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Ramdhara and anr. Vs. Mst. Phulwatibai - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMadhya Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1970CriLJ286
AppellantRamdhara and anr.
RespondentMst. Phulwatibai
Cases ReferredNarayana Sah v. Kannamma Bai
Excerpt:
- indian penal code, 1890.section 306 :[dalveer bhandari & harjit singh bedi,jj] abetment of suicide deceased, a married woman, committed suicide - allegation of abetment of suicide against appellant husband and in-laws - ocular evidence was sketchy - dying declaration recorded by tahsildar completely exonerated all accused in-laws of any misconduct dispelling any suspicion as to their involvement - letter of threat allegedly written by appellant to father of victim was concocted piece of evidence held, though presumption against appellant can be raised, it cannot be said that onus shifts exclusively and heavily on him to prove his innocence. conviction of appellant is liable to be set aside. .....meaning.6. it is then contended by shri upadhyaya that slander is not actionable without proof of special damage. learned counsel relies on clerk and lindsell on torts, 18th edition, paragraph 1491, page 785:whereas libel is always actionable without proof of any special damage, slander must, in order to be actionable without proof of special damage, impute (1) a criminal offence punishable corporally, i.e., by punishment with at least imprisonment in the first instance, or (2) some disease tending to exclude the party defamed from society, or (3) in the case of a woman, unchastity, or (4) be calculated to disparage the party defamed in any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time of publication.by the common law, an imputation by words upon.....
Judgment:

Shiv Dayal, J.

1. This second appeal arises, from a suit for damages for defamation. The plaintiff's case was that relations between the parties were strained and a few days before the incident there was a quarrel between Ayodhya Prasad, her son, on the one hand, and Shivgovind, husband of Mst. Ramdhara (defendant 1), and Moortlal, husband of Mst. Sushila (defendant 2), on the other hand. Ayodhya Prasad. accompanied by Jagatram, went to Police Station to lodge a report about that quarrel. Jagatram is Ayodhya Prasad's Mamiya Susar, (wife's maternal uncle). Four or five days thereafter, when on the evening of the incident, the plaintiff had been to bring her cattle and buffalo, she happened to come across the first defendant on her way. On seeing her the first defendant abused her filthily saying 'Rand Tune Chhokara Ko Jagatram Ke Sath Report Ko Kahe Ko Bhej Di. Tu To Dari Chhinal. Tu To Jagatram Ki Lugai Hai. Usane Tere Ko Rakha Hai.' Defendant 2 also happened to be there and she associated herself with the first defendant in those abuses and defamatory imputations. The plaintiff's contention was that the imputation against her chastity was made with a view to ridicule her and lower her reputation. She claimed Rs. 150/- as general damages. The suit was resisted. The trial Court dismissed the suit holding that it was not proved that the defendant uttered those words.

2. The first appellate Court reversed the decree of the trial Court. It has found that the plaintiff's case was proved by the evidence of the plaintiff herself and her witnesses, Manrakhan (P. W. 2) and Rameshwar Prasad (P. W. 3). The learned Judge has elaborately discussed their evidence and also the evidence produced by the defendants. He also pointed out where the trial Court, in his opinion, erred. He has also discussed the arguments advanced before him on the question of fact. The finding reached by the first appellate Court is one of fact and it is not assailable in second appeal.

3. It is alternatively argued by Shrl Upadhyaya that if it is found that those words were uttered by the defendants, they amounted to mere abuses without intending or conveying their natural meaning. The objectionable words cannot be read as to convey an imputation that the plaintiff had become Jagatram's mistress or that she had illicit relations with him. It is true that although mere vulgar abuse and vituperative epithets may hurt a man's pride, yet they do not disparage his reputation, if intended as mere abuse and so understood by those who heard those words.

It is of the essence of defamation that the words tend to be injurious to a person's character or reputation. The standard to be applied in determining whether a statement is defamatory or not is that of a right minded citizen, a man of fair average intelligence. The standard to be applied is not that of a special class of persons whose values are not shared or approved by fair-minded members of the society generally. See Byrne v. Deane 1937-1 KB 818 (833). An imputation is defamatory, if it exposes one to disgrace and humiliation, ridicule or contempt, The allegation of illegitimacy is undoubtedly defamatory.

4. In the present case, if the defendants had merely uttered the word 'chhinal', I would have held that the word did not convey its literal meaning, that is, a woman of easy virtue, but was only a vulgar abuse, which is not uncommon in villages when women quarrel among themselves. Mere vulgar abuse, which does not tend to lower a person addressed in the estimation of others or to bring him into obloquy, contempt or ridicule, does not amount to defamation. In such a case, the abuse is uttered merely to put an affront upon the feeling of the person abused, or as an insult to his dignity or self-respect without other persons knowing of it or without producing such an impression in their mind as its natural meaning would convey. But where words are uttered in circumstances tending to lower the person addressed in the estimation of the people present and to bring him into ridicule or contempt, they will constitute defamation and will be actionable.

5. Here, the words uttered by the defendants did not constitute a mere vulgar abuse. There was a definite imputation upon the plaintiff's chastity. The attending circumstances cannot be lost sight of. She is a widow of 45, her husband having died several years before. Jagatram is a close relation of hers, being maternal uncle of her daughter-in-law. If, in these circumstances, there is an imputation that the plaintiff is the keep of Jagatram, or that she had developed illicit relations with him, the statement is undoubtedly defamatory. A language is defamatory on the face of it when defamatory meaning is the only possible or the only natural and obvious meaning.

6. It is then contended by Shri Upadhyaya that slander is not actionable without proof of special damage. Learned Counsel relies on Clerk and Lindsell on Torts, 18th Edition, Paragraph 1491, page 785:

Whereas libel is always actionable without proof of any special damage, slander must, in order to be actionable without proof of special damage, impute (1) a criminal offence punishable corporally, i.e., by punishment with at least imprisonment in the first instance, or (2) some disease tending to exclude the party defamed from society, or (3) in the case of a woman, unchastity, or (4) be calculated to disparage the party defamed in any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time of publication.

By the common law, an imputation by words upon the chastity of a woman was not actionable in itself. But by the Slander of Woman Act, 1891, words spoken and published which impute unchastity or adultery to any woman or girl shall not require special damage to render them actionable. (See paragraph 1494, page 787 of the same treatise). But that is the law in England. The distinction between libel and slander, on the point whether it is actionable without proof of special damage, has not been recognised in this country. Both libel and slander are criminal offences under the Penal Code (See Section 499) and both of them are actionable in the civil Court without proof of special damage. See Hirabai Jehangir v. Dinshaw Edulji ILR 51 Bom 167 : AIR 1927 Bom 22; Narayana Sah v. Kannamma Bai ILR 55 Mad 727 AIR 1932 Mad 445 and D'Silvav. Potenger ILR (1946) 1 Cal 157. Therefore, this contention must also be rejected.

7. At the end, it is argued for the appellants that the amount of damages awarded is excessive. There was only a wordy quarrel between two rustic women, so that nominal damages should have been awarded. Learned Counsel suggests that a nominal damage of one rupee should satisfy the plaintiff as she thought her prestige was injured. It is true that where illiterate women in a village indulge in a wordy quarrel and utter defamatory words, the Court should not be strict on the question of quantum of damages. In my opinion, ends of justice would meet if the plaintiff is awarded Rs. 50/. as general damages.

8. The appeal is partly allowed. The judgments and decrees passed by the Courts below are modified only in respect of the quantum of damages. The plaintiff shall get a decree for Rs. 50/. as general damages against the defendants and also the entire costs throughout.


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