1. On the 8th of March 1920 nine persons put in a petition before the District Magistrate of Bulandshahr, in which they asserted that Sher Ali Khan, the mukhia of the village of Mangalpur, had been guilty of various acts of oppression and was of a character generally defamatory of him. That application was enquired into by a Tahsildar under the orders of the District Magistrate and in the course of enquiry certain persons were called a witnesses and gave their evidence on oath. The result of that enquiry was on the whole favourable to Sher Ali Khan with the result that he was not removed from the mukhiaship as obviously was desired by the petitioners. Sher Ali Khan asked for sanction to prosecute two of the witnesses for statements made by them which he said were deliberately false. That application was dismissed by both the Courts below and I have refused to interfere in it to-day. This case, however, is on a different matter. In this case Sher Ali Khan filed a complaint under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code against 16 men in the Court of a Magistrate of the First Class. That Magistrate proceeded under Section 202 of the Criminal Procedure Code and examined Sher Ali Khan. Having done so, he passed the following order:
2. 'I have looked into the statements taken by the Tahsildar. They were recorded in connection with an enquiry about the mukhia. The enquiry was not public and I think no action can be taken against the persons making them. The public has no access to these statements. I cannot proceed against the persons accused under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. I dismiss the complaint under Section 203 of the Criminal Procedure Code.' The learned Magistrate has quite overlooked the fast that the complaint is made not only against such persons as were called and examined before the Tahsildar but also against all the signatories of the original complaint against Sher Ali Khan and six other persons. On revision from this order the learned District Magistrate said:
3. 'I entirely agree with the decision of the lower Court. The statements complained of were made by parties summoned for examination by the Tahsildar and in answer to his questions. No case under Section 500 can lie in respect of them. Application disallowed.' Here, again, the learned District Magistrate has fallen into the same error. The offence of defamation is defined in Section 499 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It has been held by this Court that a witness has no greater protection against a charge of defamation than any other person and that a witness in order to be protected from a statement prima facie defamatory made by him must bring himself within one or more Exceptions to Section 499. I think both Courts below have misdirected themselves as to the precise matters that they should have enquired into. I, therefore, set aside the orders of the Courts below and send the record back to the Magistrate with directions to hold a proper enquiry under Section 202 of the Criminal Procedure Code and, having regard to the provisions of Section 499 and the exemptions thereto, to dispose of the complaint according to law. I have come to no sort of conclusion on the merits of the case.