1. This is an appeal by leave of this Court by the complainant Mohanlal against a decision of Mr. M. P. Bhatnagar, First Class Magistrate, Ujjain, acquitting the respondent of a charge under Section 500, I.P.C.
2. The prosecution was started by Mohanlal in the following circumstances. Mohanlal had obtained a decree against a brother of the respondent Ramcharan and had initiated execution proceedings of the decree. On 20th September, 1954, Mohanlal happened to go to one Malkhan Bahadur, who is employed as a Head time-keeper in Hira Mills and mentioned to him the matter of the decree that he had obtained against Ramcharan's brother.
About this time Ramcharan came to the office of Malkhan Bahadur and on seeing the appellant Mohanlal, Ramcharan abused him in very vulgar terms and also made the statement that the appellant's wife had illicit connection with his brother against whom the appellant had obtained the decree. Thereafter the appellant fiied a complaint in the Court of the City Magistrate of Ujjain and tendered evidence in support of the allegations made by him. A charge under Section 500, I. P. C. was framed against the respondent Ramcharan. The accused denied having abused Mohanlal or having made any statement defamatory of him. He stated that Mohanlal and his witnesses had deposed falsely against him.
3. In support of the complaint, Mohanlal gave his own evidence and examined Malkhan Bahadur and Nanhekhan. They deposed to the abuses uttered by Ramcharan and the statement he made in regard to the appellant's wife. The learned trial Magistrate took the view that the evidence of these witnesses was discrepant as to the exact words used by the accused and that it was, therefore, difficult to determine what exactly the accused said to the appellant.
He then commented on the fact that though according to Mohanlal besides Nanhekhan and Malkhan Bahadur, Shantibhai and other persons were also present at the time of the occurrence, only Nanhekhan had been produced. The learned Judge also thought that the possibility of the complaint having been filed for the purpose of putting pressure on Ramcharan to pay the decretal amount could not be ruled out as the relations between the accused and the appellant were strained. On these grounds, the Magistrate came to the conclusion that the charge against the respondent had not been established beyond reasonable doubt. Accordingly, he acquitted Ramcharan.
4. We have heard Mr. Rege, learned counsel for the appellant, and also the respondent who was present in person. In our judgment, the decision of the trial Magistrate acquitting the respondent cannot be upheld. The learned Magistrate made no attempt whatever to appreciate the evidence on record which he rejected on totally inadequate grounds.
He adopted the course, which the Supreme Court condemned in the case of Abdul Gani v. The State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 31 (A), of making no effort to disengage the truth from the falsehood and to sift the grain from the chair and took an easy course of holding the evidence discrepant and the whole case as untrue.
A bare perusal of the statements of Mohanlal, Malkhan Bahadur and Nanhekhan is sufficient to show that so far as the imputation against the appellant's wife is concerned, all the witnesses say that the accused told to the appellant Mohanlal in their presence that Mohanlal's wife had illicit connection with the brother of the accused. Mohanlal no doubt repeated what according to him were the precise words uttered by Ramcharan. His statement was that the respondent said :
^^rqEgkjh L=h dk laca/k esjs HkkbZ ls gSA mlustsoj o eky esjs HkkbZ dks fn;kA rqe 420 gksA rqeus >wBh fMks djk yhA**
^^jkepj.k us eksguyky ls cksyk fd esjs HkkbZdks rqEgkjh vkSjr us eky f[kyk;k vkSj rqEgkjh vkSjr us esjs HkkbZ ls cqjk Qsyfd;kA**
From these statements, there can be no doubt that the accused did make a statement in regard to the appellant's wife that she had illicit connection with the brother of the accused. The trial Magistrate thought that in a defamation case it was very necessary to prove the exact words used by the accused.
Now, there is no such universal rule that in a defamation case the accused cannot be convicted unless the actual words used by the accused are proved. No doubt, when the question whether certain words used are defamatory depends solely on the shade of their meaning in the context in which they were used, then it is very essential to prove the exact words used by the accused as also the exact context in which they were spoken.
Where the exact words used and their context are not material, as in this case a sufficiently clear account of the purport of the defamatory remarks would be enough to find the accused guilty. This view finds support in the decision in Emperor v. Col. Bholanath, ILR 51 All 313: (AIR 1929 All 1) (B). In that case, Mukherji J. said :
'While I am not prepared to lay down, as a universal proposition, that in no case where the actual words used have not been proved a conviction for defamation by word of mouth cannot be maintained, it must be conceded that in the majority of cases it should be so ...... when the question arises as to whether the words used were intended to harm or had the effect of harming the reputation, the Court must be put in possession not only of the words used, but also of the context in which they were used, in order to find the intention and the effect of the words.'
In the same case, King J. remarked :
'It is unnecessary to prove the exact words used by the accused for the purpose of supporting a conviction for oral defamation. It is sufficient to prove the purport or substance of the defamatory imputations. No honest witness would profess to remember the exact words used by a person who has been for even fifteen minutes. At the most he may remember some striking phrase or expression. But a witness's failure to recall the exact words used or the exact context in which they were spoken is immaterial, provided that he can give a sufficiently clear account of the purport of the defamatory remarks.'
Now, in this case if the statements of Mohanlal, Nanhekhan and Malkhan Bahadur are accepted, as I think they must be, that the accused came to the office of Malkhan Bahadur and there in the presence of the appellant uttered words imputing that the appellant Mohanlal's wife was on terms of intimacy with his brother, then the fact that Malkhan Bahadur and Nanhekhan did not depose to the exact words used by the accused loses all importance. This is clearly not a case in which the defamatory nature of the words used by the accused depended on their fine meaning in the context in which they had been used.
5. The criticism of the learned Judge that the complainant did not produce in evidence other persons who were said to be present at the time of the occurrence is altogether untenable. Having produced Nanhekhan and Malkhan Bahadur it was wholly unnecessary for the complainant to produce more witnesses to support his statement.
In making the observation that the relations between the appellant and the accused were strained and that, therefore, there was a possibility of the complaint having been filed to put pressure on Ramcharan, the learned Judge overlooked the fact that it is not normal for a reasonable and respectable man to drag in his wife's name and reputation just for the purpose of implicating someone with whom he is not on good terms to achieve his end.
We are unable to accept the learned Judge's way of thinking and evaluation of moral conduct and values and to hold accordingly that there was a likelihood of the appellant who is an advocate of this Court going to the length of soiling the name and reputation of his deceased wife just for the purpose of compelling the respondent to satisfy his money claims.
6. The statements of Shriram and Bherulal who were produced by the accused in his defence that the accused did not say anything to the appellant cannot be accepted in the face of the prosecution evidence.
7. For all these reasons, the decision of the First Class Magistrate, Ujjain, acquitting the respondent Ramcharan is set aside. The respondent Ramcharan is found guilty under Section 500, I. P. C. and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 50/- only, or in default to suffer one month's simple imprisonment.
8. I agree.