipt. The next time he came he was most insolent and was told to wait but would not and went away without the amount in question.'

3. The plaintiff's case is that the words 'the decree-holder is a most insolent upstart' are defamatory. He does not complain of the rest of the words used. The Subordinate Judge says that the plaintiff is a very respectable man who mixes in the society of the leading Rasies of Muttra and that 'the tendency and effect of the words used were to defame and degrade him and render him odious and contemptible'. The District Judge says that the words insolent upstart' might, in certain circumstances, be defamatory, but that they must be read with the context in which they appear and that they were not defamatory in the present case. I agree with the learned District Judge that the endorsement on the process taken as a whole means no more than that the plaintiff had behaved rudely and had declined to wait to be paid or to give a stamped receipt. It seems to me quite clear that the words complained of were not intended to throw any reflection on the birth, reputation or general character of the plaintiff nor would it be understood by any reasonable person acquainted with the English language as throwing any such reflection upon him. It was suggested that they would be regarded as holding the plaintiff up to ridicule. I cannot accept this suggestion. As the learned Judge held that the words complained of might, in certain circumstances, be defamatory but in this particular case were not, 1 doubt whether a second appeal is admissible at all. In England the question would have been left to the Jury. If, however, a second appeal lies, I hold that it should be dismissed.

Karamat Husain, J.

4. An action was brought by the plaintiff for damages fur a libel. The Court of first instance decreed the claim. The Court of first appeal found that the words 'a most insolent upstart' contained in the endorsement made by the defendant on the process issued to Tulsi were not defamatory and reversed the decree of the first Court. The learned District Judge, however, said in his judgment: Now it is easy to conceive cases in which the use of the words insolent upstart might be distinctly defamatory; for instance, if they are used towards a servant seeking employment'.

5. In second appeal it is contended that the written words 'a most insolent upstart' are libellous. My learned colleague is of opinion that they are not, but I am unable to agree with him.

6. To publish any words in writing without justification which bring a person into contempt or ridicule is a libel.

7. Lord Holt, C.J, in Crop v. Tilney 3 Salk. : 226 Mich. 5. Will 3 B.R. said: 'Scandalous matter is not necessary to make a libel, it is enough if the defendant induces an ill opinion to be had of the plaintiff, or to make him contemptible and ridiculous.' Best, C.J., in Tuam Archbishop v. Robeson 5 Bing. 17 : 2 M. & P. 32 : 6 L.J. (O.S.) C.P. 199 : 30 R.R. 530 said: 'It is not easy to perceive why any distinction should be made between written and oral slander; but the case referred to, Thorley v. Lord Kerry 4 Tauut. 355 : 13 R.R. 626, has established it too firmly to be shaken. According to that case, in order to support an action for oral slander, something criminal must have been imputed; but in a libel any tendency to bring a party into contempt or ridicule is actionable, and, in general, any charge of immoral conduct, although in matters not punishable by law.'

8. Descending to the particular words which may be libellous, I find that to write that a person 'Stunk of brimstone and had the itch' was held to be a libel; see Villiers v. Mousley 2 Wils. 403 : Eastern Term 9 Geo. III 1769. In the same case Gauld, J., said: 'for speaking the words rogue and rascal of any one, an action will not lie, but if those words were written and published of any one I doubt not an action would lie.' The head-note in J'Anson v. Stuart (1787) I.T.R. 748 : 1 R.R. 392 contains what follows: To, print of any person that he is swindler is a libel.... ' and the head-note in Cox v. Lee (6) contains what follows: To charge a man with ingratitude is libellous.' 'An untrue statement that a person was at a past time in pecuniary difficulties may be libellous.' OQ the basis of the last four mentioned cases N.C. Ealkord in the 7th Edition of his work the Law of Slander and Libel on page 70 says: 'Scandalous matter is not necessary to make a libel. It is enough if the defendant induces an ill opinion to be had of the plaintiff as make him contemptible and ridiculous Crop v. Tilney (1).' And accordingly it is libellous to publish and charge a man (by writing.) with want of honesty, civility, humanity, veracity or gratitude Villiers v. Mousley 2 Wils. 403; J'Anson v. Stuart (1787) I.T.R. 748 : 1 R.R. 392; Cox v. Lee L.R. 4 Ex. 281 : 21 L.T. 178 : 38 L.J. Ex. 219. In the Digest of the Law of Libel and Slander by W. Blake Odgers, 4th Edition, on page 18 I find: 'It is libellous to state in a newspaper of a young nobleman that he drove a lady and killed her and yet attended a public ball that very evening (although that only amounts to a charge of unfeeling conduct). Churckil v. Hunt (1819) 1 Chit. 480 : 2 B. & A. 685 : 22 R.R. 807.' Taking into account the sentiments and ideas of the Indian gentry, I have no doubt that if a person writes of another who is a member of a very respectable family that he is a most insolent upstart, these words bring him into contempt and ridicule in the eyes of the persons of his class. The cases of Jogeswar Sarma v. Dinaram Sarma 3 C.L.J. 140 and Shoobhagee Koeri v. Bakhori Ram 4 C.L.J. 390 support me.

9. For the above reasons, I would set aside the decree of the lower Appellate Court and decree the plaintiff's claim for damages with costs including fees in this Court on the higher scale. I would reduce the amount of damages to a nominal one, namely, one pie.

10. That the appeal be dismissed.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //